Feminism in Search of an Identity is the outcome of a University of Pune research project in the newly emerging discipline of feminist studies in India. In the book’s foreword, Professor Sharad Deshpande of the university’s Department of Philosophy reminds us that it is “devoted to a dialogue with the Indian tradition in its manifold appearance with the objective of searching for theoretical possibilities available within the tradition itself that may serve as a new vantage point in the struggle for the empowerment of women.” The editors confirm this in the introduction, by cautioning the reader about the imposition of “non-indigenous concepts and frameworks on the studies of problems of empowerment of women in India”. The first essay, ‘Identity, Freedom, and Empowerment: Some Theoretical Reflections’, asserts that if we can view identities as conventional descriptions based on ontological resemblances, they do not become rigid and determinate like essences, for “they can be remoulded in the changing contexts of needs”. In the case of female identity, Kelkar and Gangavane claim that ontological resemblances have a biological root. Gender identity, they argue, cannot be separated from the biological one. What is to be rejected is gender hierarchy, which is a social construct.
March 2004, volume 28, No 3