Hinduism and Feminism_INSTA

Speaker - Dr. Sushumna Kannan

In this webinar, Dr. Sushumna Kannan will make a series of opening remarks on the complicated relationship hitherto between Hinduism and Feminism. She will note the positive turns--as witnessed in the surge in Goddess studies but also the negative turns, so to speak, in the quick disavowal of dharmashastras and streedharma accompanied by a glorification of bhakti and Tantra. The webinar will map how Hindu practitioners love to dismiss feminism as a western construct, without discussing exactly what about it feels intellectually incompatible. Finally, the webinar will take stock of colonial and postcolonial discourses on women in Hinduism and in religious studies in the West and chart the state of the field. 

This webinar is a prelude to the Women in Hinduism course starting this Fall (October-December). The course will chronologically investigate Hindu texts and analyze the position of women in key examples. Women’s position in Hinduism has been long debated and mainstream academic positions usually veer towards concluding that Hindu women have fewer choices, little freedom and are restricted from full ritual participation. At best, ambiguities are noted. However, these conclusions have been too often derived from textual studies that overlook lived realities and are based on western historical interpretive biases such as the mind-body division. Whereas it seems that Hindu rituals are designed precisely to collapse such divisions and dualities. The course will discuss Hindu ethical values concerning women and two important issues that will be discussed are menstruation and the much-maligned Manusmriti. The course is designed to open up avenues for Hindus to own feminism, given how Hinduism broadly and consistently acknowledges the significance and importance of women. The long-overdue task of crafting a Hindu feminism is the challenge the course undertakes. That said, there will be two protagonists in the course: feminism and Hinduism. The course will critically gaze upon both.