This panel examines contemporary neo-liberal South Asia to explore change and continuity in understanding the idea of the 'new woman' in relation to state, class, culture, religion, family and media.
There is evolving talk in diverse parts of South Asia about 'new womanhood' that resulted from neo-liberalized social policies, market extension and changing understanding of women's roles in societies. The idea of the new woman is by no means a new phenomenon -- discussions of the 'New Woman' can be traced to 19th and 20th century South Asia when she was an indispensable part of the social and community reformist discourses. Indeed, present-day discussions of the 'new woman' make direct or indirect references to this earlier historical legacy, as she represents a challenge to the ways ideal womanhood is bounded within the divisions, variable across time and space, of the public and private. She also represents moments of actual or potential change in how womanhood is not only configured in symbolic ways as prescient of change, but how it is enacted as an everyday practice. Many hail new womanhood, as evidence for spreading and strengthening modernity, while others, judge it as a site of challenging state, class, caste, cultural and religious understanding of ideal or respectable womanhood. This panel explores how one might make sense of the discursive ambiguity that shape the concept of new womanhood in relation to change and continuity and calls for pluralistic understanding of 'new womenhoods' in contemporary South Asia. We welcome papers studying South Asian women's identities in relation to state, class, culture, religion, education, paid employment, family, literature and the media.