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In Session: Public Space through Gendered Perspectives: Part 1 Boundaries as Site of Resistance
2: Citizenship Protests: Public Spaces and a Politics of Gendered Visibility in India
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Following the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, in December 2019, that made religion (being Muslim specifically) the basis of discrimination, India saw huge protests against it. People were out on the streets protesting every day and there were a growing number of sit-ins across the country, many led by women, particularly Muslim women and young university students. This visibility of women as articulate and fierce actors in the protests drew no little attention from media commentators. Since then, the pandemic has provided the state with an excuse to dismantle these: the protests were abruptly halted, the sit-ins systematically broken up and signs of protest erased.
In this paper, I draw on the gendered claims to public space in the 21st century, often in relation to public violence against women but also many that articulated women’s right to the public for leisure and fun. Focussing on the protests against the Citizenship Act, I locate the visibility of women in the frontlines of these protests against this history of the last two decades. I pay close attention particularly to the presence of Muslim women and younger women in these protests. I reflect on the feminist claims to public space that made such visibility possible, and the gains their activism might have made, even as I imagine what kinds of gendered formulations a post pandemic public space might have. How will we re-access the public, reclaim the streets for protest and pleasure, and build on the claims by women to public space?