Reimagining Asia: Indian and Australian women crossing borders

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Modern Asian Studies, 2018
Issue Date:
2018-01-01
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The decades from the 1940s to the 1960s were ones of increasing contacts between women of India and Australia. These were not built on a shared British colonial history, but on commitments to visions circulating globally of equality between races, sexes, and classes. Kapila Khandvala from Bombay and Lucy Woodcock from Sydney were two women who met during such campaigns. Interacting roughly on an equal footing, they were aware of each other's activism in the Second World War and the emerging Cold War. Khandvala and Woodcock both made major contributions to the women's movements of their countries, yet have been largely forgotten in recent histories, as have links between their countries. We analyse their interactions, views, and practices on issues to which they devoted their lives: women's rights, progressive education, and peace. Their beliefs and practices on each were shaped by their respective local contexts, although they shared ideologies that were circulating internationally. These kept them in contact over many years, during which Kapila built networks that brought Australians into the sphere of Indian women's awareness, while Lucy, in addition to her continuing contacts with Kapila, travelled to China and consolidated links between Australian and Chinese women in Sydney. Their activist world was centred not in Western Europe, but in a new Asia that linked Australia and India. Our comparative study of the work and interactions of these two activist women offers strategies for working on global histories, where collaborative research and analysis is conducted in both colonizing and colonized countries.
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