Raja Rao’s 1938 novel Kanthapura depicts the impact of Gandhian thought on women and men, and this research focuses on the novel’s fashioning of female identities in terms of nationalism as espoused by Mahatma Gandhi. This analytical research paper hypothesises that although women constitute a considerable part of the narrative and have political agency, their identity is moulded by men to serve men’s nationalist interests: The paper contends that women must undergo transformation and refashioning of their identities for nationalism. The novel provides a strong argument for Mahatma Gandhi’s political ethic of empowering people and engages with diverse issues such as nationalism, religion, caste, sexuality, and feminism. Using close reading, this paper focuses on nationalism through attention to concepts of imagined communities, women’s education, and modernism and traditionalism. In addition, the paper draws heavily from gender and feminist theory along with performativity theory especially in relation to the asexuality assigned to women by Mahatma Gandhi. The goal of the paper is to understand if Rao’s novel Kanthapura is a feminist text that allows agency for women especially within the two discourses of politics and nationalism.

Author Biography

Madara Ranmuthugala is currently enrolled in the PhD program at the Kotelawala Defence University. She holds a Master’s of Science in Development Studies and a Bachelor of Arts (honors) in English from the University of Colombo as well as a Bachelor of Arts (general) from the Open University of Sri Lanka. She is a consultant – content strategy for both companies and individuals. In addition, she is the Associate Editor of the International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al Mustafa International University. Madara engages in research for research organizations as well as for her own study programs.