Deconstructing “The New Indian Woman”: An Analysis of the Sleuth Heroines of Indian English Women’s Detective Fiction
Feminist discourses on the “New Indian Woman” focus on the woman's body as a surface upon which modernity is inscribed. Sexual transgression has been the only lens through which the New Woman has been usually studied and analyzed until now, thus offering a superficial definition of modernity by women being defined only by the corporeal. This is problematic not only because it offers a reductionist view of modernity but also “constructs a boundary around the notion of modern womanhood that excludes woman whose bodily autonomy has been compromised, for example through sexual assault” (Daya, “Embodying Modernity” 97). This paper will study two novels, Kishwar Desai’s Witness the Night (2010) and Kalpana Swaminathan’s I Never Knew It Was You (2012), closely analyzing the women sleuths as portrayed in these texts: Simran Singh in the former, Lalli and Sita in the latter. The paper will move beyond the existing discourses on the New Indian woman and demonstrate how the New Woman in these narratives of detection is transgressive in contesting dominant ideals of femininity. The aim will be to understand how these women detectives contest and challenge patriarchal hegemonies through their behavior and how their acts of detection also are essential acts of rebellion against a largely misogynistic system. Swaminathan's Lalli and Sita and Desai’s Simran can be seen as a reflection of the uninhibited, independent, professional, twenty-first century Indian woman. The paper seeks to reconstruct the figure of the New Indian woman through the representations of these women fighting crimes against women in modern-day India, enacting their autonomy and rebellion in the process by deftly taking on the role of a detective, traditionally a profession for men. The aim will also be to discuss how these works provide a space for creating new roles for women, while also illustrating a wide spectrum of women experiences. Lastly, the paper will explore these works in the context of India’s economic growth and how they affect and are affected by India’s publishing industry.
Pandey, Somjeeta and Bhattacharya, Somdatta
"Deconstructing “The New Indian Woman”: An Analysis of the Sleuth Heroines of Indian English Women’s Detective Fiction,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 25:
1, Article 8.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol25/iss1/8