The article explores the role of women in the Indian freedom struggle, particularly Begam Hazarat Mahal of Lucknow through Kenizé Mourad’s In the City of Gold and Silver (2010). The text explicitly and implicitly foregrounds the role of tawaifs (courtesans) in the culture and the literature of the public sphere prior to 1857 or the first Indian freedom struggle. Their participation in the freedom struggle was a response to the British attempt to reduce their role to strictly economic and sexual purposes. The article imbricates the issues of nationalism, gender, and sexuality by mining the invisible contributions of various groups of Indian women throughout the freedom movement. We focus specifically on the case of tawaifs whose status fell from being the epitome of cultural manners to the role of a prostitute, partially because they posed a threat to the British expansion and partially because of the patriarchal setup of the Oudh society. The political significance of numerous women who contributed within the domestic sphere was completely neglected and unrecorded, while those who actively participated risking their lives and honor, such as the courtesans, were demeaned or given labels such as prostitutes. The writers, journalists, and historians who were mostly men ignored their sacrifices and struggles resulting in a scarcity of literature concerning them. The article references the theoretical framework of the public sphere, proposed by Jürgen Habermas in his seminal work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, and critiques the imposition of European, patriarchal, monolithic, bourgeois notions on the public sphere. The study concludes that apart from the British intervention, the patriarchal and moral stand of successive leaders of the Indian freedom struggle has also been responsible for the non-representation of women in general and tawaifs in particular as freedom fighters.
Kumar, Anurag; Malhotra, Isha; and Bali, Rishav
"The Changing Contours of the Indian Public Sphere: Courtesans, Culture, and the British Invasion of Oudh in Kenizé Mourad’s In the City of Gold and Silver,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 25:
5, Article 11.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol25/iss5/11