Several scholars have noted how the Indian state has been able to care for women only by placing them in custody of the family or the community, often overseen by male relatives. How do novels by Indian women writers intervene in this difficult social and legal problem? This paper answers this question by integrating feminist scholarship on the place of Indian women in postcolonial India with another scholarly tradition: the ethics of care. Conventionally, these two bodies of writing have not been in direct dialogue. This paper facilitates a conversation by close-reading Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day, a novel that powerfully describes the struggles of educated women in independent India through a perceptive depiction of the complexities of care. It argues that a postcolonial theory of reading based on care must account for the powerful influence of custodianship in postcolonial India.

Author Biography

Aruni Mahapatra is Assistant Professor of English at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee. He has a Ph.D in English from Emory University, and previously taught at the University of Delhi and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research and teaching have been recognized and awarded by organizations such as the Andrew Mellon Foundation and Harvard University, among others. His writing has appeared in multiple peer-reviewed platforms including Cambridge University Press and the Taylor and Francis Group.