Launch event Jan. 19 for book on young Muslim women in India’s slums

chakraborty-routledgeOn Jan. 19, York University children’s studies Professor Kabita Chakraborty will launch her new book, Young Muslim Women in India: Bollywood, Identity and Changing Youth Culture (Routledge).

This book is based on 20 months of field research with Muslim women and girls in the slums of Kolkata, India.

Chakraborty finds that despite being part of marginalized communities, these young women and girls are at the forefront of important transitions in a globalizing India.

“Dominant discourses about slum youth as poor victims who are excluded from social change is prolific in India, particularly in recent years where social and political changes have really impacted the identity politics of young Muslims living in large, urban, poor communities,” she says.” The book disrupts these stereotypes by showcasing young people’s own ambitions, desires and transgressions.”

Chakraborty’s goal as a scholar of youth cultures is to document young people’s lived experiences, drawing on their own opinions, words, visual images and stories. She arrives at her findings using a child-centred methodology that centralizes youth voices by letting them be integral parts of shaping the way the research was conducted.

The youth were actively involved in peer-to-peer interviews, leading neighbourhood tours, creating photobooks of their lives and participating in yoga as a participatory method.

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Kabita Chakraborty

The book takes the reader through the intimate lives of many girls and young women who are keen on fulfilling risky desires and performing multiple identities. These girls and young women take the reader down the winding alleys of their neighbourhoods and make us privy to their transgressions, leisure and gossip. They share with us how they learn sexy Bollywood dancing; how they develop romantic relationships; and how they win time and space to participate in various aspects of a globalizing India which often tries to exclude them.

Bollywood emerges as an important role model which these young people consult.

Chakraborty’s interest in changing youth culture in the slums, and the role of Bollywood as a guide, stems from past research (2001-03) when she was working with street children in Kolkata to understand their views on the built-up urban environment. It was during that time the young people’s relationship with Bollywood captured her attention.

She is currently working on a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development-funded project on “eve-teasing” in the slums of India. Eve-teasing is a South Asian euphemism which is roughly translated as “public sexual violence,” but she suggests that this definition is not very accurate. Eve-teasing is complicated by cultures of restricted male-female interaction, patriarchal violence and limited opportunities to develop romantic relationships. Chakraborty will explore the nuances of eve-teasing in this project, working with youth in the slums of Kolkata.

The book will be launched at an event sponsored by the Department of Humanities and the York Centre for Asian Research on Jan. 19 from 12:30 to 1:30pm on the eighth floor (common area) of the Kaneff Tower.

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