Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)





Committee Chair

Charles B. Sumner

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Linda M. Allen

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Monika Gehlawat

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Nicolle M. Jordan

Committee Member 4 Department



Contemporary women’s fiction and film of the Indian subcontinent, starting from the 1940s up to the present decade, have gradually shaped our understanding about the challenges of lived female bodies in South Asia. Apart from presenting women’s embodiment as a complex crucible of politics and religion, these cinematic and literary texts secure the possibilities of retaliation through marginalized women’s agential actions. The most notable change in the new millennial is the women writers’ and filmmakers’ increasingly candid representations of and radical take on female bodies and sexuality. Rather than keeping these taboo issues carefully hidden as implied subtexts, films and literature since the 1980s have productively experimented with nonnormative female bodies through a rhetoric of empowerment. This dissertation focuses on three novels and a film produced between 1992 and 2000 and makes the argument that women with so-called culturally “nonproductive” bodies extensively critique and revise their body-based identities cemented in the subcontinental cultural imagination. The dissertation claims that this nonproductivity is an empty rhetoric perpetuated to accommodate the interests of both the dominant patriarchal institutions and individual men in order to maintain the uneven hierarchy of power. This dissertation analyzes four crucial material experiences of women—pregnancy, disability, physical and sexual abuse, and gendered segregation—in order to understand the nature of individual women’s oppression, retaliation, and assertion of identity inspired by the contextual implications of their bodies. Using the theoretical lenses of corporeal feminism and feminist historiography, this project situates the oppressive discourses surrounding pregnancy, disability, abuse, and occlusion within the context of religion-colonization-nationalism nexus.



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