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Gender and Neoliberalism

The All India Democratic Women’s Association & Globalization Politics

Elisabeth Armstrong

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This book describes the changing landscape of women’s politics for equality and liberation during the rise of neoliberalism in India. Between 1991 and 2006, the doctrine of liberalization guided Indian politics and economic policy. These neoliberal measures vastly reduced poverty alleviation schemes, price supports for poor farmers, and opened India’s economy to the unpredictability of global financial fluctuations. During this same period, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), which directly opposed the ascendance of neoliberal economics and policies, as well as the simultaneous rise of violent casteism and anti-Muslim communalism, grew from roughly three million members to over ten million. Beginning in the late 1980s, AIDWA turned its attention to women’s lives in rural India. Using a method that began with activist research, the organization developed a sectoral analysis of groups of women who were hardest hit in the new neoliberal order, including Muslim women and Dalit women. AIDWA developed what its leaders called inter-sectoral organizing, that centred the demands of the most vulnerable women in the heart of its campaigns and its ideology for social change. Through long-term ethnographic research, predominantly in the country’s northern state of Haryana and southern state of Tamil Nadu, this book shows how a socialist women’s organization built its oppositional strength by organizing the women who are most marginalized by neoliberal policies and economics.

Elisabeth Armstrong

Elisabeth Armstrong is Associate Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. She is the author of The Retreat from Organization: U.S. Feminism Reconceptualized (2002)

Gender and Neoliberalism by Elisabeth Armstrong is an important book because it advocates the belief that a gendered understanding of the political economy is essential and indeed possible.”

Krishna Menon, The Book Review

“We find in the book a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the origins, organization, reach and effectiveness of the AIDWA, the largest women’s group in India… the book is an authentic record of how a left-wing women’s organisation in India has worked in mobilising women across sectoral divides… Gender and Neoliberalism is a valuable contribution to the repertoire of literature on women’s activism in India in the past few decades.”

Suparna Banerjee, The Hindu