‘The Obduracy of Women’: Why Saraswathi Amma Remains Relevant

 

Whenever I think of K Saraswathi Amma whose work I have been translating most recently, I remember a word: “streevashi”.

Ever since I encountered the term streevashi in the recorded speech of a 19th century missionary of the London Missionary Society in my research on the history of gender in early modern Malayali society, the notion has stayed with me. The missionary had uttered it in a moment of exasperation – he was worried about the vicious terror unleashed on the lower-caste Shannars of south Kerala (Travancore then), especially the women who had accepted Christianity, by upper-caste Nairs offended by their defiance of caste restrictions on clothing.

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