Domesticating Malayalees : J Devika


This paper tries to unsettle the naturalized association often assumed in the existent literature between the modern family and the small family in 20th century Malayalee society. Instead, it attempts to
trace out the shaping of certain life-options in discourse from the mid-19th century onwards that would increasingly mobilize the desire of modern Malayalees and play an important role in directing them towards
the small family norm. The entire notion of parental responsibility was redefined in a crucial way in and through these processes; secondly, the ability of the state to intervene in the family was also strengthened and legitimized. These were, of course central to the willing acceptance of the Family Planning Programme in mid-20th century Malayalee society. It is also important to inquire about the specific paths through which these life-options began to appear both reasonable and desirable to different social groups in this society, but since this points at far more
intensive and prolonged research, the paper attempts only to open up some ground tentatively.

Read the paper here.

Some Obstacles in the Way of Equality Between the Sexes: Kochattil Kalyanikkutty Amma

[This is an earlier version of my translation of the article that appeared in my book Her-Self, Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

Kochattil Kalyanikutty Amma (1908-1997), also known as Mrs. C. Kuttan Nair, was born at Thrissur. She graduated in science subjects from Queen Mary’s College, Madras, and had a long career as a teacher, which proved quite turbulent, especially towards the end. She was prominent as a contributor to magazines, and known for her keen interest in women’s education, active participation in the All-India Women’s Conferences and support for contraception. Her travelogue, ‘The Europe I Saw’, written in the 1930s, was widely read. In 1991, she published her autobiography titled Pathikayum Vazhiyoratte Manideepangalum (The Traveler and the Wayside Lamps), which won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi’s award for best autobiography in 1993. Continue reading “Some Obstacles in the Way of Equality Between the Sexes: Kochattil Kalyanikkutty Amma”

The First-Generation Feminists on Sex, Contraception, and Self-building

[This is an excerpt from my article titled ‘The Malayalee sexual revolution: Sex, ‘liberation’ and family planning in Keralam’, Contributions to Indian Sociology 39,3 , 2005.]

….  From the late 19th century, disapproval of artificial contraception was often linked to anxieties in Malayalee society about realising the ideal modern Self against older socio-economic and cultural orders.  In turn, the project of modern Self-building was seen to be dependent on attaining a high degree of self-discipline, expressed, in particular, in sexual self-restraint (Devika 1999). The idea that vigorous sexual desire was pathological, the conviction that sexual self-control was central to Self-building, and the fear that artificial contraception would open up a Pandora’s Box of sexual chaos, were notions that were frequently voiced in the Malayalee public sphere from the 1930s onwards when artificial contraception began to be discussed. Continue reading “The First-Generation Feminists on Sex, Contraception, and Self-building”