Gender in Post Colonial India - Parameswaran - Journal of...

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832Reading Fictions of Romance: Gender,Sexuality, and Nationalism inPostcolonial IndiaBy Radhika ParameswaranThis ethnographic study explores the implications of romance reading for youngIndian women’s gender, class, and national identities in one urban setting inSouth India. The project demonstrates that the practice of reading Western ro-mance fiction is deeply embedded within patriarchal discourses of feminine re-spectability that exert control over women’s sexuality. Young women’s fascinationfor the commodities of Western material culture in imported romance fiction islocated in their desire to experience their identities as cosmopolitan, global con-sumers. In negotiating the boundaries of tradition, Indian women readers con-struct romance fiction as modern manuals on sexuality that afford them escapefrom the burdens of preserving the honor of family and community. The contra-dictory character of women’s interpretations of sexuality in Western romance nov-els highlights the complex dialectic between postcolonial audiences’ resistance toand collusion with the hegemony of global culture.Media studies has been slow to recognize the rich insights of postcolonial theoriesand approaches that have gained currency in history, English, and anthropology.In the past decade, however, a small body of empirical work on media texts andaudiences has seriously engaged the deconstructive project of postcolonial theoryto challenge and advance models of culture in international and developmentcommunication research (Breckenridge, 1995; Mankekar, 1999; Rajagopal, 1996).My own entry into the emerging field of postcolonial media studies seeks to bringquestions of colonial history, nationalism, and sexuality to bear on audience re-ception of Western popular literature in non-Western settings. In my ethnographicresearch among young women in South India, I analyze the cultural space occu-Radhika Parameswaran (PhD, University of Iowa, 1997) is an assistant professor in the School ofJournalism, Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research interests include feminist cultural studies,audience research, international media studies, and postcolonial studies. The author is grateful to theyoung women and other informants who generously volunteered to participate in this study. AnIndiana University Research and University Graduate School Summer Fellowship supported the writ-ing of this research. The author thanks Andra Alvis for her insightful comments and suggestions on anearlier version of this paper.Copyright © 2002 International Communication Association
Reading Fictions of Romance833pied by the practice of popular romance fiction reading in women’s everydaylives. As imported fiction that Indian women read in the English language, alasting legacy of British colonialism, the consumption of Western romance novelsin India signifies the enabling of postcolonial leisure practices and neocolonialeconomies of publishing by the trajectories of colonial history. The popularity of

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Term
Spring
Professor
C.Cipoll,K.Gupta
Tags
Gender Studies, Hindi, Romance novel, Indian women, romance novels, Mills Boons

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