Mobile Women: Four Anecdotes About Book Distribution

This event has finished Took place on: Monday, 10th May 2021

 Free

This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

History of female vendors as book distributors in colonial Bengal with Swati Moitra.

This is an online event hosted on Zoom. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access.

In an oft-quoted anecdote in his five volume autobiography, Amar Jiban (My Life), the poet Nabinchandra Sen speaks of a visit to his village during one monsoon after 14 long years, only to find that the monsoon rituals of reading manuscripts venerating the serpent-goddess, Manasa have all but disappeared.

‘Women no longer listen to these manuscripts’, laments a traditional reader, and the poet concludes that said manuscripts have been replaced by modern novels. A characteristic instance of the educated Bengali elite’s anxiety over women’s reading practices, Sen’s anecdote also prompts the question: where did the women of his village – with limited mobility and access to financial resources – obtain the novels from?

Histories of Bengali women in the 19th and early 20th centuries, often preoccupied with histories of the Bengali bhadramahila – primarily, Hindu, upper-caste women – employ metaphors of ‘cages’ and ‘shackles’ to speak of the constraints on women’s mobility in the antahpur, as well as the impositions on women’s literacy and education.

Narratives of emancipation, centred around women in the formal education system and emerging women writers and editors, harness the language of ‘pioneering’ and ‘firsts’. This preoccupation has extended to book studies, where a significant body of scholarship has pointed to the female readership that patronised the book trade at the time.

The same cannot be said for the women who were involved in the book trade in another way: namely, the female vendors of the book. Unnamed in the archives, seldom referred to except in footnotes or passing anecdotes, the female vendors were important agents of book distribution who formed a vital link between the printing presses and the antahpur of upper caste Bengali households.

How might one begin to speak of the mobile women of the book trade in colonial Bengal? How does one account for their relegation to footnotes, and begin to piece together their significance in book distribution? This talk considers the aforementioned questions through four anecdotes drawn from the works of Nabinchandra Sen, Reverend James Long, Swarnakumari Debi, and Kalyani Dutta.

Swati Moitra (M.Phil, Ph.D) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, at Gurudas College, University of Calcutta. She has earlier taught at Shivaji College and Miranda House, University of Delhi. Her work focuses on book history and histories of readership.

The British Library is a charity. Your support helps us open up a world of knowledge and inspiration for everyone. Donate today.


Contact and Booking Details

This event has finished Took place on: Monday, 10th May 2021

 Free

Booking details and information at this website.

Reserve tickets at this website

Disclaimer: All information given is correct at the time of compiling the listings. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser.

2021-05-10 2021-05-10 Europe/London Mobile Women: Four Anecdotes About Book Distribution History of female vendors as book distributors in colonial Bengal with Swati Moitra. https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/calendar/2021/05/10/mobile-women-four-anecdotes-about-book-distribution-260013 ,,,

This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

NEWSLETTER

Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.