Women, Subalterns, and Ecologies in South and Southeast Asian Women’s Fiction
Happy Women's History Month! This week's review analyzes South and Southeast Asian women's fiction, uncovering the "relationships between the human, animal, and nonhuman in the face of eco-disasters and climate crises."
In this compact work, Sankaran (National Univ. of Singapore) offers detailed readings of 30-some 20th and 21st century fictional works by women from 12 countries in South and Southeast Asia, including Mahasweta Devi, Jean Arasanayagam, Suchen Christine Lim, and Khin Mya Zin. By balancing insightful close readings with sweeping overviews of Hindu and Buddhist philosophies and spatial, postcolonial, and narratological theories, Sankaran explains the redemptive nature of fictional narratives that incorporate regional literary, philosophical, and cultural traditions to understand the relationships between the human, animal, and nonhuman in the face of eco-disasters and climate crises. Sankaran shows how Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim perspectives connect the current “second modernity” of risk societies to ancient texts and traditions that predate contemporary crises and offer examples of powerful, if not always hopeful, relationships among women, animals, and nature. Many of the texts challenge readers to understand how social justice movements often conflict with ecological justice. Sankaran refuses to draw overly broad conclusions and instead offers nuanced, well-theorized readings of the political and social power dynamics, the narrative and ideological frameworks, and the political and environmental histories. Inexperienced readers will be overwhelmed, but the wide conceptual scope reinforces the significance of the book.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. Reviewer: K. A. Minerva, Utica University Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – Asian & Oceanian Choice Issue: Dec 2022
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