Witnessing History, Writing Nostalgia: The Progressive Women


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The role of women writers within the Progressive Movement

Farha Noor discusses the role of women writers within the Progressive Movement, while investigating the entanglements of genre and gender.

The Progressive Movement in north India saw a definite shift in the status of women as contributors to society. It brought fresh perspectives to the heated debates regarding the value of women’s engagements with the ‘literary’. As literary revolutionaries like Rashid Jahan and Ismat Chughtai broke new ground, many women within the Progressive milieu began to write. They wrote mostly of themselves, their lives and times, giving rise to a growing surge in the genre of life-writing or autobiographical writing in Urdu. These stories are recognised as individual works only in retrospect and often as complimentary or secondary pieces to a mainstream narrative. Much of this recognition is based on their reading as witnesses to history and nostalgic recollections. Reading these texts against the grain, this talk aims to investigate the entanglements of genre and gender while rethinking Nostalgia and its relationship with forms of life-writing. Furthermore, editorial intervention like processes of selection, collection and translation will be considered to probe into the concept of Witness and tease out the politics of text as performance. Some of the works to be considered are Yaad ki Rehguzar by Shaukat Kaifi, Hum Sath The by Hamida Salim and Humsafar by Hameeda Akhtar. 

Farha Noor is currently writing her doctoral dissertation on Concepts of Leisure in Modern Bangla and Urdu Fiction at the South Asia Institute in Heidelberg, in association with the Collaborative Research Centre 1015 ‘Otium’, University of Freiburg. She is interested in literary translations and has translated from Bangla and Urdu.

Image: Yaad Ke Rehguzaar by Shaukat Kaifi, British Library YP.2008.a.1990

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Name: Witnessing History, Writing Nostalgia: The Progressive Women
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