The representation of women in contemporary Bangladeshi literature: A new challenge in the postcolonial field

Saiyeda Khatun, University of Rhode Island


The ideology of motherhood, ijjat and bhadrata on the one hand, the patriarchal customs, traditions and the laws of marriage and divorce on the other have been instrumental in subordinating Bangladeshi women. These patriarchal mechanisms have created a subaltern space for women across classes. Although women from within their heterogeneous positions in Bangladeshi society experience moments of dialogue with the dominant power, oftentimes they are silenced.^ In Chapter One I read Shaukat Osman's Janani to examine how the body of the subaltern female becomes the ultimate site of gender oppression. I also interrogate the ideology of motherhood which produces and upholds the image of an all-sacrificing woman.^ In Chapter Two I demonstrate that the heroines of Taslima Nasreen's Chaar Kannya are subalternized by the institutions of marriage and divorce. Chaar Kannya simultaneously represents that a subalternized woman can subvert and challenge Bangladeshi patriarchy through an exploration of the female body on her own terms. Since all the characters of Taslima's stories are middle class women, their subalternization brings to focus that patriarchy subordinates women of all classes. As one of the most important feminist writers, Taslima Nasreen intervenes in the patriarchal episteme through a discourse challenging and opposing that subalternization.^ Finally, in Chapter Three I analyze Abdullah Al-Mamun's play Kokilara in order to explore how the ideology of ijjat and bhadrata and the institutions of marriage and divorce disempower women irrespective of classes. I also examine how the language of Bengali and its dialects intersect with class and gender within the multiple negotiation and contestations of power in Bangladeshi society. Most importantly, I bring to focus that Kokilara foregrounds and reiterates the need for collective resistance against patriarchy. Mamun's play suggests that such a resistance can be based on ethical singularity among women of various classes. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Asian|Women's Studies|Theater

Recommended Citation

Saiyeda Khatun, "The representation of women in contemporary Bangladeshi literature: A new challenge in the postcolonial field" (1997). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9831107.