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Lambert-Hurley, Siobhan (1998) Contesting seclusion : The political emergence of Muslim women in Bhopal, 1901-1930. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study examines the emergence of Indian Muslim women as politicians and social reformers in the early years of the twentieth century by focussing on the state of Bhopal, a small Muslim principality in Central India, which was ruled by a succession of female rulers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The last Begam of Bhopal, Nawab Sultan Jahan Begam (1858-1930, r. 1901-1926), emerges as the main figure in this history, though a substantial effort has also been made to examine the activities of other Bhopali women, whether poor, privileged or princely. Special significance has been attached to their changing attitudes to class, gender and communal identities, using the veil as a metaphor for women's expanding concerns. Their connections with wider movements of social reform have also been emphasized in an attempt to show that the emergence of women in Bhopal was representative of a broader development occurring amongst Muslim women, both within India and throughout the Islamic world. The importance of this study lies in its treatment of the 'daughters of reform,' the first generation of Muslim women who contributed to the reformist discourse, particularly at the regional level, as complex subjects in possession of a history. It is also significant in that it redresses the paucity of academic literature on the princely states of India, highlighting the differences between states and the changes that occurred over time, rather than simply dismissing the princes as frivolous reminders of a by-gone age. The main theme that arises is the importance for early Muslim female activists of balancing continuity and innovation. By operating within the framework of Islam, Bhopali women were able to build on traditional norms in order to introduce incremental change. As many of their achievements were unforseen, however, their story is as much one of paradox, as of progress.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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