SBC presents lecture on women and violence in India

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Janika Carey

Sweet Briar College Class of 1995 graduate Harleen Singh, a professor at Brandeis University, will return to her alma mater later this month to talk about “Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India.” The lecture will take place at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in the 1948 Theater in the Fitness and Athletics Center.

Harleen Singh ’95 Harleen Singh ’95

Singh is chair of the South Asian Studies Program at Brandeis, where she teaches literature and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Her first book, “The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India” (2014) is a reading of historical fiction relating the story of a 19th-century queen who fought in battle against the British in 1857. Her second book focuses on India’s recent history, particularly what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.

“My next book will bring together legal documents, ethnography, personal narrative and contemporary literary and cinematic accounts to tell the story of women in modern India,” she said.

In her lecture, Singh will take a closer look at modern trends in the increasingly prevalent violence against women in India.

“More often than not, violence against women in India is understood as a brutal vestige of tradition, religion and patriarchy,” she said. “However, what we are witnessing right now is a particularly modern manifestation of violence that has links directly with neoliberal economic factors and the changing lives of all Indians.”

Singh hopes students will come away with a better understanding of how complex women’s lives are in different parts of the world.

“A universal measure of womanhood or ‘woman’ can be misleading,” she said. “That is not to say that solidarity for women cannot exist across the globe, but to realize that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is erroneous to say the least.”

The lecture is presented in connection with Gender Studies 102, which is taught by English professor Marcia Robertson. During her visit, Singh will also talk to students in Cheryl Mares’ “Literature Unbound: Novels of the New Century” class.

While Singh has been back to campus many times in the past 20 years to catch up with faculty — Mares and Robertson among them — this is her first time returning as a scholar for an “official visit,” she says.

“It is an honor to be invited like this by the English department,” she said. “And it will be a visit to a place I love dearly. … My professors at SBC — Cheryl Mares, Ella and Mark Magruder, Marcia Robertson, Karl Tamburr, Judith Elkins — were pivotal in my formation as an individual and a scholar. I will never be able to thank them enough. SBC influenced my decision to become a professor because I wanted to be able to pass on the gift I had received from my wonderful teachers. I aspire to their levels of dedication and excellence.”

Singh’s lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, please email Robertson at