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Changing the subject in feminist and queer politics

- Wits University

Professor of Sociology wins prestigious award for book on feminist studies in neoliberal India.

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Srila Roy, Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, has won the Distinguished Book Award in the Sexualities category from the American Sociology Association (ASA) for Changing the Subject: Feminist and Queer Politics in Neoliberal India.

The Distinguished Book Award is awarded annually to an ASA member for the best single book published.

Roy’s research interest and expertise are in the field of transnational and decolonial feminist studies. Her book, Changing the Subject, maps out India’s rapid transformation of gender and sexual politics today in the neoliberal global context.

The book demonstrates how historical and local feminist currents influence contemporary queer and straight neoliberal feminisms.

Roy describes this through the actions and assumptions of an organisation she calls ‘Janam’, which is central to the book. The work of Janam is poverty alleviation and empowerment of women in rural west Bengal through financialization, human, and women’s rights.

“For the data collection, I used a mixed methods approach, which included the open-ended interview and participant observation,” she explains, regarding her research process to write the book.

The emphasis by queer feminist governmentality on altering the self, and how this interacts with traditional activist governance methods, gives a new way of seeing feminism – both as an ideology that has always been appropriated and as a force for change in the world.

Roy’s aim is for readers to consider “a new way of looking at feminism, which is not only about the march, the public protest, or the placard.”

She says, “I hope my book shows how feminist and queer struggles take place in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of consequences, from the level of the state and non-state organisations, like NGOs, to the micro level of the everyday and the self.”

Roy is currently writing a new book, to be published by Wits University Press, called Dissonant Intimacies: Transnational Feminism in the Global South.