4th August 2009, 11:29am
Exploring hidden stories of Indian independence
Dr Jane Chapman The important role played by women in securing independence for India will be explored in a pioneering research project by a University of Lincoln academic.

Dr. Jane Chapman, Reader in the Faculty of Media, Humanities and Technology at the University of Lincoln, has recently been awarded a substantial grant from ESRC (The Economic and Social Research Council) to explore this issue in a project entitled Women, Press and Protest in British and French India, 1928-48.

For Britain, France and for millions of colonised people, India's transition from colonialism to independence represents a shared heritage in which women and also print communications played a pivotal role.

The project will study the impact of women's economic and political protest on and through newspaper contributions, revealing two hidden aspects. The first is women’s protest role in the forgotten French outpost of Pondicherry, the main centre of population amongst small scattered territories ruled by France from the 17th century to 1962. The second is the case of the collapse of The Pioneer newspaper (famous for employing Kipling), when advertisers withdrew their support due to pro-nationalist coverage of female boycotts.

There will be a touring exhibition to all three countries and a website resource for schools. The research will also appear in a book entitled Gender, Citizenship and the Media (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and in two academic articles.

Dr. Jane Chapman said: “The role of the press relating to how women organised protests that contributed towards Indian independence has never previously been highlighted by historians, even though many of the bravest female leaders came from famous families such as the Nehru dynasty. In French Indian territories, women’s influence has been totally ignored up to now.

“The subject is important because the way Indian women emerged from the confines of domesticity to become active, politicized and very bold citizens provides an alternative female role model. Too often the media encourage an image of women that is obsessed with celebrity, sex and fashion. Our research is about something that Gandhi encouraged - women’s contribution towards freedom and democracy - and this is as relevant today as it was 60 or 100 years ago.”

The project Women, Press and Protest in British and French India, 1928-48 will last 15 months, with full project costs of more than £70,000. Alongside Dr. Jane Chapman, there will be three other employees involved - a researcher, an admin assistant and a translator from Tamil. Dr. Chapman will also be organising a symposium for other academics to exchange information on research methods.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million.  At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk.
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