Journal of South Asia Women Studies

Goodbye Ravi Shankar, Sitar Maestro and Global Ambassador of India's Cultural Heritage

Editorial Note by Enrica Garzilli

Internationally known sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away on Dec. 11 in southern California, at the age 92. He had never fully recovered from a surgery. “When we talk about crossover music, or bringing our musical knowledge to other parts of the world, it was just him. His contribution is immense, and cannot be described in a few words” said Indian musician and composer Shankar Mahadevan.

Ravi Shankar belonged to a Bengali Brahmin family living in Varanasi. After touring in Europe and then finishing his formal studies in Varanasi in 1944, he worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Trilogy by the famous Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Then for a few years he was music director of All India Radio, based in New Delhi. In 1956 he began to tour Europe and America playing Indian classical music. He became internationally known in the 1960s thanks to his association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and with George Harrison, the lead guitar of The Beatles.

Confirming his death, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Shankar a "national treasure and global ambassador of India's cultural heritage."

The Hindustan Times writes that he “became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and ( who) introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career”.

Actually Shankar introduced not only ragas to the West but India itself. Thanks to his music a whole generation learned to love India. We cannot but repeat the words of his wife and his daughter: “His spirit and his legacy will live on forever in our hearts and in his music.”

This is the official website of Ravi Shankar and an excellent article on him, “India Pays Tribute to Ravi Shankar, Sitar Maestro and Cultural Ambassador”.

In this issue we publish two papers: “The Politics of Neo-liberalism, Sexuality and Islam“ by Shaireen Rasheed, Associate professor of Philosophy at the School of Education at Long Island University (USA); and “Indian Women in Community Radio: The Case Studies of Radio Namaskar in Orissa and Radio Dhadkan in Madhya Pradesh” by Daniela Bandelli, PhD student at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Queensland (Australia), based on her thesis of Master of Communication for Social Change at the same university.


The Politics of Neo-liberalism, Sexuality and Islam by Shaireen Rasheed

In order to rethink the role of experience in the critique of postcolonial modernity, it becomes important to examine the links between the poetic work of language and the feminist critique of experience. By critically examining the work of the current genre of south Asian writers such as Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali my paper is going to analyze how such literary discourses are being used to negotiate cultural stereotypes of women and Islam. Ultimately by contextualizing the current literary discourse on women and Islam within an ethical phenomenology, I hope to further problematise the voice of the subject in these literary texts and question whether it can ever be understood, experienced, and read in such a way as to be authentic.

Indian Women in Community Radio: The Case Studies of Radio Namaskar in Orissa and Radio Dhadkan in Madhya Pradesh by Daniela Bandelli

Community Radio stations are run by community-based organizations, their programs are usually in local language and produced by ordinary people according to territory specific information needs. In India, Community Radio is a flourishing sector and an opportunity for women, who are traditionally excluded from the public sphere. This paper aims to provide an understanding on four dimensions of empowerment that are initiated through participation in Community Radio and on how gender norms and roles interweave with such a process. This objective is pursued through two qualitative case studies: Radio Namaskar, in Orissa, and Radio Dhadkan, in Madhya Pradesh. The study shows that, although responsibility of domestic duties, restricted mobility and submission to in-laws hinder women’s participation in Community Radio, elements of empowerment, such as improved awareness, skills, access to information, consideration within family and community and motivation to engage in social change, occur.