Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture and Education 2016

Women and Water-The Politics of Water and Gender in Literature

Gurpreet Kaur

University of Warwick, United Kingdom


Ever since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were laid out by the United Nations (now expanded upon to become Sustainable Development Goals-SDGs) in the year 2000, water has assumed a central place in the debates that surround topics such as globalization and development of Earth’s common resources. A common resource such as water becomes inseparable from issues of neocolonialism, discourses of neoliberalism that includes privatization, and gender. Women have most commonly been defined as essential users and providers of water in the domestic sphere as well as subsistence farming, and much of the burden of water collection in rural areas falls on young women (unmarried daughters, young daughter-in-laws). Global gender inequalities associated with water alert us to how women are negatively impacted and affected, especially through policies of corporate privatization of water. Hence, women are materially and bodily affected by the lack of access to safe and clean water, that too disproportionately and especially so in the developing world. This paper shows how these issues are examined in literary texts in the South Asian literary and social context, and how certain writers consciously subvert these inequalities to imbue women with social agency through water instead of just perpetuating a stereotypical view of women as victims in patriarchal modes of thought. The literary framework of materialist postcolonial ecofeminism will be used to analyze Mehta’s novel, where it will be shown that women are not “naturally” connected to nature or water, and that men too have an important role to play as care-takers of water.


Gender inequalities, Water, Politics, Literature, Neocolonialism, Privatization, Postcolonial Ecofeminism, Agency, Materialist

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