Body image scholarship began as a medical discourse and belonged exclusively to the domain of neuropathology for treating body dysmorphic disorders among victims of the World Wars (or other injuries) till Paul Ferdinand Schilder discussed it in the 1930s as a corporeal as well as a sociocultural phenomenon. Through the last century, much progress has been made in body image scholarship and its relevance has been acknowledged across cultures and academic disciplines. To put it simply, body image today refers to one’s own perceptions and beliefs toward her physical appearance and sexual desirability. In India while beauty rituals and traditional body image discourses can be traced back to the earliest moments of civilization, these issues have become a pressing problematic for contemporary women. Our proposed collection of essays entitled Female Body Image in Contemporary Indian Literature and Popular Culture hopes to examine how normative perceptions of beauty and femininity in contemporary India compel many women to appear ‘beautiful’ by adhering to globally dominant images of physical perfection defined largely as a fair, tall, and curvaceous but slim body with sharp facial features and lustrous hair. If this ideal has been constructed by colonial influences on twentieth century India, it is also massively influenced by forces of globalization and liberalization, mass media and the internet revolution, and a globally booming fitness, fashion and aesthetic economy in the present times. The injunctions of an ideal body image have arguably left millions of Indian women anxious, insecure and uncomfortable in their own skin.
While female body image has been explored by various twentieth century writers ranging from Manto in “Badsurata”, Premchand in “Sati” and Kamala Markandya in Two Virgins to Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things, it has also captured the attention of several contemporary Indian writers in English such as Suchi Singh Kalra in I am Big. So What!? and Vrushali Telang in Can’T Die For Size Zero. Likewise, Hindi films such as Saudagar in the 1970s, Naseeb Apna Apna in the 1980s, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in the late 1990s and Vivaah in early 2000s have compellingly highlighted this problematic. No doubt, several Hindi as well as regional language Indian films in the recent times have questioned appearance bias among Indian women (such as Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Bala, Shunyo e Bukey, and Size Zero), this issue continues to be a largely neglected area in Indian literary and cultural scholarship. Further, with the immense reach of print and mass media along with the ever growing popularity of social media platforms, where images and appearances define people’s worth, women and their bodies have come under greater scrutiny than ever before. It is therefore high time that critical discourses which challenge body shaming and hail body positivity are recognized, theorized, and popularized in India.
With this background in mind, Female Body Image in Contemporary Indian Literature and Popular Culture makes a timely intervention into body image studies to examine how since the beginning of the twentieth century and especially over the last thirty odd years (with the advent of globalization and liberalization) the obsession with an ‘ideal body’ has vexed Indian womanhood. Through critically informed narrative analysis of contemporary literature, films, web series, advertisements, newspaper columns, and social media postings, among others, it attempts to bring together essays that highlight how millions of Indian women languish under the everyday experience of beauty labor hoping to appear normatively beautiful. It welcomes studies engaging with female experiences of childhood, adolescence, and menarche; of turning sexually active, entering motherhood, and experiencing menopause and aging; and all of this from the perspective of body image discourses which include colorism, weightism, lookism, ageism, and body shaming, to name a few. It also seeks interventions on body image analysis through narratives dealing with alternate sexual identities, physical disability, and impairment; and of course accepts all narratives dealing with body image issues related to caste, class, and regional affiliations from the vantage point of literature and cultural studies. In sum, this edited collection hopes to inaugurate the much needed literary and cultural debates on female body image to encourage body positivity in India.
Themes addressed may include, but are not limited to
- Literature and female body image in twentieth century India
- Films, television, and the politics of female embodiment
- Internet, popular media, advertisements, and female body image
- Class, caste, and body image in India
- Urbanity, womanhood, and the appearance bias
- Regional biases and body image in India
- LGBTQ body image in India
- Maternity and body image in literature and culture
- Differently abled bodies and the appearance bias in literature and culture
- Body image and adolescent girls in Indian literature and culture
- Aging, appearance bias, and the Indian woman in literature and culture
Routledge Press has expressed an interest in publishing this edited collection of essays. Please submit an abstract of 750 words and a short CV by August 31, 2020 to Srirupa Chatterjee firstname.lastname@example.org and Shweta Rao Garg email@example.com The final articles should be of about 7000 words following the latest MLA Handbook format and will be due by March 30, 2021. We hope to see the book in print by early 2022. Contributors are welcome to send enquiries to editors.