Sociology and Studies on Women
THE LAST few years have witnessed a welcome upsurge in studies on women. The women's movement too has acquired a new political urgency. These are related facts. Attention has been drawn to the oppression of women not because the Indian academia decided to do so but because women themselves strove to focus attention on their plight. Today a recognition (even if limited) exists that the status of Indian women is a shameful one and that something should be done to redeem the situation. "Rape", "dowry", "female infanticide", "eve teasing" are issues which various women's organisations have taken up. What is lacking however is a clear theoretical understanding and consequently an effective practice. An adequate political strategy for change can be built up only on a correct analysis of women^s status in Indian society. An impression has gained ground that "rape" and "dowry" are obnoxious but peripheral phenomena. Simultaneously, views are being expressed (though by a select few) that the basic contradiction is that between man and woman. Yet others view them as social evils of a transitional stage which would be on their way out with the onset of 'modernisation9.
Sociologists for the most part belong to the last category. This paper attempts, albeit briefly, to review the dominant sociological trend of incorporating the 'modernisation' model in women's studies. This orientation belongs to the established tradition of Indian sociology, which, despite occasional attempts to reject the model, has not been able to shake it off completely. Thus, important as it is to refute the claims of 'nee-Marxists' and feminists, it is of particular pertinence to deal with modernisation theories which persist in maintaining a firm grip on Indian sociology, including women's studies.
In this paper, we would first seek to delineate the basic assumptions, concepts and indices of modernisation theory. This would enable us, secondly, to understand the use of modernisation models in women's studies with reference to (a) its dominant choice of
*Research student at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.