Dutiful Daughters (or not) and the Sins of the Fathers in Iqbalunnisa Hussain's Purdah and Polygamy

Teresa Hubel


Poet and editor Eunice De Souza has described the neglect of 19th and 20th century writing by women as a “distortion” of “the history of Indian writing in English which is far more rich and varied than the accounts in these histories would suggest.” Iqbalunnisa Hussain's 1944 novel Purdah and Polygamy, though superbly clever in its irony and always brave in its depiction of injustice, is one such piece of literature that has fallen away from history. Against the historical representation of Muslim women as followers of the minority politics of their men, this essay situates Hussain within a group of radical Muslim women writers who, pursuing anti-communalist ends, criticized such politics. Purdah and Polygamy powerfully reveals the cost to women and girls of serving as emblems of a community’s identity.


purdah; feminism in India; anti-communalist politics in India; Muslim women in India; Muslim literature in India

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