Institutionalisation of Women’s Studies Research Centre, Gauhati University: A Struggle for Space and Identity
Institutionalisation of Women’s Studies (WS) in India although started in the 1970s, it took a decade further to cross the threshold of Northeastern States. The isolation which the Northeast of India has always faced in the social, economic and political spheres was also reflected in the case of establishment of the Women’s Studies Centres as the then Vice Chancellor Dr. Deba Prasad Barooah had to struggle against the University Grants Commission for establishing it in Gauhati University. Again, the narrative of WSRC, GU do not find mention in the book Narratives from Women's Studies Family: Recreating Knowledge where experiences of 17 centres from across the country are illustrated. This paper investigates all such structural difficulties, negligence and struggle faced by one of the first Women’s Studies Centre of Northeast India, established in Gauhati University (GU), since its conceptualisation to inception in 1989 till the present. It attempts in revealing the experiences of the Directors, yielding the efforts behind the setting up of the centre, the role played by different individuals both internal and external of the University towards the establishment of the Centre, the catalysts that prevented the premature decay of the Centre and most importantly the struggle for space, identity and recognition the constraints faced to obtain them. To achieve these goals oral history method was applied to explore the experiences of the previous directors and the author (2nd author) herself. The narratives illustrate the history of struggles, challenges and the subsequent development over a span of more than twenty five years. The paper documents the support the University provided despite being a patriarchal institution for fostering of the WSRC, which in gradual years took steps to produce the Department of Women’s Studies. It will also look into the progressive role Women’s Studies played not only in the varsity internally but also at the external front through research and advocacy by inducing new panoramic view towards and discussion of women’s issues in a multidimensional framework.