The South Asian Studies Council presents:
Elora Shehabuddin, Rice University: “Promises of Progress: US and Pakistani Women’s Encounters in the Early Cold War.”
My current project traces the history of successive generations of urban women activists in what is today Bangladesh, paying close attention to how transnational interactions and international interventions have shaped their priorities and strategies. This talk focuses on the early decades of the post-WW2 era—a time of decolonization, increasing Cold War rivalries, and the consolidation of modernization ideology. During these years before the rise of what came to be called second-wave feminism or the emergence of any formal interest in women among development practitioners, American policymakers directed special attention to women’s issues and women’s groups in the Third World, including Pakistan. I analyze the often conflicting ideas of progress and development in this era that emerge across, for example, the reports of US foundations, universities, and women’s organizations on their programs in East Pakistan; Peace Corps newsletters; articles and letters from readers about international visitors and women’s rights issues in Bengali magazines such as Begum; and the personal memoirs and travelogues of Bengali women activists of that time.