New book gathers historian's inflluential essays

imageFrom the 1970s until today, Dr. Geraldine Forbes, distinguished teaching professor of history at SUNY Oswego, has presented and published her work on Indian women’s history in half a dozen countries, and the groundbreaking nature of her life’s enterprise is now being appreciated.

A year ago the Calcutta Telegraph called Forbes, then in India on a Fulbright Scholarship, “a sort of household name here.” And Chronicle Books of New Delhi approached her about gathering some of her dispersed work into one volume that would be easily accessible in India.

The result is “Women in Colonial India: Essays on Politics, Medicine, and Historiography,” a newly published collection of eight essays whose original versions Forbes wrote between 1979 and 2003. Chronicle Books presents its author as “among the first historians to research and write about the lives of Indian women.”

The book became a bigger project than first envisioned, Forbes said, because the pieces all needed to conform to a common style and she felt it necessary to update them in light of recent scholarship.

Her focus is on the women of late colonial India, from the late 19th century into the 1940s—those who participated in nationalist politics and ventured to bring Western medicine to their countrywomen. Her sources, these women’s own words and images, motivate her investigations.

Her concluding essay in the new volume, “Reflections on South Asian Women’s History,” discusses her “concerns about the insularity of the field” and calls for a return to the goal of creating “a new history, a metanarrative inclusive of women and gender.”

More recognitions of Forbes’ place in Indian scholarship have come in the past several months. Last July, the organizing committee of the 24th annual North American Bengali Conference chose Forbes to receive an award for her lifelong research on women’s history of colonial Bengal.

Last summer, she became an officer of the American Institute of Indian Studies, a consortium of American colleges and universities that sponsors research fellowships to India and runs two research centers and two Indian language centers in India. She has a three-year term as treasurer.

And the November/December issue of Span magazine, a publication of the American Embassy in New Delhi, includes an illustrated article on Forbes’ Fulbright work on women’s history through photographs.

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CONTACT: Dr. Geraldine Forbes, 312-3249

(Posted: Mar 23, 2005)