Women's Land Rights and the Trap of Neo-Conservatism: A Response to Jackson

In response to Cecile Jackson's article, Agarwal argues here that Jackson has seriously misrepresented her work, often attributing the opposite of what she has said, and turned nuanced and balanced formulations into one-sided extremes. She seeks to correct the important misrepresentations, as well as outline substantive differences with Jackson. In particular, her argument that women should not claim family land for risk of destabilizing family relations could, by extension, have deeply conservative implications for all forms of women's struggles to enhance their freedoms and capabilities. In many South Asian communities, conflict is equally inherent in women choosing their own marriage partners or professions, or seeking gender-equal education, or wanting freedom of reproductive choice or free public interaction. The fear of family conflict could tie women down on numerous such counts as well. Jackson also overextends the resistance to women's claims in family land by treating South Asia as a uniform entity. The analysis in my book on this subject shows a substantial regional variability in kinship structures and social norms, which would make for much less resistance in southern South Asia than in the north, providing promising initial avenues for extending women's land claims. Also, unlike Jackson, I do not locate the process of women acquiring land rights in each woman's isolated struggle within the family, but in a collective struggle that seeks to build support across multiple tiers of society.
Agarwal, Bina
Source publication: 
Journal of Agrarian Change Volume 3, Issue 4, pages 571–585