The (im)possibility of decolonising gender in South Asia: a reading of Bollywood’s ‘new women’

Saba Hussain, Nazia Hussein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper highlights tensions in the continuity of coloniality and the decoloniality of gender as represented within portrayals of new women in Bollywood, through an analysis of the heroines’ dance, sexuality, anger and consumption. This reading of Bollywood’s new women alludes to the (im)possibility of decolonising gender in South Asia, arguing that the emergent female subjects of these movies find themselves in cross-pulls between the need for self-realisation, neo-liberalism, and national identity. Our analysis reveals within these multiple cross-pulls there are moments that rupture the narratives of coloniality/modernity, by proposing a version of what Partha Chatterjee’s called ‘our modernity’. These narrative ruptures allow us to challenge historically received notions of identity and representations of Third World women, and of gender in South Asia. At the same time, the characters analysed within this paper continue to uncritically subscribe to colonial forms of modernity, through active participation as workers and consumers in the capitalist economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-413
Number of pages19
JournalThird World Thematics: A TWQ Journal
Issue number4-5
Early online date1 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bollywood
  • new woman
  • coloniality
  • declonisation
  • Third World Woman
  • modernity


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