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Labour, Property, and Gender in the Context of the Cooperative Movement in Western India, 1900 to 1950


· Nikolay Kamenov PHZH (Zürich, Switzerland)


07/27 | 09:20-09:40 UTC+2/CEST


The paper examines the entangled issues of labour, property and gender within the context of the history of the cooperative movement in the first half of the 20th century in Western India. The dialectic relation between the movement and the ‘women’s question’ was a complex and outspoken issue. On the one hand, having a focus on economic questions such as capital allocation, the original cooperative legislation allowing for credit cooperatives reinforced – or at the very least did not challenge – existing gender inequalities. Members of villages cooperatives in the first decades of the movement were overall male household heads. On the other hand, the cooperative movement did recognize and explicitly address the possibility of women’s emancipation through their engagement as economic agents. Importantly, this was not in the form of land proprietors with the accompanying access to credit, but rather as small producers in the textile and dairy industries. In this relation, the paper also draws attention to the fact that the cooperative movement was identified by other reform organizations such as the Servants of India Society or, even more meaningfully, by the All India Women’s Conference, as a viable channel for promoting their own ‘women’s’ agenda.