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This book emerged from a decision to not translate certain stories about struggles of sangtins that I felt I was expected to deliver in translation. The process of enacting that resistance has become as heavy—and light—as life itself. Heavy by its indebtedness to every person and every encounter that has helped to shape what I write or share here. And light in that it assumes the inevitability of all the gaps and mistakes that make life; errors that one can merely hope to identify but never aspire to “fix.”

Muddying the Waters is about dreams and labor that are shaped by relationships and encounters, and that demand faith in endless and seemingly impossible border crossings. It is about the zubaans or tongues that one inherits or embraces as well as those to which one’s access is foreclosed, and about that which can or cannot be expressed in available languages. Above all, this book is about sustaining journeys that require hope when hope seems unattainable. The work of sustaining such journeys is itself an intense “coauthorship,” albeit one that, by its very nature, makes it impossible to recognize all of one’s coauthors. Muddying the Waters, too, is enabled by the labor, insights, and sacrifices of countless people whose journeys have intersected with my own—sometimes deliberately and sometimes by sheer accident. In acknowledging some of those people by name here, I am surely missing the names of many others without whom this book would not exist in its current form. I hope that my unnamed acquaintances, friends, critics, and coauthors will forgive me for my failure to name them.

The journeys that have informed and created this book were often undertaken with the help of the institutional and financial support I have received while at the University of Minnesota, first as a graduate student between 1989 and 1995 and subsequently as a faculty member since 1997. Parts of this book have emerged from my doctoral research in Dar es Salaam between 1991 and 1995. Funding for this work included a fellowship from the MacArthur Program (1989–95), a Davis Fellowship from the Department of Geography (1992–93), and a graduate school fellowship (1993–94), all at the University of Minnesota, as well as a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-9205409). Support from the University of Minnesota that has helped to advance and sustain my work as a faculty member includes research funds, course releases, and a Scholar of the College Award (2008–11) granted by the College of Liberal Arts and support in the form of a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship (2000–2002), a McKnight Presidential Fellowship (2002–5), two grants-in-aid (1998, 2003), two sabbatical supplements (2003–4, 2013–14), and a single-semester leave. I have also benefitted from residential fellowships that allowed me to spend the academic year 2005–6 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University and parts of the academic year 2011–12 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study (JNIAS) in New Delhi. A Mellon Faculty Exchange award from the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) at Minnesota and the University of the Western Cape (South Africa) allowed me to conclude this project at the UWC Centre for Humanities Research in 2013. I thank James Parente for his support of my work during his time as associate dean for faculty and dean of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at the University of Minnesota. I am indebted to Raymond (Bud) Duvall for the many ways in which he has engaged and enabled my work over the years in his multiple roles as a teacher, colleague, critic, reader, and interim dean of CLA at Minnesota.

Susan Geiger’s scholarship, and her passion for the places she made a commitment to, profoundly influenced the research I undertook in Tanzania and my approach to academia. Although it has been two decades since I was in Dar es Salaam, Fatma Alloo has never given up on me. Her friendship enriched my time in Dar and helped to shape several pieces of my research. I remain grateful to Muhsin Alidina, “Francis Fernandes,” Jasu Damji, Parin Jaffer, Sujata Jaffer, Razia Janmohammed, Julie Mohammed, Damji Rathod, Sarla Rathod, Abdul Sheriff, Issa Shivji, Razia Tejani, and Nizar Visram for sharing valuable insights with me during my fieldwork in Dar es Salaam between 1991 and 1993.

The unflinching intellectual support and generosity of many scholars, colleagues, and thinkers at various critical junctures have proved essential for the growth of my own vision and scholarship, and for the arguments I make here. Lila Abu-Lughod, Ruth Fincher, Louise Fortmann, Jim Glassman, Gillian Hart, Sangeeta Kamat, Cindi Katz, Helga Leitner, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Linda Peake, Geraldine Pratt, Laura Pulido, Abdi Samatar, Naomi Scheman, Eric Sheppard, and Shruti Tambe have been sources of intellectual inspiration and strength. The interest and encouragement of Jacqui Alexander, Ayşe Gül Altınay, Nebahat Akkoç, Ron Aminzade, Amrita Basu, Aksu Bora, Urvashi Butalia, Piya Chatterjee, Anil Chaudhari, Arundhati Dhuru, Dwijendra Nath Guru, Krishna Kumar, Ashok Maheshwari, Biju Mathew, M J Maynes, Alok Mehta, Kalyani Menon-Sen, Sudha Nagavarappu, Sophie Oldfield, Philip Porter, Rachel Silvey, Shankar Singh, Ashwini Tambe, Ganesh Visputay, and Joel Wainwright has invigorated my alliance work and writing with Sangtin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS).

This work also has been enlivened by the critical and creative engagement of G. Arunima, Ebru Nihan Celkan, David Edmunds, Alondra Espejel, Iman Ghazalla, Patricia Hayes, Dorothy Hoffman, Salma Ismail, Premesh Lalu, Maggi Wai Han Leung, Anu Mandavilli, Eli Meyerhoff, Saraswati Raju, Ciraj Rassool, Sharmila Rege, Alvaro Reyes, Martina Rieker, Mallarika Sinha Roy, Anagha Tambe, Mary Thomas, Ilknur Ustun, Ronald Wesso, and Alison Wylie. Shukriya, also, to members of Aalochana in Pune; Ayizi Kitap and Insan Hakları Ortak Platformu (IHOP) in Ankara; the KAMER women throughout Turkey; the Church Land Programme in Pietermaritzburg; the Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan in Devdoongri; and the Pangea World Theater and the (short-lived) Parakh Theater group in Minneapolis.

In my home department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at Minnesota, I have been enriched by many lively conversations with Jigna Desai. Jigna’s insightful engagement with several translated segments of Ek Aur Neemsaar in 2010–11 proved crucial for the ways in which I have come to share SKMS’s stories in this book. Zenzele Isoke, Naomi Scheman, Edén Torres, and Jacquelyn Zita have engaged my work and energized me with their own committed and inspired labor in multiple sites of knowledge making. Amy Kaminsky, Regina Kunzel, Susan Craddock, and Jigna Desai have also extended valuable support in their role as previous and current department chairs.

Comments from Mazhar Al-Zo’by, Koni Benson, Antonádia Borges, Sharad Chari, Patricia Connolly, Diane Detournay, Aniruddha Dutta, Vinay Gidwani, Ketaki Jaywant, Diyah Larasati, Desiree Lewis, Maria Mendez Gutierrez, Himadeep Muppidi, Sophie Oldfield, Quynh Pham, Elaine Salo, Naomi Scheman, Sofia Shank, Ajay Skaria, and Marion Werner have allowed me to refine several thoughts and arguments that I present in this book. An “Authors Meet Critics” session on Playing with Fire organized by Geraldine Pratt and sponsored by Social and Cultural Geography at the 2007 Association of American Geographers meetings proved pivotal for the writing that Richa Singh, Surbala, and I undertook with one another, and with saathis of SKMS. I acknowledge the generative influence of the panelists at that session: Sharad Chari, Gillian Hart, Rupal Oza, Geraldine Pratt, Matt Sparke, and Anant Maringanti.

Shukriya to Katyayani for allowing me to include and translate her poem, “Samajh”; to Mukesh Bhargava for permitting me to include and translate part of his poem, “Global Dunia”; and to Raza Mir for translating my poem, “Dar es Salaam ke Naam.” I thank Özlem Aslan, Nadia Hassan, Omme Rahemtullah-Salma, Nishant Upadhyay, and Begüm Uzun for a stimulating interview that they carried out with me in Toronto in February 2011 for the Turkish online journal, Kültür ve Siyasette Feminist Yaklaşımlar. This conversation triggered thoughts that subsequently crystallized into some of the arguments presented here. Students in my Transnational Feminist Theories and Feminist Theory and Methods courses in fall 2012 became the first readers for what I have come to share in Muddying the Waters. Without their generosity and imagination, I may not have been able to become “radically vulnerable” in the ways that I have.

Elakshi Kumar became involved in this book project in the last months of its making and left an indelible imprint on its ultimate form. In addition to providing incisive comments on the manuscript and making brilliant suggestions on how to “assemble” the journeys and encounters described in the book, he revised translations of two of my poems from Hindi into English and helped steer us toward a final book title. Through all of this, Elakshi instilled a new collaborative creativity in this work, for which I remain grateful. I also appreciate the valuable partnership of my copyeditor, Deborah Oliver, whose queries and suggestions allowed me to undertake revisions that have improved the book.

Piya Chatterjee and Larin McLaughlin have been critical fellow travelers throughout the making of Muddying the Waters. They have allowed me to imagine freely, and they have been there to work through every idea that raised a question mark or seemed “impractical.” I am indebted to Piya for allowing me to integrate into chapter 1 the letters that I wrote to her as part of our exchange following the 2010 National Women’s Studies Association Meetings in Denver. And I thank Larin for never letting rules become a barrier in attempting new border crossings.

The intense back-and-forths between many worlds on an almost daily basis bring their share of both joys and challenges. In many difficult and happy moments, Subir Banerjee, Margalit Chu, Divya Karan, Helga Leitner, Sophie Oldfield, Thitiya Phaobtong, Abdi Samatar, Simona Sawhney, Eric Sheppard, Ajay Skaria, T Steele, Amanda Lock Swarr, and Shiney Varghese have provided political camaraderie, companionship, and a home and family.

My debt to the Sangtin Writers—Reshma Ansari, Anupamlata, Vibha Bajpayee, Ramsheela, Richa Singh, Shashi Vaishya, Shashibala, and Surbala—to Amma (Shiv Kumari Singh), and to saathis of SKMS cannot be expressed in words. In particular, Anil, Banwari, Bitoli, Jagannath, Jamuna, Kailasha Amma, Kamala, Kusuma, Manohar, Meena, Mukesh Bhargava, Prakash, Radhapyari, Rajendra, Ram Kishore, Rambeti, Reena, Roshanlal, Saraswati Amma, Sarvesh, Shammu, Sri Kishan, Suneeta, Surendra, Tama, and Ved Prakash have been hamsafars and teachers. Together, we have learned and revised our definitions of hopes and mistakes, of success and failure, and of what makes life meaningful. These lessons have been particularly poignant in light of the tragic murder of Maya, whose spirit will always remain alive among us, reminding us of the long-term evolution of solidarities and struggles, and of the terrible violence that some are subjected to as a price for dreaming and living differently.

I could not have sustained the journeys across worlds without the undying inspiration and energy of Sharad-Purnima, my Babuji and Maa. Babuji’s boundless creativity, courage, and intellectual generosity supported by Maa’s tireless enthusiasm and extremely hard labor has nourished the visions that have originated not only in Lucknow, but also in Sitapur, Mumbai, Dar es Salaam, and Minneapolis–St. Paul. Babuji pushed me to learn the Gujarati alphabet in 1979 and to begin typing in Devnagari in 2002, skills that have forever changed the meanings and possibilities of border crossings for me. Deeksha Nagar is always there to help me in every imaginable way, to fill the gaps in my memory, and to point out unexplored openings in our shared and unshared paths. The interbraided autobiographical writing in Hindi and English that she and I embarked on in 2007 for a project that we tentatively called “Baa, Baba, Munni” has significantly informed the first chapter of Muddying the Waters. I thank Eric Baker for always reminding me how impoverished scholarship would be without dedicated librarians. And I am grateful to Narendra Kumar Verma, Rinki Awasthi, and Kamal Bajpayee for ensuring that the geographical distances between Lucknow, Sitapur, and Minneapolis–Saint Paul never became hurdles in multilingual creative production. Richa Singh, my namarashi, has been a sakhi and a setu, enabling some of the most difficult reflections and translations that I have attempted through our collective work in SKMS.

Without Sanchit Baba, David Faust, Tarun Kumar, and Medha Faust-Nagar, I would have not learned to grapple with the possibilities and contradictions of love, vulnerability, and border crossings in ways that I have. Baba’s death in 1996 has not changed the countless ways in which he lives inside me every day. David has been a saathi in some of my most difficult and rewarding journeys over the last twenty-five years. He has been my honest critic and my most reliable reader, and co-parenting with him—including across oceans and time zones—has helped me grow more in life than anything else. In the last ten years, Tarun has pushed me to explore the implications of inserting one’s body in whatever one creates; his eye has allowed me to see life’s complexities and colors from angles that I had not previously known. Last but not least, Medha’s love and poetry, and her wisdom and sacrifices, help me find words when none seem to be available.

■ ■ ■

The ideas that became the chapters of this book have been presented since 2007 at a number of forums in various stages of their evolution, and were enriched by the conversations that they sparked. These venues include the Centre for Humanities Research and the Department of Geography at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town; the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington; the Humanities Institute at the State University of New York, Buffalo; the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois, Chicago; the Department of Geography at the University of Arizona, Tucson; the Jan Monk Gender, Place, and Culture lecture at the 2012 Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers; the Gender Forum and the President’s Annual Book Event at the Sabancı University, Istanbul; a lecture at the University of Ankara hosted by Ayizi Kitap and IHOP; the Departments of Geography and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; the Departments of Geography, Women’s Studies, and South Asian Studies and the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington, Seattle; the Women’s Studies Programme and the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; University College at Utrecht University; the Department of Geography at the University of Kentucky, Lexington; the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre and the Department of Sociology at the University of Pune; the Department of Development Studies, Geography, and Planning, and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto; the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge; the Ethnographies of Activism Conference at the London School of Economics and Political Science; the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Syracuse University; the Department of Women’s Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; the Crossing Borders Conference at the University of Iowa; the 2007 Atwood Lecture at Clark University; the Departments of Geography, Asian American Studies, and South Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley; the Departments of Women’s Studies and Geography at the Ohio State University; and the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town.

Each chapter of Muddying the Waters draws, in varying measures, on previously published work in English and Hindi. These are listed below.

Introducing Muddying the Waters:

Richa Nagar and Richa Singh (with Surbala Vaish and Reena Pande), Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan aur Andolan (New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakashan, 2012).

Sangtin Writers (Reena, Richa Nagar, Richa Singh, Surbala), “Solidarity, Self-critique, and Survival: Sangtin’s Struggles with Fieldwork,” in The Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time, edited by Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner, 289–304 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

Chapter 1:

Richa Nagar and Tarun Kumar, “Theater of Hopes,” in “Fictional Worlds: A Review Section Symposium on the Influences of the Imagined,” edited by Mary Thomas and Christian Abrahamsson, special issue, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20, no. 3 (2011): 54–55.

Richa Nagar and Richa Singh, “Churnings of a Movement: Sangtins’ Diary,” South Asian Popular Culture 8, no. 1 (2010): 17–30.

Richa Nagar, “Local and Global,” in Approaches to Human Geography, edited by Stuart Aitken and Gill Valentine, 211–17 (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2006).

Richa Nagar, “Dar es Salaam ke Naam” and “Sofia,” Vagarth 95 (June 2003): 92–93.

Chapter 2:

Richa Nagar, “Exploring Methodological Borderlands through Oral Narratives,” in Thresholds in Feminist Geography, edited by J. P. Jones III, H.J. Nast, and S.M. Roberts, 203–24 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).

Chapter 3:

Richa Nagar and Susan Geiger, “Reflexivity and Positionality in Feminist Fieldwork Revisited,” in Politics and Practice in Economic Geography, edited by Adam Tickell, Eric Sheppard, Jamie Peck, and Trevor Barnes, 267–78 (London: Sage, 2007).

Richa Nagar, “Footloose Researchers, ‘Traveling’ Theories and the Politics of Transnational Feminist Praxis,” Gender, Place and Culture 9, no. 2 (2002): 179–86.

Richa Nagar, “Languages of Collaboration,” in Feminisms in Geography: Rethinking Space, Place, and Knowledges, edited by Pamela Moss and Karen Falconer Al-Hindi, 120–29 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

Chapter 4:

Richa Nagar in consultation with Farah Ali and Sangtin women’s collective, Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, “Collaboration across Borders: Moving Beyond Positionality,” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 24, no. 3 (2003): 356–72.

Chapter 5:

Richa Singh and Richa Nagar, “In the Aftermath of Critique: The Journey after Sangtin Yatra,” in Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies of India, edited by Saraswati Raju, Satish Kumar, and Stuart Corbridge, 298–319 (London: Sage, 2006).

Richa Nagar and Richa Singh (with Surbala Vaish and Reena Pande), Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan aur Andolan (New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakashan, 2012).

Richa Nagar and Richa Singh, “Churnings of a Movement: Sangtins’ Diary,” South Asian Popular Culture 8, no. 1 (2010): 17–30.

Chapter 6:

Richa Nagar, “Storytelling and Co-authorship in Feminist Alliance Work: Reflections from a Journey,” Gender, Place and Culture 20, no. 1 (2013): 1–18.

Richa Nagar and Richa Singh (with Surbala Vaish and Reena Pande), Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan aur Andolan (New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakashan, 2012).

Richa Nagar, translator and commentator, “Aag Lagi Hai Jangal Ma (The Jungle Is Burning): Confronting State Corruption and Rural (Under)development through Feminist Theatre,” in Gender, Space and Resistance: Women’s Theatre in India, edited by Anita Singh, 569–88 (New Delhi: DK Printworld, 2013).

Unless otherwise noted, I conducted all the interviews cited in this book.

“Dar es Salaam ke Naam” was translated into English by Raza Mir for South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection (winter/spring 2001): 19. All other translations presented in this book from Awadhi, Gujarati, Hindi/ Urdu, and Kiswahili into English are mine, unless otherwise noted.

Explanations of acronyms and of Awadhi, Gujarati, Hindi/ Urdu, and Kiswahili words are provided in the glossary. Occasionally, words and sentences have been deliberately left untranslated.

Some community publications referenced in chapter 2 are no longer available, and therefore it has not been possible to cite page numbers from those publications.

The authors of Playing with Fire (PWF) were identified as “Sangtin Writers” in the Indian edition (Zubaan Books, 2006) and as “Sangtin Writers and Richa Nagar” in the U.S. edition (University of Minnesota Press, 2006). In Muddying the Waters, the authors of PWF are referred to as “Sangtin Writers.”





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