Uma Narayan

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Uma Narayan
Born (1958-04-16) 16 April 1958 (age 61)
Academic background
Alma materRutgers University
ThesisOffensive conduct: what is it and when may we legally regulate it? (1990)
Academic work
InstitutionsVassar College
Main interestsFeminism Postcolonialism Postcolonial Feminism
Notable worksDislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions and Third World Feminism

Uma Narayan (born 16 April 1958) is an Indian feminist scholar, and a Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College.


She is the author of Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions and Third World Feminism in which Narayan disputes feminism as a solely Western notion and intrusion, while challenging assumptions that Indian feminism is based on Western models. Particularly, a notion of homogeneous, total culture is criticized through historical contextualization of nationalist uses and defenses of the Indian practices of sati and dowry murders, as well as food. The charges of "Westernization" on Indian feminism, based on the a-historical premises contradicted by her historical contextualization, are thus rejected by Narayan. Likewise, this historicization of the condition of Indian women is used to criticize radical feminist claims that all women everywhere are constituted by the same concerns and interests. These arguments align her with theorists such as Chandra Mohanty and Gayatri Spivak.[1]

Related to her work in Dislocating Cultures, Narayan has criticized culture-reductionist forms of postcolonial feminism which "in attempting to take seriously these cultural differences...risk replacing gender-essentialist analyses with culturally essentialist analyses that replicate problematic colonialist notions about the cultural differences between 'Western culture' and 'non-Western cultures' and the women who inhabit them."[2] She dubs this view of culture which covers up divisions and differences within 'Western' and 'non-Western' cultures the "Package Picture of Cultures." This false view can be avoided, for instance, through historical analysis of the culture to be evaluated.[3]

She has also worked in field of Indian legal studies. Her published work includes considerations of Bengal Narsing Rau's influence on the provisions of the Constitution of India[4] and writing primers on Indian legal literature.[5]

Narayan coedited Reconstructing Political Theory: Feminist Perspectives with Mary L. Shanley,[6] Having and Raising Children with Julia Bartkowiak and Decentering the Center: Philosophy for a Multicultural, Postcolonial, and Feminist World with Sandra Harding. She currently is a professor at Vassar College on the Andrew W. Mellon Chair of Humanities.


Narayan received her B.A. in Philosophy from Bombay University and her M.A. in Philosophy from Pune University, India. She received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1990.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Narayan, Uma. Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third-World Feminism. Psychology Press, 1997.
  • Narayan, Uma (1997), "Contesting cultures : "Westernization," respect for cultures, and Third-World feminists", in Nicholson, Linda (ed.), The second wave: a reader in feminist theory, New York: Routledge, pp. 396–412, ISBN 9780415917612.
  • Narayan, Uma. "Essence of culture and a sense of history: A feminist critique of cultural essentialism." Hypatia 13.2 (1998): 86-106.
  • Narayan, Uma. "The project of feminist epistemology: Perspectives from a nonwestern feminist." The feminist standpoint theory reader: Intellectual and political controversies (2004): 213-224.
  • Narayan, Uma. "Working together across difference: Some considerations on emotions and political practice." Hypatia 3.2 (1988): 31-48.
  • Narayan, Uma. "Eating cultures: incorporation, identity and Indian food." Social Identities 1.1 (1995): 63-86.
  • Narayan, Uma. "“Male‐order” brides: Immigrant women, domestic violence and immigration law." Hypatia 10.1 (1995): 104-119.
  • Narayan, Uma. "Colonialism and its others: Considerations on rights and care discourses." Hypatia 10.2 (1995): 133-140.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Grewal, Gurleen (2001). "Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third-World Feminism (review)". Hypatia. 16 (1): 102–106. doi:10.1353/hyp.2001.0007. ISSN 1527-2001.
  2. ^ Narayan, Uma (2000). "Undoing the "Package Picture" of Cultures". Signs. 25: 1084.
  3. ^ Narayan, Uma (2000). "Undoing the "Package Picture" of Cultures". Signs. 25: 1083–86.
  4. ^ Narayan, Uma (November 2016). "The Constituent Assembly of India: Recollecting Contributions of Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, the Constitutional Adviser". International Journal of Legal Information. 44 (3): 225–234. doi:10.1017/jli.2016.40. ISSN 0731-1265.
  5. ^ Narayan, Uma (June 2007). "Sources of Indian Legal Information". Legal Information Management. 7 (2): 133–139. doi:10.1017/S1472669606001204. ISSN 1741-2021.
  6. ^ Reconstructing political theory : feminist perspectives. Shanley, Mary Lyndon, 1944-, Narayan, Uma. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. 1997. ISBN 0271017244. OCLC 36438847.CS1 maint: others (link)