Urvashi Butalia

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Urvashi Butalia
Born1952 (age 66–67)
Ambala, Haryana
OccupationPublisher, Historian
co-founder Kali for Women (1984),
founder Zubaan Books(2003)
RelativesPankaj Butalia
Websitezubaanbooks.com

Urvashi Butalia (born 1952) is an Indian feminist writer, publisher and activist. She is known for her work in the women's movement of India, as well as for authoring books like the path-breaking The Other Side of Silence: Voices from and the Partition of India and Speaking Peace: Women's Voices from Kashmir.

Along with Ritu Menon, she co-founded Kali for Women, India's first exclusively feminist publishing house, in 1984. In 2003, she founded Zubaan Books, an imprint of Kali for Women.[1]

In 2011, Butalia and Menon were jointly awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian order, for their work in Literature and Education.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Butalia was born in Ambala, Haryana, into a rich, progressive and atheist family of Punjabi heritage. She is the third of the four children of Subhadra and Joginder Singh Butalia. Her mother was a feminist who ran a counselling centre for women. Butalia has one [older] sister, Bela, and two brothers, Pankaj and Rahul. Pankaj Butalia is a left-wing documentary filmmaker best known for a documentary on the miserable conditions of widows living in Vrindavan.

Butalia earned a BA in literature from Miranda House, Delhi University, in 1971, a Master's in literature from Delhi University in 1973, and a Master's in South Asian Studies from the University of London in 1977.[4] She speaks various Indian languages (Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali) along with English, Italian and French.[5]

Career[edit]

Urvashi Butalia in October 2016

Butalia started her career working with Oxford University Press in Delhi. She later worked for a year at their Oxford headquarters,[4] before moving briefly to London-based Zed Books as an editor in 1982. She then returned to India and, along with Ritu Menon, set up a feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1984.[6]

Butalia's main areas of interest are the Partition and oral histories from a feminist and left-wing perspective. She has written on gender, communalism, fundamentalism and media. Her writings have appeared in several newspapers and magazines publications including The Guardian, the New Internationalist, The Statesman, The Times of India, Outlook and India Today. She has been a regular columnist for the left-wing Tehelka and for Indian Printer and Publisher, a B2B publication dealing with the print and publishing industry.

Butalia is a consultant for Oxfam India and she holds the position of Reader at the College of Vocational Studies at the University of Delhi.[4]

Kali for Women[edit]

Kali for Women, India's first exclusively feminist publishing house, which Butalia co-founded with and Ritu Menon, was set up in 1984 as a trust to increase the body of knowledge on women in the Third World, to give voice to such knowledge as already exists, and to provide a forum for women writers, creative and academics.[7]

In 2003, co-founders Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon parted ways due to unresolvable differences. Both went on to set up their own imprints under the banner of Kali for Women, with Menon establishing Women Unlimited[8] and Butalia founding Zubaan Books.

Zubaan Books[edit]

Originally set up as a non-profit in 2003, Zubaan now operates as the private company, Zubaan Publishers Pvt. Ltd., with five stakeholders: Butalia (Founder and CEO), Anita Roy (Editor), Preeti Gill (Editor), Shweta Vachani (Editor) and Satish Sharma (CFO).

The independent publishing house publishes fiction and academic books, "on, for, by and about women in South Asia".[9] They have internationally renown authors such as Jaishshree Mishra, Nivedita Menon, Manjula Padmanabhan, Suniti Namjoshi and Annie Zaidi.

The Other Side of Silence[edit]

Apart from several newspaper articles and op-ed pieces dealing with feminist issues, Butalia has authored or co-authored several books (listed below). Of these, The Other Side of Silence (1998) is believed to be her most popular work. The book, which is the product of more than seventy interviews that Butalia conducted with survivors of the Partition, is being used as an academic text in some Indian universities. The Goethe Institute has described the work as "one of the most influential books in South Asian studies to be published in recent decades...It emphasises the role of violence against women in the collective experience of tragedy." [10]

Butalia points out that the Partition, like the Holocaust, is still very much a "living history", in the sense that many survivors are still around and can be interviewed. In contrast to the many projects that have undertaken to document the oral histories of the Holocaust, few comparable initiatives have been undertaken in India. This is one of them.

The Other Side of Silence won the Oral History Book Association Award in 2001 and the Nikkei Asia Award for Culture in 2003.[5]

Activism[edit]

Butalia is an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP).[11]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2000, Butalia won the Pandora Award for Women in Publishing.[12]

In 2011, Butalia was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.

In 2017, the German Federal Republic awarded Butalia the Goethe Medal, an official distinction that "honors individuals who have displayed exceptional competence of the German language as well as in international cultural exchange." [10][13]

Works[edit]

  • Urvashi Butalia; Ritu Menon; Kali for Women (1992). In Other Words: New Writing by Indian Women. Kali for Women. ISBN 978-81-85107-48-6.
  • Urvashi Butalia; Ritu Menon (1995). Making a Difference: Feminist Publishing in the South. Bellagio Pub. Network.
  • Tanika Sarkar; Urvashi Butalia (1995). Women and the Hindu Right: A Collection of Essays. Kali For Women. ISBN 978-81-85107-66-0.
  • Tanika Sarkar; Urvashi Butalia (1995). Women and Right Wing Movements: Indian Experiences. Zed Books, London. ISBN 978-1-85649-289-8.
  • Urvashi Butalia (1998). The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-027171-3.
  • Urvashi Butalia (2002). Speaking Peace: Women's Voices from Kashmir. Kali for Women. ISBN 978-81-86706-43-5.
  • Urvashi Butalia (ed.) (2006). Inner Line: The Zubaan Book of Stories by Indian Women. Zubaan. ISBN 978-81-89013-77-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daftuar, Swati (28 October 2010). "Identity matters". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Press Information Bureau". www.pib.nic.in. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  3. ^ Outlook India http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=716285. Retrieved 7 March 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b c "Bio – Butalia". Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Lettre Ulysses Award | Urvashi Butalia, India". www.lettre-ulysses-award.org. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  6. ^ Ghoshal, Somak (14 June 2013). "Urvashi Butalia: I want to prove that feminist publishing can survive commercially". Livemint. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  7. ^ Puri, Jyoti, Woman, Body, Desire in Postcolonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality (London: Routledge, 1999).
  8. ^ "Ritu Menon". Women Unlimited. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  9. ^ "About | Zubaan". Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b Staff, Scroll. "Feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia wins the prestigious Goethe Medal". Scroll.in. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Associates | The Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press". www.wifp.org. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Urvashi Butalia". Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  13. ^ https://www.goethe.de/resources/files/pdf131/about-urvashi-butalia.pdf

External links[edit]