Judith Butler's perception of a shift in feminism's relationship to the state in Antigone's Claim serves as a useful starting point for my reflections in this essay. The familiar feminist representation of Antigone's “defiance” that she describes and questions leads me to an exploration of the political and historical reasons for the turn from the “antagonistic” model of opposition to the state that this literary icon has long represented, toward a modality of struggle that might be described instead as “agonistic.” I examine the classical Tamil epic Silappadikaram, whose heroine Kannaki is a comparable figure, for its political resonances. The subject-constitution of both Antigone and Kannaki as figures of mourning allows me to explore the implications of the contemporary gendered politics of mourning in the first part of this essay. Central to my understanding of agonistic feminist politics is Mrinalini Sinha's revealing analysis in Specters of Mother India (2006) of the circumstances surrounding the mobilization of Indian women around the passage of the Child Marriage Restraint Act in colonial India in 1929, which constitutes the second part of my essay.

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