Embedded in early twentieth-century discourses on modernity, feminism, and nationalism, and written for the newly emerging woman reader, Rameshwari Nehru's Hindi account of Burmese women was an experiment in ethnographic writing. Along with the speeches she delivered in Burma (all reprinted in the Hindi women's periodical Stri Darpan), she also used the ethnography to call for the social and political mobilization of Burmese and Indian women. Nehru revisited the relationship between India and Burma in the gendered and elite terms of Indian (mostly Hindu) nationalism and social feminism. In describing a supposed intact social structure found in Burma, her motive was to portray a woman subject that was not modeled on prevalent conceptions of “the Western woman,” but that originated in the neighborhood of the colonial present. In the process, as this paper argues, Nehru appropriated colonial discourses on Indian and Burmese womanhood, while she also absorbed Burma into her vision of Indian nationhood and imagined sisterhood.

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