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Journal of Postcolonial Writing

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Gendered Space / Gendering Space: Reconfiguring the representation of gender performativity in postmillennial Indian media texts

Manuscript deadline
14 November 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Priyanka Tripathi, Indian Institute of Technology Patna
[email protected]

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Gendered Space / Gendering Space: Reconfiguring the representation of gender performativity in postmillennial Indian media texts

One of the central arguments behind the initiation of the civilizing mission in India for the colonizers was the systematic and barbaric oppression of women in this country. Considering the proliferation of the woman question in the nineteenth century Bengal Renaissance and the promotion of women’s education, it is not preposterous to imagine that the promised land of post independence and post-colonial India would aim towards an egalitarian society. However, the 1974 “Towards Equality” report narrated otherwise. Thus, the sense of being liberalized from the binds of economic subservience and a realization of a more agentic self in 1991 was a claim of a young nation towards equality and one of the manifestations of its postcolonial dreams. The media representations remained true to these changes. A close observation reveals two tangible threads of development. The first rubric invites more screen time for women, whereas the second strand (which appears early in the 21st century) deconstructs the gendered space and ascribes the nuances of performance to redefine the gender roles (in cinematic works like Kya Kehna, Mimi, Pink, Neel Battey Sannata, Helicopter Eela, Parched, Queen, Lipstick under my Burkha, Thappad and so on). It was an acknowledgement of the prominence of women and a constructive response towards the colonial, occidental narratives. While the golden era of Indian films depicts three broad, definitive tropes of women, the damsel in distress (Arora 2019) (majorly located within Indian culture), the vamp (read as an influence of western culture) (Kishore 2014), and the item girl (Roy 2020); contemporary rendition breaks free from these limiting and compartmentalized depictions. Though some post-liberalization (the economic liberalization of 1991) films showcase an urge to return to the traditional framework of life, where women are subjugated and trying to perfect the domestic space, the GenX movies mark a conspicuous shift (Agarwal 2014). Since the early 2000s, media representation has witnessed a slow but tangible shift with the emergence of female leads (Magdum and Bhattacharya 2021). The celebration of intersectional politics brings in tales of individual sufferings and contentment with a focus on an exclusive feminist politics in India. Hitherto closeted issues like sexual violence, agency, abortion rights, and single parenting are brought to the front through popular media representation. Even advertisements witness a conscious change (Ariel: Share the Load, HERO Pleasure Scooty, Mohey’s Kanyamaan, Cadbury Dairy Milk Kuch Khaas Hai, and so on). With the surge of the OTT platforms, several postmodern narratives found voices (Made in Heaven, Humans, Mai, Bombay Begums, and so on). The contemporary media representations can neither be compartmentalized into strictly gendered spaces nor into conclusive gender performances. And here, the academic intervention claims ground.

The occurrence of economic liberalization in India in 1991 registered a considerable impact on the issues of gender discrimination and the position of women in society. This affected the representation of women within the mediascape as well, giving birth to “Bollywood’s new woman (Anwer and Arora 2021).” Though the argument folds both ways, still the question of women’s empowerment is undeniably writ large. Coincidentally, the mutability and quick evolution of feminist movements bring us to the publication of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) by Judith Butler around same time. Her claim that gender is performative and that the acts of stable gender identity are illusory dismantles the idea of gender representation. Contemporary feminism aims at reshaping the notion of agency, access to public space, desire, and pleasure (Anjaria 2019). The foundational perception of gender role and their definitive models are constantly challenged in the West and quickly approaches the sub-continent through the canals of globalization subsiding the specificity of cultural identity. While one clan of researchers focuses on the growth of the structural gender inequalities because of the globalization of the Indian economy and claims that the liberalization was detrimental to women; the other group brings in the reference of exemplary figures to inspire women from global media to explore their potential and agency (Anwer and Arora 2021). A focus on the nuances of the newfound liberty instead of the repression experienced by women within the domestic space might help explore further possibilities of reflection and harness a postcolonial temperament of woman emancipation.

This special issue on ‘Gendered Space / Gendering Space: Reconfiguring the representation of gender performativity in Indian Mediascape’ welcomes contributions from interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate the changing representation of female prototypes and ascribed roles in Indian mediascape. Contributions are welcome, including but not limited to:


  • Exploration of gender fluidity within the representation of performativity and assigned spaces
  • The future of gender fluid representational politics and the evolving nature of characterization
  • The limitation and advantages of breaking free from the metanarrative of feminist essentialism
  • Media visibility of women in the gendered cinemascape
  • Costume as a tool of gender construction
  • The evolution of female leads in the cinemascape
  • Marianismo and Machismo in Indian media
  • Victims to Vigilantes: The figure of femme fatale/ femme castratrice
  • Media and Objectification of women
  • Gender Ideology and Reception of advertisements
  • Politics of Silence and bodily violence in Media
  • Violence and horror in Indian cinema
  • Articulating Resistance through Female Characters
  • Non/Normative sexualities in India Mediascape


Ahluwalia Shivani, and Aditya Oza. Devi to Diva -A Transformational Journey Portraying Women in Mainstream Bollywood. 2021. (Datacite),

Agarwal, Ruchi. “Changing Roles of Women in Indian Cinema.” Silpakorn University Journal of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts.2014, pp. 145–60.

Anjaria, Ulka. Reading India Now: Contemporary Formations in Literature and Popular Culture. Temple University Press, 2019.

Anwer, Megha, and Anupama Arora, editors. Bollywood’s New Woman: Liberalization, Liberation, and Contested Bodies. Rutgers University Press, 2021.

Kishore, Vikrant. Bollywood Vamps and Vixens: Representations of the Negative Women Characters in Bollywood Films. 2014.,

Roy, Priyom. “The Objectification of Women in Bollywood Item Songs: A Semiotic Study.” Journal of Xi'an University of Architecture & Technology, vol. XII, no. 2, 2020, pp. 2912-2919.

Arora, Sonia. “Role of Cinema in Promoting Gender Equity to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals in India.” Mass Communicator: International Journal of Communication Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, 2019, p. 4. (Crossref),


Submission Instructions

Submission Instructions

Full length papers between 7,500-8,000 words in length, inclusive of the abstract of 150 words, 5 keywords, references, figure captions, and endnotes should be sent to Guest Editor, Priyanka Tripathi ([email protected]) for initial consideration, no later than November 14, 2024. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Guest Editor.


  • Submission of full manuscripts: November 14, 2024
  • Notification of acceptance: March 10, 2025


Instructions for Authors