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Provincializing Goa: Crossing Borders Through Nationalist Women

Rosa Maria Perez


The nationalist movement in Portuguese India has not been systematically analysed and the studies produced exclude women’s voices. In this article, I will present a small constellation of women nationalists who, since the beginning of the anti-colonial movement, were engaged in the larger Indian group of satyagrahis, therefore merging into the pan-Indian freedom movement. As I will try to show, there was a transit of ideas and of ideals from Goa to India and from India to Goa, in which Goan women played a crucial role, crafting nationalism and national belonging against the winds of colonial rule, therefore crossing the geographical borders of colonized Goa to the broader nation of India. They invite us to re-examine the role played by women through their emancipatory actions, under colonial and patriarchal rules that restricted their political and civic participation. Discursive images need, therefore, to be deconstructed when considering women’s participation in the public arena, which overran the boundaries imposed by family, caste and political power. They also illustrate that, unlike what a substantial portion of scholarship on Goa has assumed, Portuguese colonialism was not secluded in the mythical universe of Goa Dourada, “Golden Goa”. I will try, therefore, to borrow a Chakrabarty-inspired expression regarding Europe, “to provincialize Goa”, a procedure that entails looking at Goa not from Lisbon but from India, in the broader extension and expansion of the British raj and of its negotiations with Indian culture, mainly with Hinduism.


Goa, women, nationalism, political borders, circulation of ideas, political movements

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