Editorial – Volume 001: Work

How does one measure women’s work? Feminists have struggled with the framing of this question, the answers it elicits and the categories it generates (and defies). While planning this edition we tried to map the extent of women’s work, drew many maps, doodled flowcharts, even tried our hands at Venn diagrams.

But how does one measure the value of sunshine needed to keep sadness away? Or the value of love, when it swallows up all of one’s time and most of one’s leisure?

How does one separate structures that operate through us from passions that thrive despite us? How does women’s work allow for subversions, even when it doesn’t allow for documentation?

Every human being engaged in facilitating their own life or the lives of others engaged in work. Kaam is a better word: the lust for life propels work. ‘Occupation’ is another great word: we are invaded and colonised by the work we undertake; as any activist or artist who shares her work soon discovers, we become our work. Our work alone abides; it is our identity through the passage of time when the rest is consigned to silence.

Work is sometimes paid for with money. But more often it remains unpaid and unrecognised, refusing to translate into things we can build our lives with. How do we bridge the chasm between value, money and economics on the one hand, and love, care and family on the other?

Our work is inherited, through our caste or gender. Our hands may be soft and necks stiff, because of our class. Our backs may be strong, and stomachs empty, because of our history. Our bodies continue to do what they must to feed the hydra-headed gods of culture, tradition and GDP.

What is the measure of work, when it’s not done by an upper caste, upper class male? What is its nature? What is its value?

And the question we collided into, over and over, as artists and educators fond of the undocumented: how can teaching-learning paradigms allow for answers that we haven’t yet articulated, but maybe only heard in whispers and dreams?

Welcome to the first edition of The Third Eye, where we put the feminist in learning, the contextual in the curricula, and the margins at the centre.

When we decided to take Nirantar’s almost three-decade history of questioning who makes and creates knowledge, and how it is shared, we wanted to start where it all does – the public private continuum of what we do and who we are. For the next three months, The Third Eye will bring you multiple perspectives on work through a feminist lens: as ideas for exploration, tools for interrogation, instruments for liberation, we present these perspectives as stories, research, pedagogies, film and podcasts, with womxn and queer folx at the centre.

To understand the tender dynamics of division of labour at home, and how our gender plays into it, we look at Queer Homes and how they negotiate the gendered division of labour and love. What happens to labour, the one that births a baby, when it’s not associated with a family? In a close conversation with Surabhi Sharma’s film Can We See the Baby Bump Please, we try to locate the invisible surrogate mother. Is our home’s threshold the ultimate marker of caste and work, Vijila Chirappad’s poem and Shrujana’s painting asks.

Tracking the digital takeover of the hinterlands from a gender lens, we bear witness to a conversation between two intrepid Khabar Lahariya colleagues, as they discuss their fans, sorry, trolls. Can the making of a pedagogy to enable access to the digital, disrupt Brahmanical technological takeover? The team behind AppDil says it just might be about putting rural women at the centre of tech. In Episode Two of Stay Home, Kitna Surakshit?, our podcast series on gender based violence and digital worlds, Bishakha Datta and Uttanshi Agarwal demystify gender and tech and its sometimes dangerous intersections.

And what about the work of an artist? A writer? Sharmila and Prabhat of Ankur, take us through their landmark pedagogy behind some of the best Hindi language writers emerging from unexpected corners of Delhi [read Pritiyan and Dukandaari in Hindi]. And we have India’s first woman photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla, as met by Sabeena Gadhioke, in a photo essay that reminds us that women were claiming the public space way before we developed a nomenclature for it.

In a first person account, Suneeta, president National Domestic Worker’s Union reminds us why collectives matter, and why bastis are emptying out in a post-Covid world. To bring this edition to life during a pandemic that threw into great relief the disproportionate burden of care and work that women bear, needed its own acknowledgement. Our film series with Chambal Media looks at the great migration of 2020, and the frontline workers of Covid19, through its women.

This, then, is part of our first edition, in Hindi and English, that maps the cross-sections of theory with lived realities, histories with imagined futures of work, and which examines how we are continued to be shaped by it.

Please look through the workshops, search by keywords, make your own modules of audio, video and text, play with digital pedagogies, flood Whatsapp groups with feminist ideas. Together, we will facilitate the creation of new paradigms of knowledge and information.

Looking forward to a long and fruitful journey of thinking, questioning, discovering…

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