How does one examine the lives women script in the intimacy of diaries, letters and other personal narratives and how can one relate these to the social worlds in which they are produced? Centering its investigation on contemporary Kerala, Scripting Lives examines a range of diverse and seemingly disconnected discourses around the Kerala model, tourism, AIDS and sexual violence and argues that present-day Kerala maps two opposing worlds. It imagines itself as a perfected utopia and, simultaneously, also as a dystopian society that is on the edge of collapse.
Scripting Lives attempts to explore these divergent self-descriptions of Kerala. Concurrently it also analyses a range of personal narratives to trace how “dominant women” configure their selves. It deploys the term “dominant women” to signal women of relative privilege, whose experience speaks simultaneously of devaluation and dominance. Their lives also signal the asymmetries, the instabilities and the inequalities within the category “woman”. These women are, in many ways, the subject of the development narratives of the state.
Scripting Lives reveals how discourses apparently removed from women’s everyday shape their personal experiences and, in turn, how women’s self-formations overwrite, extend and rework these “larger” discourses. Sreekumar’s writing is compelling and textured. Her research, based on a wide range of women’s narratives, makes this a riveting journey into the makings of modern-day Kerala.