Thoughtfully yours…

August 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm 17 comments

Musings on hostel living

Community living requires us to negotiate everyday to maintain a sense of privacy. This involves respecting people’s attempts to create their zones of comfort. Here it is essential to understand that women access spaces in ways much differently from men. And the crucial point is that women also access spaces differently from other women also. Therefore, women’s perceptions of what their private spaces are, vary widely. You can contest it, but you cannot expect a universal agreement on the issue of private spaces.

In a setup such as a hostel, public and private spaces are not exclusive. As people live out most of their everyday lives here, boundaries between public and private blur and spaces can be both public and private simultaneously. You could clearly demarcate what is public and private but that would involve bringing in the authorities to control our daily lives more than it is already done now. Thus arises a need to keep the demarcations of the private and the public fluid to suit the liberal individual and avert institutional over-control.

This brings us to a new kind of problem where we encounter a new threat of ‘forced liberation’. Often, an apprehension of loss of freedom has been used to justify a wrong understanding of liberalism and democracy and to impose it on women and cultural minorities. ‘Self-proclaimed liberators of the oppressed’ begin to threaten the private spaces of these groups. Their mission is not to conceive a democratic consensus on free culture but to enforce on others, what they think is right.

It is imperative upon us to revisit our lessons on democracy and liberalism. While it is fair to hold certain values, ideas and engage with a certain ideological politics, it is always productive to give people the space to negotiate with your framework. Judging others from a self-assumed moral high ground closes all spaces for interaction and discussion.

In sum, being liberal does not necessarily mean living life in the public gaze; there are private spaces that individuals have a right to reserve for themselves. A liberal environment is one where individuals are free to pursue their lives, unhindered by others. Liberals are liberals not because they merely tolerate others’ freedom but because they respect it. They believe in resolving conflict of interests rather than bad-mouthing those who choose to disagree.


Entry filed under: discussion.

Queer Azadi Mumbai TISS Students take stand against inaction on caste-based atrocities

17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brijendra Chaudhary  |  August 31, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Well as already proposed, we should be following a common hostel platform where the freedom of mobility is not restricted.
    Also common hostels are a regular feature in Top Schools of India, its TISS where we get to see the strict demarcation of boundaries as to where one can enter and one is restricted.

    It’s a change we must allow ourselves to indulge.

  • 2. benjamin  |  August 31, 2009 at 3:45 am

    ya freedom should be given to every student of tiss iresspective of his/her being from hostel or not ,given the fact that ,student faced difficulty in moving out of the campus after the datelines passes,

  • 3. Abhinav  |  August 31, 2009 at 11:49 am

    “Often, an apprehension of loss of freedom has been used to justify a wrong understanding of liberalism and democracy and to impose it on women and cultural minorities.” The very fact that an incorrect understanding of liberalism and democracy is harmful for those on whom it is imposed is sufficient to understand the point. It is equally problematic for men and cultural majorities and the society at large. They face and have been facing the same issues.

  • 4. Vidya  |  August 31, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I would urge you to further define what you mean by “men and cultural majorities” in the context what has been discussed.

    I think it is problematic to pitch arguments related to women’s access to public space and men’s access to public space at the same level, even in a so called “liberal” atmosphere.

  • 5. Brijendra Chaudhary  |  September 1, 2009 at 3:02 am

    “I think it is problematic to pitch arguments related to women’s access to public space and men’s access to public space at the same level, even in a so called “liberal” atmosphere

    Problem in the mind of people who choose to stick to what they see as change.

    Once the basic foundation is built and stakeholders sees the effect of change, we can see the problem go away in no time

    It’s high time to stop when majority is affected because of pseudo ism of few.

  • 6. Abhinav  |  September 1, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    The context of using “men and cultural majorities” exist because the issue discussed does not restrict itself to the use of a public space. It discusses the misuse of the word “liberalism” whose ill effects can be equally harmful to any section of the society. If men’s and women’s public space cannot be discussed at the same level, i hope a cultural majority women’s and cultural minority women’s public space can be. Thats why i see no context of the issue being restricted to “women and cultural minorities” in the post.

  • 7. aditya  |  September 1, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    The Author of the piece

    Sir (and I assume the writer is a male),

    please dont give the pseudo ‘Self-proclaimed liberators of the oppressed’ a run for their money. Your use of the term liberalism free culture and forced liberalism reek of complete ignorance.

    This analysis of yours is not dispassionate at all. On the first look it seems you are proving a point to those pseudo ‘Self-proclaimed liberators of the oppressed’ , which proves that this very (privately) public problem of yours is not so (privately) public after all.

    So please either dont blame people for being on a ‘moral highground’ or just own up to the motive of your writing, perhaps just by being a bit more subjective and specific.

    A bit more liberal;) i guess

  • 8. tisstalks  |  September 3, 2009 at 2:19 am

    @ aditya

    no assumptions about gender need be made here. the piece could very well have been written by a woman/women just as much as by a man/men. tisstalks speaks as a collective space and believes in taking a gendered perspective, so reducing the post down to if a man or woman has written it, is plainly speaking pointless.

    if the post seems un-specific, it can be rest assured that there is a purpose to it and that after much consideration, we decided not to divulge it. tisstalks always has a motive. and that we will own up to having a motive anytime. and the motive this time around is to discuss the issue of public and private in a hostel.

    more importantly, the object of the discussion is very clearly put on the post. that public and private are not distinct areas. they merge continuously and become public and private at the same time. this is more so in a place like a hostel. and when some space is considered private by someone, it must be respected. and if contested, not done by attacking them because of stereotypes regarding their cultural minority status. doing so would be the antithesis of what a liberal environment is.

    and we definitely consider the issue of public and private spaces a ‘public’ issue. and hence the post.

    perhaps you could elaborate more on the misconstruction of liberalism, free culture and forced liberation- for the purposes of a constructive discussion.

    @ abhinav

    thank you for bringing up an interesting point. the reason that the specific reference was made to women and cultural minorities is because we believe a) that women and cultural minorities have been subject to structures that do not understand the way they lead their lives.b) that cultural minorities and women from cultural minorities are subject to false stereotypes and prejudices and any action they take is perceived through those lenses. (this has been emprically proven and not arising out of unsubstantiated belief system).

    therefore, it is inherently assumed that liberalism has to be of “a particular way”, and the burden of following this universal manner inevitably falls on women/cultural minorities, and when a certain action by women/minorities seems to go against what we hold as being liberal, a backlash happens using old, tired and false stereotypes. it is this backlash that tisstalks is opposing as being against the tenets of a liberal environment.

  • 9. Dileepan  |  September 3, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I’m taking the liberty to assume that the main post has been written in the aftermath of the ‘Iron Curtain’ incident in the new campus Hostel VI. (the “Liberally yours” saga). If the assumption is right you may read further. If no, having come so far, you might as well hover about for a coupla more minutes.

    Is this an isolated incident? Or is it a backlash against a community that is viewed to be oppressive in imposing its rules and values. Is liberalism about unbridled ‘Freedom’ that bullies those who differ into submitting to their set of ideological philosophies? Are accusations of ‘Talibanisation’ justified? What is Talibanisation anyways? Would acts such as banning of religious headgear (aimed at Muslims and Sikhs) in schools in France fall under the label of Talibanisation or is it propagation of liberal values?

    And what do we say about the so called ‘conservatives’? Are they adopting double standards when crying out for tolerance and respect? Can women of non-Islamic faiths walk without a scarf/headgear in Iran? Can any Muslim proudly proclaim to be a non-believer and walk free in the streets without fear of persecution? Where is the essence of tolerance?

    You may wish to ponder upon these questions.

    PS: Liberalism is not about donning a Fab India kurta and participating in a gay rally.

  • 10. Kerry  |  September 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Oh no! TISS Talks can’t get away from the accusations of fabindia-feminism: it’s back. :p

  • 11. Jyotsna  |  September 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    I think one needs to differentiate between mobility and mobility by choice. Can boundaries be only defined in terms of girl’s hostel periphery? There is a difference between spaces which one chose to share with the other. Is the demarcation of boundaries or restricted mobility is only felt for not being able to peep inside girl’s hostel than my sorry one need to define the terms before using them.. There is a long way to go…. grow up!!

  • 12. Iskra  |  September 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm


    You write well..
    But that’s it!

    So, like your 10-15 “specifically, contextually sexist men with only limited ‘anti-inclusive’ intents”, if say 4% of the society’s population decide to wear a symbolic thread for a self-conceived superiority, eat only a particular kind of food, attain only a particular kind of education and vocation, practice nepotism and so on… do they remain liberal and inclusive?
    No. They become ‘caste-Brahmins’. Similarly if you put up in public a chauvinist construct of ‘men’, it is not innocently simple but a carrier of a repressive patriarchal order.

    Wearing a quote on your T-shirt in public is a public statement. It was meant to seek attention and it did. Only unfortunately the attention drawn was not uncritical and all-forgiving. So there was a public response to a public statement which is totally justified. That too the response was very liberal for it did not include slander unlike in the recent case of the response to the putting up of the curtain!

    Definitely there are various interpretations of liberalism and gender parity, but yours is not worth following because it is too individualist, communal and self-gratifying. Please include History and Politics in your limited understanding of social values.

    Thank you.

  • 13. Zainab  |  September 4, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    @ Dileepan

    You seem to have missed the point that people have definitions of their private spaces irrespective of their various identities – Gender, Socio – Cultural or religious. The so-called act that champions ‘personal freedom and equality’ in itself undermines another individual’s access to privacy and freedom of movement. Wearing the hat of “imagined” Liberalism, the modern day freedom fighters seem to be totally self-absorbed. There is definitely a need to re-look at such skewed definitions.

    Additionally, your myopic perception of a religious community reinforces widely prevalent discriminatory and exclusionary stereotypes and shallow understanding of religion – in this case Islam.

  • 14. Abhishek  |  September 5, 2009 at 1:45 am

    @ to whom-so-ever it matters….

    Now, I generally am pretty apprehensive to write comments on blogs…but let me give it a try…

    First things first….Being secular and being an atheist are two different things..I know most of you know this but this is just to make it clearer for myself….Secondly, even if one is an atheist one has no right to write offensive comments about any particular community. It goes against the concept of ‘freedom of religion’ both in definition and in spirit…This freedom is not only about following the religion of your choice but also not being disrespectful to other religions…without understanding the customs and tradition of any religion it would be incorrect for us to stereotype any religion with negative or derogative connotation.
    Anyways, let me discuss a more important term which has been widely used in different responses to the post- the term is “Liberalism”…..I would quote extensively from Stanford encyclopedia of Philosophy…..”‘By definition’, Maurice Cranston rightly points out, ‘a liberal is a man who believes in liberty’ (1967: 459). In two different ways, liberals accord liberty primacy as a political value. (i) Liberals have typically maintained that humans are naturally in ‘a State of perfect Freedom to order their Actions…as they think fit…without asking leave, or depending on the Will of any other Man’ (Locke, 1960 [1689]: 287). Mill too argued that ‘the burden of proof is supposed to be with those who are against liberty; who contend for any restriction or prohibition…. The a priori assumption is in favour of freedom…’……If I take this definition and apply to the freedom of religion and the practices they follow…same applies to the freedom of drawing up a curtain…which is for maintaining there privacy which under all laws they have right to do…so the burden of why one is against the curtain that why should it not be there…what “liberty” is being taken away from them with the curtain coming up….the burden is on them to prove how the freedom of people to preserve there private spaces is resulting in there unfreedom…I can go on and on about negative and positive liberty but I think the point that I wanted to make has been made…!

    • 15. aditya  |  September 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      @ Tiss talks, dileepan etc…..

      thanks for the eye opener!!!

      I was unaware of the ‘iron curtain’ incident before this,
      and even if I was wrong regarding the ‘sex’ of the Author, I guess I was right about on the motive of the main text after all.

      My insistence on a more educated use of the terms like liberalism, free culture, and forced liberalism is simply to dissuade people who make a severe statement (like the main article) pass off as some general, non acritical truth.

      According to me both Culture and liberalism, are terms that have a more political meaning, than what is generally understood, especially when dealing with such issues.

      There meanings should not just be seen purely as evolutionary or functionally in an ‘ahistorical’ context. For e.g. One can come across the meaning of culture as hegemony (a crude simplification on my part) already in the writings of Plato, in Gramsci, in structuralists such as Barthes, Staruss (post structuralists) culture can clearly be understood as a construct.

      But, my point is just not to make this purely acadamic or dry or anything, but since this is more of a public forum, i guess we can make Tisscussions a bit more sensible, atleast be more constructive in our posts…..

  • 16. Jitu  |  September 5, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I didn’t want to mark comment, but at last could not resist myself. I don’t know what is liberalism but one thing I don’t understand why to invade in some one else’s privacy in the name of liberalism and all. Isn’t it better to respect each and every individual and give due respect for their personal spaces. Is it too difficult?

  • 17. sita  |  September 6, 2009 at 11:53 pm


    it may be argued that many things, including culture and gender are social constructs, but that does not mean they are not played out everyday or that they can be ignored. the fact that they are socially constructed means that they are real, especially to people, and that the way they are lived is constantly changing, everyday. this is why one needs to respect the other’s perception of a private space, because that negotiation is one that is constant. for each woman, negotiating her own private space is simultaneous with negotiating her identity as a woman belonging to a community, a class, a caste, a religion, a region etc. when one talks of ‘cultural minorities’, it is in talking about the democratic freedom of self-determination of the subaltern groups like women and cultural minorities. abhishek said he wouldn’t want to go into ideas of negative and positive liberty, but it is when this freedom of self-determination is hampered by those who understand liberty in a narrow and majoritarian manner, that one sees it as a threatening proposition.


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