Much has been written in recent years about the relative absence of women as
subjects in conventional, nationcentric histories, notwithstanding their fre-
quent appearance in nationalist rhetoric as “potent symbols of identity and
visions of society and the nation.”1 While feminist critiques of the strategic
incorporation of women, on the one hand, and elisions, on the other, consti-
tute a generative context for this book, my main concerns here have been to
explain why, through what discursive mechanisms, and within what contexts
of large-scale social change, some women—in this case Muslim women in
colonial Bengal—came to be more absent/neglected than others in nation-
alist discourse and its subsequent historiography; to understand what their
invisibility/victim-image has meant for the imagining of the ideal citizen sub-
ject of the Indian postcolonial modern; to track the kind of negotiations with
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