Accepted paper:

Who tells a princess what to do?


Stefanie Lotter (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Where within and beyond male dominance can we locate female agency in a patriarchal society? This paper discusses the dependent status of a princess oposing personal freedom and political influence.

Paper long abstract:

Being a woman in the early 20th century in Nepal is not normally associated with great powers. When the princess J RLD Rana is born, the first child of the beloved forth wife of the Prime Minister, she enters society in a position of great influence. Growing up at the court of the Prime Minister Janak learns to give orders; she grants favours and controls access to her father. Like her mother she becomes a politically minded person who influences and represents without a formal position in the state administration. Privately, she is dominated by her autocratic father who controls her life, leaving very little room for personal agency. He decides upon her a husband and the number of children she has. He presents her with several palaces and denies her access to formal education. After the abdication of her father and his early death a little later, her political powers dwindle while her personal agency increases. She is finally able to make her own decisions. Her brothers and her husband do not control her. At 36 years she enters formal education going to school. By the age of 55 she is a university graduate, becomes a barrister and enters politics. She never reaches the political influence she held when her father was alive and she manages to lose all her funds through a number of ill-advised economic ventures leaving her with modest funds. Within and beyond male dominance, where can we locate female agency in a patriarchal society.

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Power, desire and social contract: power's aftermath in the contemporary world