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Jayawardena reconstructs the history of women's rights movements in Asia and the Middle East from the 19th century to the 1980s, focusing on Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Her research shows that feminism was not a foreign ideology 'imposed' on 'Third World' countries, but instead, was indigenous to Asia and the Middle East as women struggled for equal rights and against the subordination of women in the home and in society in general.
Jayawardena is the author of several other books, including The Rise of the Labor Movement in Ceylon and Embodied Violence: Communalising Women's Sexuality in South Asia. (Co-edited with Malathi de Alwis). However Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World is one of Jayawarden's oft-cited works and has gained international recognition. The book was chosen for the Feminist Fortnight award in Britain in 1986 and was cited by Ms. Magazine in 1992 as one of the 20 most important books of 'the feminist decades' (i.e. 1970-1990).
- Kumari Jayawardena
- Third-world feminism
- Postcolonial feminism
- Feminist theory
- Sunila Abeysekera
- Malathi de Alwis
- Anonymous, “Feminist Classics of This Wave” in Ms. 1 vol. 3 (Arlington, 1992): 65.