Goethe Medal 2017
Award for the Indian publisher Urvashi Butalia

Indian publisher Urvashi Butalia
© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi

Once a year, the Goethe-Institute awards the Goethe Medal, an official distinction from the German Federal Republic. This medal honors individuals who have displayed exceptional competence of the German language as well as in international cultural exchange. This year, three women are being distinguished with the award: Lebanese author, Emily Nasrallah; Russian journalist, translator and historian, Dr. Irina Lasarewna Scherbakowa; and Urvashi Butalia, who is from India.

Urvashi Butalia is a writer and publisher. She lives in New Delhi, where she’s taught at the university there for over twenty years. In 1984, she cofounded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women. Today she runs Zubaan Books, one of the most ambitious publishing houses in India, which focuses on the social sciences, especially feminist issues. She is particularly engaged with marginalized social groups. The texts Urvashi Butalia writes and her publications at Zubaan Books are aimed at raising awareness about their standards of living through literature and non-fiction documentation. Additionally, Urvashi Butalia publishes books for children and adolescents under the imprint Young Zubaan. These youth publications deal with topics that are still widely taboo in India and specifically aim to question common, gender-specific clichés.

Without being directly politically active herself, Urvashi Butalia is known throughout India for demanding rights for minorities and investigating India’s recent history –especially India’s partition, which is having its 70th anniversary in 2017 – from new perspectives. Her book, The Other Side of Silence, is one of the most influential books in South Asian studies to be published in recent decades. It’s the result of over 70 interviews that Butalia conducted with survivors of India’s partition. It emphasizes the role of violence against women in the collective experience of tragedy.

Since 1997, she regularly publishes articles in Lettre International on the state of women, on the socio-political developments in India and on the culture of remembrance on the Subcontinent after the partition of India in 1947.

Urvashi Butalia has participated in both the Indian and global women’s movement, including with the organization Samta, which advocates to change Indian law regarding violence against women, dowries and rape. She’s engaged as an advisor for various national and international organizations.

Urvashi Butalia’s association with the Goethe-Institutes in India, especially the Goethe-Institute in New Delhi, stretches back to the 1980s. She is a key person to turn to when it comes to gaining insight on the situation of women on the the Subcontinent, on human rights and on contemporary history, as well as on the literature and publishing scene in India and neighboring countries. On top of that, Urvashi Butalia is considered an inexhaustible source of inspiration and advice when planning relevant projects.

The Goethe Medal will be awarded to Urvashi Butalia  on August 28th, 2017 in Weimar, Germany and we warm-heartedly congratulate her today in the name of the Goethe-Institut India for this well-earned distinction.