Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Gender and Caste Hierarchy in Colonial Bengal

Review of Deboshruti Roychowdhury's Gender and Caste Hierarchy in Colonial Bengal: Inter-caste Interventions of Ideal Womanhood by Sarmistha Dutta Gupta

Stree, 2014
ISBN 978-93-81345-05-4 

demy octavo pb; 256 pp
Rs 600
...The author Deboshruti Roychowdhury shows that the upholding of the caste-Hindu notions of adarsha nari or the ideal woman did not remain a prerogative of the high castes in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Bengal. Linking ideology to materiality, she expounds how the upwardly mobile among the low castes—who found it materially more beneficial in appropriating high-caste gender norms—contributed in no small measure in the making of the ideal woman. The book thus is an attempt to resist the universalization of the construction of such an ideal only in terms of high-caste existence.

Focussing on certain everyday aspects of women’s lives, the book throws light on the way people with social agency amongst the low castes tried to socialize their women according to high-caste norms, thereby gaining status for their castes and at the same time helping preserve the caste hierarchy fundamentally through control of female sexuality. The tracts they wrote, the journals they produced and the caste associations these aspiring groups ran, also reveal how an almost homogenous ideal of womanhood was produced across caste and how such an ideal was instrumental in maintaining both caste and gender inequality....

Read full review in Kindle Magazine (July 2014 Issue) visit: 

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