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Gender and Story in South India

Leela Prasad, Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Lalita Handoo

Publication Year: 2006

Gender and Story in South India presents exciting ethnographic research by Indian women scholars on Hindu and Muslim women-centered oral narratives. The book is unique for its geographic and linguistic focus on South India, for its inclusion of urban and rural locales of narration, and for its exploration of shared Hindu and Muslim female space. Drawing on the worldviews of South Indian female narrators in both everyday and performative settings, the contributors lead readers away from customary and comfortable assumptions about gender distinctions in India to experience a more dialogical, poetically ordered moral universe that is sensitive to women’s material and spiritual lives.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Gender and Story in South India

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Contents / Map

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pp. v-vi

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p. vii-vii

Essays by P. S. Kanaka Durga, Lakshmi Narasamamba, Lalita Handoo, and Saraswathi Venugopal were presented at the XIth Congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR), hosted by the Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysore. Very different versions appeared in 1999 in Folklore and Gender, edited by Lalita Handoo and Ruth B. Bot-...

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1. Anklets on the Pyal: Women Present Women’s Stories from South India

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pp. 1-34

This Telugu cradle song1 that I have heard and sung many times comes to mind as I write the introductory chapter of this volume. Perhaps because it is a woman’s song, perhaps because it is sung by women, or perhaps because it addresses a girl child. Or perhaps simply because it links me to my mother, to my grandmother...

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2. The Son-in-law Story: Gender and Genre

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pp. 35-54

Stupid son-in-law stories (ATU 1332, 1687, 16911), a subgenre of numskull tales, are a significant genre in Indian narrative tradition and an important part of the oral tale repertoire of India. This subgenre cuts across regional, social, linguistic, and ethnic barriers. Unlike fairy tales, epics, and legends, this group of tales has not received the attention it deserves from folklore scholars. Investigations of its generic...

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3. The Role of Genderin Tale-Telling Events

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pp. 55-66

Gender plays a critical role in tale telling events in India, where performance presupposes gender distinctions that reflect social structures and kinship norms. In earlier work, I used the “contextual theory of meaning” developed by Raymond Firth, who defines meaning as “. . . a complex of contextual relations, and phonetics, grammar, lexicology,and semantics . . .” (quoted in Lyons 1977: 609). Further, as John Lyons explains, “Every utterance occurs in a culturally determined context-of-...

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4. Voiced Worlds: Heroines and Healers in Muslim Women’s Narratives

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pp. 67-86

In this article, I focus on women’s folk narratives in a Muslim community in the coastal district of East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh that I studied in 1989–1991. Research on women’s contemporary folk culture in the Indian Muslim community is relatively scarce (see Grima 1992; Flueckiger1995), although we have studies on other aspects of Muslim women’s lives in South Asia (e.g., Papanek and Minault 1982; Metcalf 1990; Kumar 1994). Largely unfamiliar to the academic world, neither is this world familiar to the...

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5. Transformation of Gender Roles: Converging Identities in Personal and Poetic Narratives

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pp. 87-140

In India’s privileged civil society, knowledge, truth, and reality are constructed in terms of the dominant male gender, and female voices and experiences are either ignored or merely given passing reference in the representation of cultures, which results in a monocular depiction of society. Folklore, on the other hand, depicts the totality of tradition-based creations by both men and women in a variety of gender relations with a matrix of power and sexuality in many different cultural contexts. Folk nar-...

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pp. 141-142

This book has taken me far from my usual subjects—European fairy tales, British children’s literature, and Bible stories—even though it began in the heart of Europe. The 1992 Innsbruck meeting of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research was devoted to “Folk Narrative and Worldview.” Many women felt keenly the absence of gender as an analytical category, and so a small group of about ten women developed an agenda for the next scheduled meeting of the ISFNR, to be held...


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pp. 143-146


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pp. 147-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481257
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791468715
Print-ISBN-10: 0791468712

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Tales -- India, South -- History and criticism.
  • Folk literature, Indian -- History and criticism
  • Women in literature
  • Gender identity in literature.
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