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women's studies
Indian Subcontinent

Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh

Lisa I. Knight.
Publisher Oxford  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9780199773541
Pages/Publication Date 217/2011
Daedalus Item Code 30718
This item is not available.
In literature and popular imagination, the Bauls of India and Bangladesh are characterized as musical mystics—orange-clad nomads of both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. They wander the countryside and entertain with their passionate singing, and they are known for evocative songs that value women over men and challenge the traditional caste system and sectarianism. Yet little is known about the individual views and experiences of Baul women, who exist within contradictory expectations: on the one hand, they are idealized within a group unencumbered by societal restraints and concerns; on the other, they endure real constraints of feminine respectability that seemingly curtail women's mobility and public performances. Anthropologist Lisa Knight reveals how Baul women respond to these conflicting expectations in various ways, sometimes adopting and other times subverting local gendered norms to craft meaningful lives. Rather than seeing Baul women's normative behavior as indicative of their conformity to gendered roles (and, therefore, failures as Bauls), Knight argues that these women creatively draw on societal expectations to transcend their social limits and create new paths.

"Although Baul discourse emphasizes the spiritual importance of women and even celebrates women's spiritual and bodily superiority, in practice Baul women are frequently marginalized. In fact, it is often implied or explicitly stated—by Bauls, scholars, and Bengalis in general—that there are no real Baul women. This book, however, argues that Baul women exist, are important, and are worth listening to. Lisa Knight has given us an exciting, engrossing and original book based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork and meticulous scholarship."—Sarah Lamb

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