Unfinished Gestures Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India
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Unfinished Gesturespresents the social and cultural history of courtesans in South India who are generally called devadasis, focusing on their encounters with colonial modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following a hundred years of vociferous social reform, including a 1947 law that criminalized their lifestyles, the women in devadasicommunities contend with severe social stigma and economic and cultural disenfranchisement. Adroitly combining ethnographic fieldwork with historical research, Davesh Soneji provides a comprehensive portrait of these marginalized women and unsettles received ideas about relations among them, the aesthetic roots of their performances, and the political efficacy of social reform in their communities. Poignantly narrating the history of these women, Soneji argues for the recognition of aesthetics and performance as a key form of subaltern self-presentation and self-consciousness. Ranging over courtly and private salon performances of music and dance by devadasis in the nineteenth century, the political mobilization of devadasiidentity in the twentieth century, and the post-reform lives of women in these communities today, Unfinished Gesturescharts the historical fissures that lie beneath cultural modernity in South India.
List price: $32.00
Copyright year: 2011
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 1/15/2012
Size: 6.00" wide x 8.75" long x 0.75" tall
Davesh Soneji is associate professor of South Asian religions at McGill University. He is coeditor of Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India and editor of Bharatanatyam: A Reader.
|Introduction: On Historical, Social, and Aesthetic Borderlands|
|Producing Dance in Colonial Tanjore|
|Whatever Happened to the South Indian Nautch? Toward a Cultural History of Salon Dance in Madras|
|Subterfuges of "Respectable" Citizenship: Marriage and Masculinity in the Discourse of Devadasi Reform|
|Historical Traces and Unfinished Subjectivity: Remembering Devadasi Dance at Viralimalai|
|Performing Untenable Pasts: Aesthetics and Selfhood in Coastal Andhra Pradesh|
|Coda: Gesturing to Devadasi Pasts in Today's Chennai|
|Selected Documents from the Files of Muthulakshmi Reddy|
|The Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act of 1947|