Unearthing Gender : Folksongs of North India

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-03-15
  • Publisher: Duke Univ Pr
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Based on anthropological field research , Unearthing Genderanalyzes folk songs sung primarily by lower caste women in north India while laboring in the fields, at weddings, during travels, and in other settings. Smita Jassal uses these songs to explore how ideas of caste, gender, sexuality, labor, and power may be strengthened, questioned and fine-tuned through music. At the heart of the book is a vast library of songs, in their original Bhojpuri and in English translation, framed by Jassal’s analytic insights into the complexities of gender and power. The power of these songs, Jassal argues, lies in hinting and suggesting themes rather than directly addressing them: women sing what they often cannot talk about. Women’s lives, their feelings, their relationships, and social and familial bonds are persuasively presented in song, and for the ethnographer, the songs provide a safer, more natural language for these women to articulate opinions than the standard ethnographic interview. In this way, the songs offer an entry into the culture and everyday lives that produce them and embody the voices of a marginalized group that has rarely been the focus of systematic analytical enquiry.

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