Author: Anshu Malhotra
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195672402
The book explores the construction of new class, caste, religious and gender identities in colonial Punjab by focusing on the dilemmas of middle-class, upper caste Punjabis as they sought to counteract the gradual colonial erosion of their economic advantages in the colonial period and tried to survive the British cultural assault on indigenous social, cultural and religious institutions. The author examines how the notion of being high caste, as it developed and transformed during the colonial period, contributed to the formation of a middle-class among the Hindus and the Sikhs.
This process, on the one hand, required redefining interaction with those designated low and on the other, meant re-thinking women's relationship to the categories high and low. The organization of a middle class life had a significant impact on gender relations, and encouraged the re-examination of women's role and place in society. This book would be a useful reading for research scholars, historians and social scientists working on issues related to history, gender construction, cultural and identity formation in Punjab and South Asia.
The book focuses on how the notion of being ‘high caste’, as it developed and transformed during the colonial period contributed to the formation of a ‘middle class’ among the Hindus and the Sikhs. While many reformist Sikhs and Hindus either denied or re-conceptualized caste, the book draws attention to the innovative ways in which older privileges shaped newer identities. This, in turn, had an impact on gender relations, and encouraged the re-examination of women’s role and place in society.
The author deals with the problematic of women’s relationship to the concepts of caste and religiosity in the context of the reformist imagination of the period. Caste was seen as a quality ‘attached’ to men, making women’s relationship to it ambiguous. The late nineteenth century high caste men tried to grapple with this conundrum and upgrade women to a life suitable to the high caste, modernist middle classes. The book highlights how the new notions of ideal femininity hid under them a gamut of new and often oppressive cultural practices. It maps the emergence of new high caste, middle class patriarchal structures among the Hindus and the Sikhs, and the ideological pillars on which they rested.
By focusing on the issues of caste, religion and gender in the formation of a middle class, the book fills a major gap in the social history of colonial Punjab. Based on vast and hitherto untapped sources in Punjabi, it will interest scholars of history, sociology, cultural and gender studies.
This book focuses on the restructuring of class in relation to caste and gender in the nineteenth-century Punjab. Arguing That much of the scholarly literature about caste has a long and problematic history in which either gender or class is left out, or caste is seen as primordial, inherited, and unchanging, Anshu Malhotra, rewrites the history of caste in colonial Punjab, arguing that reform movements enabled certain kinds of class and caste mobility, and that such mobility is especially visible when one examines women's lives of this period.
-The American Historical Review
Gender, Caste, and Religious Identities falls at the intersection of, and makes contributions to three bodies of scholarship: recent scholarship on caste, group identity-construction, and South Asian women's studies.
List of Abbreviations
GENDER, CASTE, AND RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES IN PUNJAB
Caste and Colonial Intervention
The Colonial Gaze and Punjabi Society
Insecurity and Ambition: The High Caste, Middle Class Elite of Punjab
Caste, Gender, and the Arya Samaj Movement in Punjab
Caste, Gender, and the Singh Sabha Movement in Punjab
KILLING, GIFTING OR SELLING DAUGHTERS: THE PRESSURES ON A HIGH CASTE IDENTITY
Infanticide, Hypergamy and Marriage Expenses
‘Takka’, ‘Vatta’, vs. Marriage of ‘Pun’
Jhagrras/Kissas and the Spread of the Reformist Message
ASCETIC WIDOWHOOD OR WIDOW REMARRIAGE? DILEMMA FOR THE NEW PUNJABI ELITE
The Widow and High Caste Status
Containing a Widow’s Sexuality
Economic Marginality of a Widow
The Attractions of Asceticism and Public Service
Assertion of Agency: Widow Savitri Devi
CONTROLLING WOMEN: RECREATING THE PATIVRATA WIFE AS THE IDEAL UPPER CASTE WOMAN
Pativrata and the Iconization of the Husband
The Serving Lachhmi --- Placing the Pativrata in the Family
The Making of the Pativrata: Education a Double-Edged Weapon
Fragmentary, but Powerful Voices
POWERFUL WOMEN --- FEARFUL MEN: REFORMING WOMEN’S POPULAR CULTURE
Reproduction, Barrenness, and Visiting Holy Men
Women’s Sexuality, Holy Men, and the Reformist Intervention
Women’s Culture and Power: Attempts at Women’s Confinement