Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Jan 15, 2012 - Religion - 313 pages
0 Reviews
Unfinished Gestures presents 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 devadasis communities 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 devadasis identity in the twentieth century, and the post-reform lives of women in these communities today, Unfinished Gestures charts the historical fissures that lie beneath cultural modernity in South India.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

On Historical Social and Aesthetic Borderlands
1
1 Producing Dance in Colonial Tanjore
27
2 Whatever Happened to the South Indian Nautch? Toward a Cultural History of Salon Dance in Madras
70
Marriage and Masculinity in the Discourse of Devadası Reform
112
Remembering Devadası Dance at Viralimalai
161
Aesthetics and Selfhood in Coastal Andhra Pradesh
189
Gesturing to Devadası Pasts in Todays Chennai
222
Selected Documents from the Files of Muthulakshmi Reddy
227
The Madras Devadasis Prevention of Dedication Act of 1947
235
Notes
237
References
271
Index
297
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

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.

Bibliographic information