Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh

Paperback | October 15, 2014

byLisa I. Knight

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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 unusual behavior, and they are especiallywell-known for their evocative songs, which challenge the caste system and sectarianism prevalent in South Asia. Although Bauls claim to value women over men, little is known about the individual views and experiences of Baul women. Based on ethnographic research in both the predominantly Hindu context of West Bengal (India) and the Muslim country of Bangladesh, this book explores the everyday lives of Baulwomen. Lisa Knight examines the contradictory expectations regarding Baul women: on the one hand, the ideal of a group unencumbered by societal restraints and concerns and, on the other, the real constraints of feminine respectability that seemingly curtail women's mobility and public performances. Knight demonstrates that Baul women respond to these conflicting expectations in various ways, sometimes adopting and other times subverting local gendered norms to craft meaningful lives. More so than their male counterparts, Baul women feel encumbered by norms. But rather than seeing Baul women'snormative 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.

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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 unusual behavior, and they are especiallywell-known for their evocative songs, which challeng...

Lisa I. Knight received her PhD in Anthropology from Syracuse University and researched in both West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. She is an Associate Professor of South Asian religions at Furman University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:234 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:October 15, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199396841

ISBN - 13:9780199396849

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Table of Contents

Note on Diacritics, Transliteration, and NamesList of Maps and FiguresPart 1: Multiple Sites1. Finding Baul Women2. "Real Bauls Live under Trees:" Imaginings and the Marginalization of Baul Women3. "I've Done Nothing Wrong:" Feminine Respectibility and Baul ExpectationsPart 2: Negotiations4. Negotiating between Paradigms of the Good Baul and the Good Woman5. "Do Not Neglect This Golden Body of Yours:" Personal and Social Transformation through Baul Songs6. Renouncing ExpectationsConcluding ThoughtsGlossaryNotesBibliographyIndex