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Marriage, Honor, Agency, and Trials by Ordeal: Women’s Gender Roles in Candimangal
Modern Asian Studies (2001)
  • David Curley, Western Washington University
"Marriage, Honor, Agency, and Trials by Ordeal: Women’s Gender Roles in Candimagal" discusses women's gender roles as they were imagined and debated in a Bengali text written towards the end of the sixteenth century. Efforts to reexamine precolonial gender roles and debates about them are important for three reasons. First, that large body of research on gender which begins with the colonial period often has obscured elements of continuity between colonial and precolonial discourse on gender in South Asia, and often exaggerates or misstates both the degree of consensus about gender in precolonial period, and the nature of change in the colonial period. By attending to precolonial debates about gender, this essay will help to clarify continuity and change in colonial gender debates in Bengal. Second, when scholars have examined precolonial gender roles, often they have chosen to investigate only elite women, or only those issue which became subject to debate in the colonial period. This essay attempts to examine as a whole gender roles and dress and modesty codes for all grades in s status hierarchy of women in late sixteenth-century Bengal, and it includes issues that were not debated in colonial times. Finally, existing scholarship on gender in precolonial South Asia has focused on the nature of gender roles, but not on how gender itself was constituted. This essay suggests that there may have been a fundamental change in the way gender was constituted in Bengal if, influenced by British gender discourse, Bengali reformers and nationalists began to use binary, opposite and mutually exclusive terms to describe what should be 'masculine' and 'feminine'.

  • Bengal,
  • Precolonial South Asia,
  • Gender roles,
  • British gender discourse,
  • Gender forms
Publication Date
May, 2001
Publisher Statement
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Citation Information
David Curley. "Marriage, Honor, Agency, and Trials by Ordeal: Women’s Gender Roles in Candimangal" Modern Asian Studies Vol. 35 Iss. 2 (2001) p. 315 - 348
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