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Contested Ritual, Contested Femininities: (Re)Forming Self and Society in a Nepali Women's Festival

Dorothy C. Holland and Debra G. Skinner
American Ethnologist
Vol. 22, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 279-305
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/646703
Page Count: 27
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Contested Ritual, Contested Femininities: (Re)Forming Self and Society in a Nepali Women's Festival
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Abstract

The Tij festival of contemporary Nepal represents a case in which a ritual has become a crucial space for the cultivation of feminine subjectivities. For Tij, Hindu women create novel songs that are performed before the entire community. Sometime in the past this portion of a larger ritual complex, previously analyzed as representing and reproducing an ideal Hindu femininity, became a space for protests and complaints about the patriarchal Brahmanical ideologies and practices that dominate women's lives. In the wake of the democracy movement, the festival has been turned to a new arena, to the world of governmental politics, and the songs have become more explicitly revolutionary in content. Here, we argue that these critical voices, developed through the collective processes of song composition and their enactment in the special atmosphere of the festival, have provided a basis for women's critical self-consciousness and for their social action in the new political climate. [gender, ritual-in-practice, cultural production and social movements, women's political culture, Nepal, South Asia]

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