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Men and Masculinities in South India

Men and Masculinities in South India

Caroline Osella
Filippo Osella
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Anthem Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Men and Masculinities in South India
    Book Description:

    An anthropological examination of masculinity within South Asian societies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84331-399-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Masculinities in South Asia (pp. 1-28)

    This book draws together work we have written over the last 15 years, which has been concerned with exploring masculinity in a south Asian context. The specific context we have worked in is that of a rural paddy-growingpanchayat(which we have anonymized as ‘Valiyagramam’) in the central part of Kerala, South India. We undertook several periods of fieldwork here, from 1989 to 2001.¹ Here, we worked mostly among Hindus but also at times with members of the minority Christian populations (split between various denominations). There were no Muslim families in this village. Since 2002, we have shifted field-site and...

  5. CHAPTER 2 How to Make a Man? (pp. 29-52)

    We begin with a tantalising question: how do you make a man? This chapter deals with some apparently unproblematic ethnography of processes by which boys are ‘made’ into men—male initiation rituals, practised across south Asia, among Hindu middle and higher castes. This ethnography prompts us to reflect on classic approaches to gender and maturity, such as theories that stress the importance of social role in making gender. Such approaches take us part of the way but they are not helpful across the board. Firstly, only certain communities practise rites of passage, and secondly, we sense that gender is not...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Working Men’s Lives (pp. 53-76)

    We move on to discuss the role of work in the production and assertion of Malayali male subjectivities. To suggest that colonial and post-colonial modernity—and concomitant processes of capitalist development and state-formation—not only impact the lives of men and women in different ways but also entail a substantial redefinition of gender relations is perhaps to argue the obvious. Over the past 20 years these issues have been explored extensively in the historiography and sociology of south Asia, but, as we have seen in the Introduction, debates and discussions have been somewhat lopsided, focusing primarily on women and more...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Men of Substance: Earning and Spending (pp. 77-98)

    We consider now some ways in which consumption contributes towards the constitution and expression of recognized masculine statuses and identities. We purposely shift our attention away from consumption as such towards wider orientations on the use of economic resources—cash in particular—which inform consumption practices. Continuing from the previous chapter, we will talk about Kerala migrants. Over the past 30 years, not only has Gulf migration transformed the state’s economic and social landscape, but the Gulf migrant—the prototypically successful and above all wealthy man—has come to represent the aspirations of many Malayalipayyanmar(boys). Attracting thousands of...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Producing Heterosexuality: Flirting and Romancing (pp. 99-118)

    The terrain of south Asian male sexuality and attitudes towards women has been over-determined, since the 1950s, by Freudian psychoanalytic approaches and by one conclusion—hat heterosexual relations are approached, from the male side at least, with little short of dread. This we find rather odd, given that it is already clear from what we have said earlier about men’s life histories and goals that marriage, fatherhood and householder status are valorized. Heterosexuality across south Asia is presumed, carefully cultivated, strictly policed and utterly naturalized, in a reproductive-based nexus of compulsory (arranged) marriage and parenthood, which is a great example...

  9. [Illustrations] (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER 6 Negotiating Heterosexuality: Pornography, Masturbation and ‘Secret Love’ (pp. 119-142)

    In the previous chapter, we have seen that before marriage most young people limit themselves totuningandromance. Before moving on to think about the next stage, that of adult heterosexuality, we need to take a detour into a very specifically south Asian set of issues. Here, we begin with the fact that there is a large body of literature in anthropology and psychology referring to ‘semen-loss anxiety’, a generalized anxiety commonly found among south Asian men and focused around the deleterious effects to health of losing semen, a substance which, when conserved, contributes to physical well-being and strength....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Homosocial Spaces: The Sabarimala Pilgrimage (pp. 143-168)

    We continue our exploration of Kerala masculinities by considering the role of religious activities and devotion in the production of specific male aesthetics and styles at the intersection between homosociality and normative heterosexuality. We focus on the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala, the main temple of the Hindu deity Ayyappan, visited every year by millions of—predominantly Hindu—male devotees from Kerala and from south India as a whole. We suggest that this pilgrimage, an almost exclusively male arena of religious performance, highlights masculinity while constructing a particular style of maleness which draws creatively on an antagonistic relationship between transcendence and...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Masculine Styles: Young Men and Movie Heroes (pp. 169-202)

    In this final chapter, we return to thinking about young men—the ‘boys’ orpayyanmarencountered in Chapter 2—and to the question that we opened with there: how to make a man? We have seen throughout this book that the status of ‘man’ is something closely tied in contemporary Kerala—as across south Asia—to marriage, fatherhood, house-ownership, providing and consumption. Yet throughout, we have also found that playing a masculine role or being admitted into an arena defined as masculine is not all there is to manliness. Masculinity here certainly also has a categorical flavour to it: a...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Conclusions (pp. 203-212)

    We began this book with a question: how do you make a man? Our first answer came by way of assertions from an elite community that their esoteric and exclusivist rituals effect radical transformations by turning low-status boys into hegemonic twice-born elite men. Yet this assertion was immediately undermined: both by the men themselves, who ruefully admit that to be initiated is not enough, that successful and repeated performances of dominant masculinity are needed; and by males from other communities, who manage to claim ‘manhood’ without the practice of initiation and who are moreover oriented towards styles of masculinity quite...

  14. GLOSSARY (pp. 213-218)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 219-238)
  16. Index (pp. 239-243)
  17. Back Matter (pp. 244-244)