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McDonald, Merryle Ann (1993) Caring women: Gender, power and ritual in Gujarati households in East London. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This is an ethnographic study which examines the way in which some Gujarati women living in east London create auspiciousness and care for the ritual, spiritual, social and moral well-being of their natal and conjugal households. Fieldwork was conducted in four local women's groups and in Hindu Gujarati households in the north and central areas of the London borough of Newham between July 1983 and September 1984. Additional data come from tape-recorded interviews and observations between Gujarati women and obstetricians at the local maternity hospital. Informants of both sexes acknowledged that it is women who are the agents with knowledge of many of the domestic rituals which are performed and that it is largely women who organize them. Both sexes also see women as responsible for transmitting this religious and Gujarati ritual knowledge to the next generation. This responsibility is spoken of as the dharma (duty) of women and of mothers in particular. The study addresses the question of how gender defines cultural constructions of responsibility. It considers ways in which notions of dharma (duty) and seva (service) inform ideas of femininity and masculinity, and suggests that gender inequalities are created through interpretations of cultural notions of sharam (shame), ijjat (honour) and man (respect). Within this framework, it examines the way in which informants create, negotiate and resist cultural categories. In their active responses, they both challenge and collude in dominant structures and discourses. This dissertation aims to contribute to research on the hitherto largely neglected arena of domestic religious life among Hindus in Britain. Specifically, it aims to contribute to studies of the role of Hindu Gujarati women in caring for households and families and maintaining and transforming their culture in this country.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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