Contradictory Lives: Baul Women in India and Bangladesh

ISBN : 9780199396849

Lisa I. Knight
236 Pages
162 x 234 mm
Pub date
Oct 2014
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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 who wander the countryside and entertain with their passionate singing and unusual behavior. Although Bauls claim to value women over men, little is known about the individual views and experiences of Baul women. Based on ethnographic research, this book explores the everyday lives of Baul women. Knight demonstrates that Baul women respond to the conflicting expectations imposed on them 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's normative 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.


Note on Diacritics, Transliteration, and Names
List of Maps and Figures
Part 1: Multiple Sites
1. Finding Baul Women
2. "Real Bauls Live under Trees:" Imaginings and the Marginalization of Baul Women
3. "I've Done Nothing Wrong:" Feminine Respectibility and Baul Expectations
Part 2: Negotiations
4. Negotiating between Paradigms of the Good Baul and the Good Woman
5. "Do Not Neglect This Golden Body of Yours:" Personal and Social Transformation through Baul Songs
6. Renouncing Expectations
Concluding Thoughts

About the author: 

Lisa I Knight is Associate Professor of South Asian religions at Furman University.

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