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Unformatted text preview: Introduction This paper is an exploration of the interrelatedness between space, sexuality and identity of women with a specific reference to the women living in the havelis (upper class town houses) of nineteenth century Lucknow, India, using Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column and Mirza Muhammad Hadi Rusva’s Umrao Jan Ada as the primary texts. It attempts to understand how, if at all, the question of female sexuality, and consequently identity, was intertwined within the “spaces” of the haveli and vice versa (Hjortshoj, 67). The word purdah , when used in the context of the nineteenth century urban society in North India, presents a proverbial view of the hermetically sealed life of the women. Spatially it denotes an interior, the zenana (the feminine realm of the house), within which the woman was imprisoned with little or no contact with the outside (Papanek and Minault, 11-17). A reason for this outlook has been the imposition of western models of inside/outside and public/domestic on the purdah and non- purdah taxonomy. Consequently the purdah , and women adhering to purdah are equated with the inside, the subservient, intellectually dwarfed, and the sexually starved. Anita Desai says, “[Attia Hosain’s writings] show her keen sense of the two ruling concepts of Indian behavior – izzat /honor, and sharam /dishonor – passionately adhering to the former and reworking in her mind many forms taken by the latter, not only the traditional ones” (Hosain, ix). This paper tries to illustrate that the body cannot be understood above and beyond culture but that the body is a cultural product par excellence, as much of the body itself forms culture (Agrest, 4). Three main questions are explored: First, what is the role of space, if at all, in structuring the woman's world? Secondly, how is the female body circumscribed within this space? Finally, what is the mode of negotiation of women's identity that exists within this socio- spatial matrix? This paper attempts to show that izzat and sharam are much more subtly tuned to the nuances that order the everyday lives of the women. Moreover, it shall demonstrate that this purdah/izzat and non- purdah/sharam taxonomy is not a rigid categorization and is constantly spatially mediated. Additionally, it will illustrate how mapping the lives of the woman around such a spatial taxonomy presents the woman with a field through which she sometimes adheres to and sometimes circumvents the dominant patriarchal discourse. Summarily, the investigation, following a both/and strategy, shows the fluidity in the set of configurations that made up the safe/...
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This note was uploaded on 04/25/2008 for the course AMES 085 taught by Professor Rotating during the Winter '07 term at Dartmouth.
- Winter '07