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Summary To 'Sikhism And Women - History, Text, And Experience' By Doris R Jacobsh
At first glance, it would appear that the topic at hand, namely, Sikhism and Women, is a straightforward categorization. Moreover, the raison d'etre of this volume too seems almost simplisitically clear: it is an exploration of Sikh women's social and religious lives and experiences. A casual reader may expect within its pages a finely tuned 'capturing' of the essence of Sikh womanhood. If only it were so simple. For the terms 'Sikhism' and 'women', in and of themselves, are highly complex constructions; questions of who of 'who is a Sikh' and what consitutes Sikh behaviour and identity have long perplexed the Sikh community as well as scholars of Sikhism. Religion, according to Elizabeth Castelli, is not an 'innocent' category. It is rather, a mediated discursive space, particularly when looking at religious discourse and practice; these two realms 'oscillate endlessly back and fourth, each reflecting and reinscribing the other's claims'(castelli 2001:4). This issue becomes all the more problematic in light of the emergence of modern perceptions of religion stemming largely from debates within Christian communities and European colonizers encountering other cultural forms, rituals, practices, and texts in the 'contact zone' of the imperial frontier(Ballantyne 2006: 43, see also Green and Searle-Chatterjee 2008: 1-23). Further, the ethos of the 'Age of Enlightenment' played a significant role in the formulation of what was perceived to be religion and what was understood to be religious.
In an Enlightenment age of classification and taxonomies, Protestants increasingly imagined 'religion' as a series of propositions or beliefs that could be simply summarized and even conveyed in the form of a chart or diagram. In this form, religion could be identified as distinct and self-contained, something that could be separate from ecomonics or politics, a definition that has recently been identified as an important move towards the essentialized and increasingly privatized vision of the cultural practices we denote as 'religion' (Ballantyne 2006: 42-3).
Moreover, as Harjot Oberoi's seminal work on Sikh identity formation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has shown, British and Sikh (alongside other religious communities') increasing preoccupation with texts and scriptures and definitions played no small part in the heightened and politicised communal dynamics of colonial Punjab. For even the 'idea' of religion as a 'systematized sociological unit claiming unbridled loyalty from its adherents and opposing an amorphous religious imagination, is a relatively recent developments in the history of the Indian peoples' (Oberoi 1994: 17). Ibbetson, the commissioner of the 1881 census in Punjab had earlier noted:
But on the border lands where these great faiths meet, and especially among the ignorant peasantry whose creed, by whatever name it may be known, is seldom more than a superstition and a ritual, the various observances and beliefs which distinguish the followers of the several faiths in their purity are so strangely blended and intermingled , that it is often impossible to say that one prevails rather than other, or to decide in what category the people shall be classed (Ibbetson 1883: 101).
The British penchant for classification is here shown as utterly challenged by the fluid understandings of religiosity of the Punjab masses. Only terms like 'superstiiton' (or perhaps, 'folk beliefs' in a more cotemporary manifestation), which are highly pejorative within the linear and rational worldview espoused by the British colonizers, (and still utilized by many contemporary writers), and which refer to 'alternate' or 'non-Sikh' practices that have 'crept' into what was perceived as 'true Sikhism', could account for the vast array of the practices that simply evaded the classificatory needs of the British administration.
Table of Contents For 'Sikhism and Women - History - Text and Experience' By Doris R Jacobsh
|Sikhism and Women: Contextualizing the Issues|
|Doris R. Jakobsh and Eleanor Nesbitt|
|1.||The Guru, The Goddess: The Dasam Granth and its Implications for Constructions of Gender in Sikhism||40|
|2.||Tracing Gender in the Texts and Practices of the Early Khalsa||60|
|3.||Shameful Continuities: The Practice of Female Infanticide in Colonial Punjab||83|
|4.||The Novels of Bhai Vir Singh and the Imagination of Sikh Identity, Community, and Nation||115|
|C. Christine Fair|
|5.||Phulkaries: The Crafting of Rural Women's Roles in Sikh Heritage||134|
|6.||Lowly Shoes on Lowly Feet: Some Jat Sikh Women's Views on Gender and Equality||156|
|7.||Changing Identities and Fixed Roles: The Experiences of Sikh Women||187|
|Preeti Kapur and Girishwar Misra|
|8.||Why did I not Light the Fire?||205|
|The Refeminization of Ritual in Sikhism|
|Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh|
|9.||The Role of Sikh Women in their Religious Institutions: A Contemporary Account||234|
|10.||Sikh Women in Vancouver: An Analysis of their Psychosocial Issues||252|
|Kamala Elizabeth Nayar|
|11.||Making Sikh Women Refugees in 1990's USA||276|
|12.||By an Indirect Route: Women in 3HO/Sikh Dharma||299|
|13.||Transnational Migration Theory in Population Geography: Gendered Practices in Networks Linking Canada and India||329|
|14.||Transnational Sikh Women's Working Lives: Place and the Life Course||354|
|Note on Contributors||380|
|Author||Doris R Jacobsh|
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