During the last few decades gender has emerged as an important site for anthropological studies which usually differentiate gender from sex and sexuality. Gender is a cultural construct and perceptions of men and women differ from culture to culture or even during different periods even in a single culture or society. While we in the west are still privileging the binary between men and women as a lense to look at the gender difference, many non –western cultures have developed a concept of third gender in order to accommodate the emerging political movements dealing with transgendered subjects. Gender is often related to development and invariably female members have been marginalized in relation to their male counterparts in government policies and development projects. We will explore the question of women’s, men’s and transgender’s power and agency and the creative strategies employed cross-culturally with relation to their political, economic, social and cultural roles. In this course, ethnographic examples will be selected to illustrate some of the discourses relating to these subjects from diverse cultural contexts, such as India, China, Japan, Africa and Middle East and we will draw case studies from most of the sites we will be visiting during this voyage.
Field WorkCountry: India
Day: 6 - Thursday, 3 March
Kerala is the microcosm of India in many ways. The uniqueness of Kerala is that for thousands of years, three major religions are practiced here. The state boasts one hundred percent literacy, the skilled laborers and predominantly women, have gone to the Middle Eastern countries as well as to the western worlds. They have sent money back to Kerala, which has helped in the development of the state.
We will visit a village in Kerala where students will learn about various roles played by women as daughter, wife, mother, and a widow and expectations of them in Indian society. In the village, students will learn about the gender focused development program. They will interact with women in Government led Self Help groups (SHGs) promoting their economic self-sufficiency, and women leaders in the Village Panchayat (like City Council in the United States) to assess women’s role in the economy and politics of the state. I would also like the students to observe a religious ritual to experience women’s vibrant roles in religious activities.
1. Learn about women’s identity in terms of their roles compared to gender defined in the western context.
2. Learn about religious and culinary activities of women as markers of cultural identity.
3. Examine the role of SHGs in women’s economic self-sufficiency and political leadership.
4. To understand and analyze how gender is culturally constructed.