Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Department Chair, Anthropology, Tufts University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2000
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Princeton University
Casting Desire: Reproduction, Loss, and Subjectivity in Rural North India

This project explores the intersection of concepts of modernity and self in rural north India from the perspective of traditional midwives (dais), "untouchable" women situated at a crossroads of meanings. As mediators of intimate intercaste activities and "uplift" projects aimed at rural women, dais hold ambiguous positions in local and global networks of power. Through participant-observation and apprenticeship with a village dai in central Uttar Pradesh I will explore how dais envision and negotiate competing models of reproduction, the body and the self In so doing I will ask how identities are shaped and transformed in the context of ongoing communication of ideas about "modernity" and gender equality. What can these low-caste women's visions of caste, gender, and modernization tell us about these categories? As dais interact with persons representing a range of knowledge systems, their situation can shed light not only on dynamics of power and identity among north Indian untouchables, but also onto larger considerations of how knowledge systems influence understandings of the self, and how these understandings are formed, communicated and experienced.