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Unfinished Gestures
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Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India

Davesh Soneji


This book presents the social and cultural history of courtesans in South India, who are generally called devadasis, focusing on their encounters with colonial modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Following a hundred years of vociferous social reform, including a 1947 law that criminalized their lifestyles, the women in devadasis communities contend with severe social stigma and economic and cultural disenfranchisement. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with historical research, the author provides a comprehensive portrait of these marginalized women and unsettles received ... More

Keywords: courtesans, South India, devadasis, colonial modernity, social reform, social stigma, cultural disenfranchisement, marginalization

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2012 Print ISBN-13: 9780226768090
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226768113.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Davesh Soneji, author