By Veena Talwar Oldenburg
The Hindu customized of dowry has lengthy been blamed for the homicide of other halves and feminine babies in India. during this hugely provocative e-book, Veena Oldenburg argues that those killings are neither approximately dowry nor reflective of an Indian tradition or caste approach that encourages violence opposed to girls. relatively, such killings will be traced on to the impacts of the British colonial period. within the precolonial interval, dowry used to be an establishment controlled by way of girls, for girls, to permit them to set up their prestige and feature recourse in an emergency. due to the large fiscal and societal upheaval caused by British rule, women's entitlements to the valuable assets got from land have been erased and their keep an eye on of the method reduced, finally leading to a devaluing in their very lives. Taking us on a trip into the colonial Punjab, Veena Oldenburg skillfully follows the paper path left by means of British bureaucrats to indict them for studying those crimes opposed to girls because the inherent defects of Hindu caste tradition. The British, Oldenburg claims, publicized their "civilizing project" and blamed the caste approach in an effort to conceal up the devastation their very own agrarian guidelines had wrought at the Indian geographical region. A forceful demystification of latest bride burning concludes this remarkably unique ebook. Deploying her personal reviews and stories and her learn at a women's protect with "dowry situations" for nearly a 12 months within the mid-eighties, the writer appears on the modern violence opposed to other halves and daughters-in-law in sleek India. Oldenburg seamlessly weaves the modern with the historic, the non-public with the political, and strips the layers of exoticism off an historical perform to teach how a useful security internet was once twisted right into a lethal noose. She brings us startlingly just about the worsening remedy of contemporary Indian girls as she demanding situations us to reconsider simple assumptions approximately women's human and monetary rights. Combining rigorous learn with impassioned research and a nuanced remedy of a fancy, deeply debatable topic, this booklet opinions colonialism whereas preserving a replicate to gender discrimination in sleek India.
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Extra resources for Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime
Marriage made woman the “movable” and man the “immovable” entity, and cattle and land and other resources were distributed according to this logic. Cattle often were by far the more valuable resource, and silver and gold ornaments might have often had greater value than mud huts and ﬁelds. Much, of course, has happened to the notion of property (and entitlements) since the time of Manu and Meghatithi, and the most radical changes came in the colonial period. As large chunks of the subcontinent fell under the domination of the colonial government, a revolution in property rights transformed the social ◆ Dowry Murder and economic world of the peasant.
I argue that small quantitative changes added up to a big qualitative change. The British reduction or outright abolition of the customary subsidies given to village heads by Hindu, Mughal, and Sikh rulers for the maintenance of the village chaupal or guest house, oil lamps, the upkeep of shrines, and payment to itinerant musicians made hospitality offered during weddings more costly for individual families. The inﬂation that accompanied the steady rise in the price of land stood on their head the old equations of (movable) dowry for the daughters as against (immovable) property, based on virilocality, for the sons.
The introduction of the idea of land as a commodity and therefore entirely alienable, by sale or foreclosure, also gave men precise, titular ownership, at the cost of all subsidiary claims or entitlements that were traditionally ordained. The customary rights of women were the heaviest casualties of this transformation of a peasant economy into an unevenly modern and capitalistic one. Dowry, as a subset of stridhan, became vulnerable to the new market economy that abruptly replaced the old order of obligations and reciprocities among those who had shared the produce of the commonly controlled land.