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Sartorial culture in Bangladesh Institute on Infusing South Asia into the Undergraduate Curriculum East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii Dr. Angela R. Demovic,

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Presentation on theme: "Sartorial culture in Bangladesh Institute on Infusing South Asia into the Undergraduate Curriculum East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii Dr. Angela R. Demovic,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sartorial culture in Bangladesh Institute on Infusing South Asia into the Undergraduate Curriculum East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii Dr. Angela R. Demovic, Assistant Professor of Anthopology Wichita State University Thanks to photographer Ziaul Haq for permission to use his images

2 Anthropology of the Body (Anth 397/597) The course is about the body and its construction as a cultural artifact The example of Bangladesh will inform several topics covered in the course – Cloth and Adornment – The Colonial encounter, Embodiment, and Identity – Globalization and Womens Bodies

3 Burqa and Shalwar, Jeans and Sari - Changing Fashions on the Streets of Dhaka (in Society on the 19th of October 2009) changing-fashions-streets-dhaka research done by the Department of Womens Studies at Dhaka University, concerned with whether women in Bangladesh are increasingly adopting the veil In addition to various burqua styles, reports an expanded spectrum since independence in 1971 in womens attire including shalwar kameez, jeans and short kurtas, traditional saris womens wear is an intricate part of the Bangladeshi womans changing views of herself and the world Why the Question of Womens Dress in Bangladesh?

4 The Sari as marker of female maturity Widowhood and the white sari Unless specifically asked about another garment, responses about what sorts of dress particular informants choose, when, and why have focused overwhelmingly on the sari. Interviews with Bangladeshi women have elicited a detailed list of the appropriate color and style of sari to wear on various holidays, both religious and secular. The sari is also an important symbol of a womans life stage. Part I: What have Bangladeshi Women Told ME so far?

5 The Sari as traditional ethnic dress Terence Turner on The Social Skin -Body adornment is a powerful symbolic language -The concept of the social skin -Socialization of the naked body through adornment Terence S. Turner The Social Skin. In Reading the Social Body, eds. Catherine B. Burroughs and Jeffrey David Ehrenreich. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

6 The politics of dress Georg Simmel Fashion, Adornment and Style in Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings Eds. David Frisby and Mike Featherstone London, SAGE Publications Ltd. (available on Google books)

7 The Shalwar Kamiz: A love hate relationship Three discourses: 1.Hindu (Vedic) versus Islam Bangladeshi women recognize the garment is identified with Islam, by far the majority religion of Bangladesh. The style first arrived in India with the Mughal invaders during the 14 th century – unlike the sari, for which there is evidence in Indus Valley art 2.East Pakistan versus Bangladesh The brutality of Pakistans attempt to prevent Bangladeshi independence in 1971 remains an unresolved, salient issue in contemporary Bangladeshi political discourse. The Shalwar Kamiz is associated with Pakistan, as its national dress. 3.West versus East The garment allows freedom of movement (for example, to visit fish markets, or to prepare dawaat) without embracing Western dress (My Significant Other and a cousin)

8 Gender Differences: Roots in the Colonial Era and developed with Nationalism Sources: Chatterjee, Partha Colonialism, Nationalism, and Colonialized Women: The Contest in India. American Ethnologist, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Nov., 1989), pp Thapar-Björkert, Suruchi; Ryan, Louise. Mother India/Mother Ireland: Comparative Gendered Dialogues of Colonialism and Nationalism in the Early 20 th Century. Womens Studies International Forum v. 25 no. 3 (May/June 2002) p Mukhopadhyay, Bhudev. Lajjā – śīlatā (Modesty), In Bh ȗ dev- racanāsambhār, Pramathanath, ed. Calcutta Mitra and Ghosh. Ghar and bāhir : the home and the world In the world, imitation of and adaptation to Western norms was a necessity, at home, they were tantamount to annihilation of ones very identity. (Chatterjee 1989:624) To ridicule the idea of a Bengali woman (in the first half of the 19 th century) trying to imitate the ways of a memsāheb… was a sure recipe calculated to evoke raucous laughter and moral condemnation in both male and female audiences. It was… a criticism of manners, of new items of clothing… of the use of Western cosmetics and jewelry, of the reading of novels… What made the ridicule stronger was the constant suggestion that the Westernized woman was fond of useless luxury and cared little for the well-being of the home. (Chatterjee 1989:625) Mukhopadhyay discusses Lajjā – śīlatā, a quality of modesty which he says is spiritual, is more cultivated and cherished by women than by men, and which necessitates a difference in the manner/degree of Westernization for men and women Some Ideas About the History of The Situation

9 Additional Historical Sources Borthwick, Meredith The Changing Roles of Women in Bengal Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press. Chatterjee, Partha. Nationalist Thought in the Colonial World. London: Zed Books. Ghosh, Srabashi Birds in a Cage: Changes in Bengali Social Life as Recorded in Autobiographies by Women. Economic and Political Weekly: Review of Womens Studies (October) pp

10 Mens Dress: Politics, Identity, and Class Urban upper middle-class men overwhelming choose Western clothing, a legacy of the same history of dress and Nationalist notions of mens and womens roles. Note the dress of Mohammad Yunnus, (founder of Grameen Bank), compared to other men pictured below. Some men choose more traditional forms of dress, particularly for festivals. Compare these choices to the ideas about the meaning behind differences in dress of Gandhi and Ambedkar introduced in Dr. Ananya Vajpeyis lecture.

11 Other ways of Fitting our Institute Lectures Into the Picture Chakrabarti and the self-ification of the Other – Project: Have students think about dress and habitus in their own lives. Are there parallels to this in American dress? What influence does history have over determining womens dress? Does mobility require sartorial negotiation? Anna Bigelows discussion of multireligious devotion – Bangladeshi womens culture is very syncretic in nature. There is a shared religious culture, which includes many preIslamic rituals in womens lives (ex. marriage ritual, rice rituals based in Lokkhi worship). Tie this in to Vrinda Dalmiyas lecture on Environment, Gender and Science. Why do authors talk about preserving these preIslamic rituals in terms of sustainability? Rozario, Santi and Samuel, Geoffrey. Gender, Religious Change and Sustainability in Bangladesh. Womens Studies International Forum, Vol 33, Issue 4, July-August 2010, Pages )

12 Islamic modesty garments in rural and urban Bangladesh Reading: Rozario, Santi The new burqa in Bangladesh: Empowerment or violation of women's rights? Womens Studies International Forum, Volume 29, Issue 4, July-August 2006, Pps Increases in womens mobility with globalization -- Bangladeshi women developing local modernities Backlash against womens new roles (in garment industry, at university, microloans) the place of Islamist movements in Bangladeshi politics – moving away from syncretic forms of religion towards a pure Islam Santis view that Islamist feminism is not developing in Bangladesh (In comparison to Egypt watch film A Veiled Revolution)


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