WGS 340 • Gender, Sexuality, and the Family in Indian Religions and Cultures-W
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
This course will provide the student with a comprehensive overview of gender issues as they are represented in the great textual traditions of India (these categories include Vedic materials, medical literature, treaties on law and sexual behavior, and texts that outline the great debates over questions of gender identity and salvation preserved for us in certain Jain and Buddhist materials). To make these classical texts more relevant, readings in recent anthropological studies will also be included to enable the student to trace recurring themes, images, and symbols. The student will thereby gain a sense of continuity of traditions and attitudes as well as generative innovations and contemporary variants within them. We will begin by looking at various Vedic narratives and descriptions of ritual, paying particular attention to sexual symbolism in Vedic poetry, as well as gender roles and sexuality in Vedic ritual. We will then explore different legal and moral aspects of gender roles, sexuality, and identity in classical India, followed by an examination of the ways in which gender identity is medicalized in early Sanskrit texts from the Ayurvedic traditions of North India. We will read a psychoanalytic study of Indian sexuality, and will then move to the southern part of the subcontinent, where we will look at an ethnograpic study of pleasure and desire within the bounds of a village family in contemporary Tamilnadu. We will then explore some of the more sexually "marginalized" communities in India by examining current writing on gay and lesbian issues, and by examining Serena Nanda's popular book on hijras ("eunuchs"). During the last few weeks of the course, we will consider texts that probe the intriguing and complex relationship between sexuality and spiritual salvation.
30%: Research paper, 15-20 pages 20% each: Two short reaction essays of 3-5 pages 25%: Mid-term 25%: Final exam
Nanda, Serena. Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India Jamison, Stephanie W. Sacrificed Wife/Sacrificer's Wife: Women, Ritual, and Hospitality in Ancient India Kakar, Sudhir. Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism Vatsyayana. The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (Burton trans.)