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Drawing on ethnographic research and employing a micro-historical approach that recognizes not only the transnational but also the culturally specific manifestations of modernity, this article centers on the efforts of a young woman to negotiate shifting and conflicting discourses about what a good life might consist of for a highly educated and high caste Hindu woman living at the margins of a nonetheless globalized world. Newly imaginable worlds in contemporary Mithila,South Asia, structure feeling and action in particularly gendered and classed ways, even as the capacity of individuals to actualize those worlds and the “modern” selves envisioned within them are constrained by both overt and subtle means. In the context of shifting cultural anchors, new practices of silence, literacy, and even behaviors interpreted as “mental illness” may become tactics in an individual’s negotiation of conflicting self-representations. The confluence of forces at play in contemporary Mithila, moreover, is creating new structures of feeling that may begin to reverse long-standing locally held assumptions about strong solidarities between natal families and daughters, on the one hand, and weak solidarities between affinal families and new daughters-in-law, on the other.


Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture





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Women's & Gender Studies


post-print manuscript

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Davis, Coralynn V. 2009 “Im/possible Lives: Gender, Class, Self-Fashioning, and Affinal Solidarity in Modern South Asia. Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture 15(2):243-272.