Anthropological Explorations in Gender: Intersecting Fields. (Books Reviews: Theory)
Vatuk, Sylvia, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
DUBE, LEELA. Anthropological explorations in gender: intersecting fields. 268 pp., tables, bibliogrs. London, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2001. [pounds sterling]29.99 (cloth)
This book is a collection of articles by a senior social anthropologist who has written extensively and incisively on the cultural construction and social roles of women in India. Leela Dube has greatly influenced a whole younger generation of scholars whose careers she has generously nurtured as respected and beloved mentor and friend. The anthropologist Kamala Ganesh is one of these. Her Preface to the book both draws out some of the major themes in Dube's work and assesses its significance for the discipline. Most of the pieces included here have previously appeared elsewhere, but this volume conveniently assembles in one place the most important writings of a scholar who deserves to be more widely known outside of her own country. For a non-specialist British and American readership it is especially welcome, because of the relative inaccessibility of some of the edited volumes and journals in which the articles originally appeared.
The author's Introduction and her first essay are complementary, reflexive accounts of her life and career. Dube tells how she initially became aware of gender inequality through observing her parents' and other family members' differential treatment of, and expectations for, male and female children. Consequently, without being outspoken or confrontational, she developed 'a streak of nonconformism', casting a critical eye on many of her society's taken-for-granted gender ideologies (p. 35). She was encouraged by her parents to obtain higher education but not to aspire to a professional career. For her, anthropology was 'a happy by-product' of her marriage to S.C. Dube, later to become one of India's leading anthropologists (p. 65). She recalls his helpful guidance of her first field research, among women of the Gond tribe, and their long and mutually supportive professional and personal partnership thereafter, in the course of which she conducted several field studies in various parts of India.
Four of the articles in this volume are devoted to the relationship between gender and kinship structure in South Asia. The whole subcontinent (and in one case Southeast Asia as well) is the author's geographical canvas. She draws on empirical examples from her own ethnographic research and that of others, as well as from Hindu texts and folklore. …