1st Edition

Domestic Goddesses
Maternity, Globalization and Middle-class Identity in Contemporary India

ISBN 9780754649427
Published September 18, 2008 by Routledge
230 Pages

USD $180.00

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Book Description

Based on extensive fieldwork in Calcutta, this book provides the first ethnography of how middle-class women in India understand and experience economic change through transformations of family life. It explores their ideas, practices and experiences of marriage, childbirth, reproductive change and their children's education, and addresses the impact that globalization is having on the new middle classes in Asia more generally from a domestic perspective. By focusing on maternity, the book explores subjective understandings of the way intimate relationships and the family are affected by India's liberalization policies and the neo-liberal ideologies that accompany through an analysis of often competing ideologies and multiple practices. And by drawing attention to women's agency as wives, mothers and grandmothers within these new frameworks, Domestic Goddesses discusses the experiences of different age groups affected by these changes. Through a careful analysis of women's narratives, the domestic sphere is shown to represent the key site for the remaking of Indian middle-class citizens in a global world.



Dr Henrike Donner's research explores the interplay of gender, kinship and reproductive change in relation to class and post-liberalisation policies. Since 1995 she has conducted fieldwork in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, which has focused on the transformation of marriage and conjugal ideals, medicalised birth and maternal bodies, food consumption and the impact of privatised healthcare and schooling on middle-class lifestyles. Her work is concerned with socio-economic change as part of the process of globalisation and the way class is reproduced through institutions like marriage and the family and constituted through gendered, everyday practices. She has also published on urban space and fieldwork in the postcolonial city. Her ongoing research deals with the legacy of the militant Naxalite movement that emerged in urban West Bengal and is concerned with personal experiences of radical politics in the 1970s.


'All in all, Domestic Goddesses provides new insights into the effects of globalization on Indian society with its detailed analysis of changes in middle-class women's practices and domestic lives in Calcutta. As such Domestic Goddesses fills a lacuna and contributes significantly to the anthropology of South Asia.' Women's Studies 'For American scholars of global feminism, this book could be a very instructive read, and, as most of the papers published in this collection are written in an accessible style, they are very appropriate for classroom use. Women's Studies courses on global and transnational feminism would very much benefit from using primary materials such as the texts collected in this volume.' Women's Studies 'An original and ethnographically rich study of the urban family and of the roles women play as wives, mothers and home-makers in the creation and reproduction of a new Indian middle-class identity. It makes a significant contribution to current anthropological discussions of how kinship and marriage systems in developing societies are impacted by globalization and the rise of consumer-oriented economies.' Sylvia Vatuk, University of Illinois,Chicago, USA 'Domestic Goddesses is an informed and sensitive account of the intimate lives and concerns of middle class women as they negotiate modernity in Calcutta today. Donner's work on the "gendered city" makes an important contribution to the urban anthropology of South Asia and to understandings of motherhood as shaped by it.' Maya Unnithan, University of Sussex, UK 'This book is without any doubt a great contribution to current anthropological discussions on how globalization and consumer oriented economies change and influence the kinship and marriage systems, as well as on how the class hierarchies are produced and reproduced in the urban setting. It is a must read for any anthropologist or a student of anthropology concerned with the modernity in developing countries, globalization and kinship