The aim of this paper is to clarify how female ‘lay ascetics’ in Haridwar, a pilgrimage center in North India, struggle to cultivate the self through spiritual practice, focusing on how they serve their male partner.
Renouncers in Hindu India are supposed to observe brahmacarya, which is fundamentally understood to be a disciplined lifestyle intended to obtain spiritual liberation. It includes not only sexual abstinence but also a strict vegetarian diet, the avoidance of most stimulants and intoxicants, and the practice of meditation. Male ascetics, however, have tended to focus on celibacy and avoid women, as they are said to be dangerous and seductive to men. Those dictums of celibacy have reinforced the dominant opinion that women are not qualified for renunciation, resulting in marginalization or even exclusion from the ascetics’ community.
This paper investigates how female ascetics tackle these androcentric discourses and practice brahmacarya from a female point of view, focusing on their practice of sevā, or service. Sevā is supposed to be rendered without expectation of reward, so to speak, and offered as a pure gift, while it does function as a reciprocal transaction: those who engage in sevā receive spiritual and material rewards such as blessings or protection. This paper considers sevā in terms of sacrifice, beyond the dichotomy between the pure gift and reciprocal transaction. Sacrifice is a kind of gift-giving, as well as the process of transformation of the self through death and regeneration. Ideal sevā entails sacrificing the self, that is, all of what one has and even who one is, in search of the transformation of the self. This paper explores how female ascetics struggle to transform themselves through practicing sevā as self-sacrifice, based on case studies of the women called ‘lay ascetics.’
The term ‘lay ascetic’ is used as an ambiguous category implying negative nuances, which refers to those who are not regarded as either authentic renouncers or ordinary householders. Female ascetics who live with male partners are also called ‘lay ascetics.’ It appears inconsistent with an ideal celibate life for a male- female ascetic couple to live together. The reason for their not laicizing after breaching the vow of celibacy is that renunciation is dictated to be the last stage of life from which one cannot return to the world. Therefore, most ‘lay ascetic’ couples have left the monastery life and live independently outside it, sometimes with their own children, too.
Whereas male ascetics regard an association with a woman as taboo, which may bring about a loss of their fame and wealth, female ascetics do not always have a negative view of an association with a man. Female ‘lay ascetics’ nevertheless avoid dishonoring their male partner and refer to their relationship as guru and disciple, whether or not they are really so. They often emphasize how much they devote themselves to sevā for their partner, as it is highly encouraged to practice sevā for the guru. It can justify their relationship, yet some of them suffer due to a unilateral relationship and an excess of sevā.
In the early 1970’s, anthropological studies on gender began in earnest, with the view from Margaret Mead’s writings that divisions of labor and the symbolism derived from gender were socio-cultural constructs becoming widespread. Later studies expanded the discussion of gender relations by introducing the concept of power imbalances.
Gender studies set the agenda for theory and empirical arguments in anthropology, with the subject of many studies being female-related. Whereas the examination of the social formation of female gender and sexual orientation has become mainstream in gender studies, a related side-trend in gender studies research since the mid-1980’s has focused on males. Such “anthropology of masculinity” explores how regional masculinity is formed and defined.
In the same way that the field of gender studies examines the lives of women, male-focused anthropology studies the cultural history of the male ideal as expressed through such things as social norms, the use of language, hero figures, friendship, manhood, the materialization of masculinity, violence, and cultural areas related to power. When considering masculinity globally—such as male identity and sexuality—individual and regional differences inevitably emerge that are variable, unstable, and fluid. In recent years, the focus has been on the male image in social norms, language, hero figures, and how men express themselves as “genderized beings” through their relationships with women.
However, the fledgling anthropology of masculinity has been negatively associated with male power and sexual desire, and what little attention it did attract from gender study groups—which had previously focused on women—gradually faded.
Although this author has previously looked at the history of anthropology of masculinity theories arising from the criticism of so-called “male domination,” this article introduces Mediterranean European research into the discussion. The reason for doing so is that even Utagawa, who leads anthropology of gender research in Japan, recognizes that practically all research groups nationwide deal with women, and that men and masculinity remain unexplored. In addition, there is insufficient ongoing work recognizing and relativizing the mainstream dominant gender discourse in target societies outside the country. Therefore, this paper will reexamine how ideas about manhood are taken for granted among the Tai peoples in mainland Southeast Asia, from the anthropology of masculinity viewpoint.
In Turkey, two contrasting views regarding honor-based violence against women have gained widespread acceptance in recent years. One is the view that honor-based violence is customary, while the other sees the patriarchal gender structure as the culprit behind such violence. The former argument, which is quite popular in the public discourse of the country, defines honor as a custom or tradition of a particular group of people, namely, the Kurds of Eastern Anatolia. According to that view, honor-based violence is associated with the underdevelopment and feudal tribal structure of the Kurdish population. Honor killing (namus cinayeti) is often called customary killing (töre cinayeti). Assuming that honor killing is the custom of savage Kurds, it is regarded as inevitable among that group, while honor-based violence occurring outside the community of the Kurds or Eastern Anatolia is lost from sight. The latter argument, which is mainly supported by feminists, assesses honor-based violence in the context of the variations of violence toward women under patriarchy. The idea of honor is reduced to an abstract idea of patriarchy as a system of male dominance. That view, by ignoring the cultural meanings of honor, also remains inadequate to explain why the practice of violence in the name of honor is justified among, at least, the parties concerned.
The aim of this paper is to explore the operation of honor-based violence by focusing on the interpretation and practice of honor (namus). The study deals with the everyday honor-based violence conducted by husbands against wives. It includes restrictions on the mobility of wives, control over how they dress or who they socialize with, and beating as a punishment for their misconduct, such as breaking these rules or disobeying their husbands. The study is based on the author’s fieldwork conducted among the migrant community of Sultanbeyli, which is located on the periphery of the Asian side of Istanbul. The urbanization of Sultanbeyli began in the late 1980s, which was during a later stage of urbanization in the country. Known for its rapid urbanization, it is one of the poorest districts of the city and is characterized by illegal squatter housing called gecekondu.
The interpretation of honor among the people of Sultanbeyli has diversified in the course of recent social, economic, and ideological transformations. What honor means and how women and men should behave to protect their honor has become less obvious than ever, and is the subject of negotiation among the people of Sultanbeyli. This study focuses on the interpretation and practice of honor in the particular contexts of (1) rapid urbanization,(2) increasing unemployment and poverty,(3) the marginalization of migrants, and (4) the emerging discourse of women’s rights.
The study suggests that honor cannot simply be reduced to a matter of male dominance. For a woman, restrictions on her mobility by her husband to protect her honor as well as his and his family’s honor could be accepted as an act of protecting her as his wife. She reconfirms her identity as his wife and her place in local society. The Turkish expression sahip çıkmak has the double-meaning of to protect and to control. The two acts are two sides of the same coin.
This paper elucidates the occurrence of honor-based violence against women through an examination of the process of deviational behavior related to gender norms, sex scandals and the exposure of sex scandals. A discussion is made of a case study of 2,050 phone consultations regarding fatwa—the interpretation of Islamic law by muftis (ulamas)—in Egypt in the 2000’s, based on cultural anthropological fieldwork carried out from May 2006 to January 2008 at Islamic Phone(Cairo), Egypt’s first NPO to issue fatwas via the phone.The size of the data sampled was quite large: some 1,319 calls were made, with the cases numbering 2,050; if a caller asked two questions in one call, it was recorded as one call and two cases. Unexpectedly and surprisingly, the resulting narrative did not always indicate a continuous link between deviational behavior, honor and shame, and honor-based violence.
Of the 2,050 cases recorded, eighty-two were regarded as deviational behavior, and six were associated with honor. Regarding deviational behavior cases, questions were asked by twenty-eight men and fifty-four women. Specifically, of the twenty-eight males requesting a legal opinion, twenty-three were asking for themselves, and three were inquiring for their female family members. Additionally, three cases involved males asking for information on Sharia regulations. The findings indicate that men generally seek fatwa for themselves.
In the questions of fifty-four women, a fatwa was requested not only for themselves, but also for their friends and family members. Specifically, thirty-six cases were recorded of females inquiring for themselves. Five were recorded as inquiries for friends, and seven as questions regarding family members.
Of the six cases associated with honor, only one questioner mentioned honor, though not in an honor- based context. The ulama mentioned honor in the context of rendering an Islamic legal opinion (fatwa). As far as the author’s data were concerned, no link was found between sex scandals and honor-based violence by questioners.
The special focus of the articles in the current volume is so-called honor-based violence, particularly focusing on violence against women.
However, this paper calls attention at first to the fact that, at least before the 1980’s, anthropologists researching the relationship between violence and honor in the Arab world focused heavily on cases of violence between males, referred to as “blood feuds.” This paper connects arguments on blood feuds before the 1980’s with our contemporary concern with honor killing, so as to lead to a more integrated and inclusive understanding of honor-based violence. To do so, it illustrates how blood feuds and honor killings are narrated consistently using the same notion of honor(sharaf)and shame(‘ayb), while also showing how those two kinds of violence are narrated in a different manner in relation to those notions.
This paper mainly utilizes the author’s own observations and collected narratives from Bedouins in the Western Desert of Egypt derived from intermittent fieldwork conducted between 1988 and 2011. Bedouins were originally nomads herding sheep, goats, and camels, but now most of them have settled down since the latter half of the twentieth century.
Introducing seven short interviews, the former half of the paper clarifies that the notion of honor does not always result in violent actions, but, in most cases, it works rather to deter vengeance and reconcile relations between hostile groups. In those cases, honor should not be considered as a reason for violence, but as an idiom through which to discuss violence. Regarding blood feuds, people compete with one another, betting their own honor on their choice of violence and its determent.
This paper points out epistemic violence over the ‘Afghan Girl’ whose photographic portrait became iconic after appearing on a National Geographic cover in 1985. It was during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when the girl was photographed in Pakistan for the first time, which subsequently made her widely known in the West. Her picture articulates the image of innocent Afghans suffering from the ‘evildoing’ of the Soviets during the Cold War. It drew the sympathy of quite a few Westerners toward Afghan refugees, encouraging them to become involved in antiwar volunteer activities and charities. Despite her picture’s tremendous publicity, nothing was known about her until the curiosity about her re-emerged after a long hiatus when the Taliban regime collapsed due to attacks by NATO in 2001. By the time National Geographic crews found the ‘Afghan Girl’ again in Pakistan in 2002, her symbolic significance shifted from that of a victim of Soviet air strikes to one of the Taliban regime, notorious for having introduced sexist policies to Afghanistan.
The rediscovery of the ‘Afghan Girl’ is associated with a paternalistic project aiming at saving the girl from a barbaric male-dominated society. The fact that the National Geographic decided to create the Afghan Girl’s Fund to support girls’ education is clear evidence that some Westerners view themselves as saviors of miserable girls who do not have access to proper education. They needed a woman—not a man—as an icon, one that can successfully project the image of a victim of female oppression to suit their convenience.
The trajectory of the ‘Afghan Girl’ stimulates us to revisit Gayatri Spivak’s critique on speaking about women in subaltern classes. Spivak disclosed Foucault and Deleuze’s imperialist subject-constitution in her paper entitled “Can the Subaltern Speak?” She maps out the subjective sovereignty of varying elites(in her case, the British and Indian elites) by demonstrating the practice of sati, the burning of widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres, and its subsequent abolition in India. Spivak reached the conclusion that no one encounters the testimony of the women’s voice-consciousness, as subjective sovereignty is always conserved among the elites.
This paper suggests some similarities between the ‘Afghan Girl’ and the controversy over sati. Whenever the magazine photographs and writes about the ‘Afghan Girl,’ the West is always presupposed as the subject. Global/ local elites represent her in a way suiting their interest. Although she is formidably publicized, her raison d’être is recognized only as a mirror of Westerners. As such, she is situated as ‘the other’ whose relevance fluctuates in accordance with the context of Western politics. This paper tries to problematize such issues, and looks into subjectivity, representation and the intersectionality of the ‘Afghan Girl’ from a post-colonial perspective.