Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime by Veena Talwar Oldenburg

By Veena Talwar Oldenburg

The Hindu customized of dowry has lengthy been blamed for the homicide of better halves and feminine babies in India. during this hugely provocative publication, Veena Oldenburg argues that those killings are neither approximately dowry nor reflective of an Indian tradition or caste method that encourages violence opposed to ladies. relatively, such killings may be traced on to the impacts of the British colonial period. within the precolonial interval, dowry was once an establishment controlled by means of girls, for girls, to allow them to set up their prestige and feature recourse in an emergency. by reason of the large fiscal and societal upheaval attributable to British rule, women's entitlements to the valuable assets bought from land have been erased and their regulate of the process decreased, eventually leading to a devaluing in their very lives. Taking us on a trip into the colonial Punjab, Veena Oldenburg skillfully follows the paper path left via British bureaucrats to indict them for studying those crimes opposed to ladies because the inherent defects of Hindu caste tradition. The British, Oldenburg claims, publicized their "civilizing venture" and blamed the caste method on the way to disguise up the devastation their very own agrarian guidelines had wrought at the Indian geographical region. A forceful demystification of up to date bride burning concludes this remarkably unique ebook. Deploying her personal studies and thoughts and her study at a women's look after with "dowry situations" for nearly a 12 months within the mid-eighties, the writer seems on the modern violence opposed to better halves and daughters-in-law in smooth India. Oldenburg seamlessly weaves the modern with the old, the private with the political, and strips the layers of exoticism off an old perform to teach how a useful security web was once twisted right into a lethal noose. She brings us startlingly on the subject of the worsening therapy of contemporary Indian ladies as she demanding situations us to reconsider simple assumptions approximately women's human and monetary rights. Combining rigorous learn with impassioned research and a nuanced therapy of a fancy, deeply arguable topic, this ebook opinions colonialism whereas preserving a reflect to gender discrimination in sleek India.

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These powerful internal indictments begin to emerge in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and are the unexamined evidence that convincingly undercuts the coherence of imperial position on the question of cultural crimes and social evils. It is a consistently reasoned strategy in this study to read some British reports against the grain and some as revelatory, for this was the complicated nature of the vast and variegated British colonial rule in India. The net result was that the one clear historical interpretation about the economically ruinous nature of the custom of dowry and its relationship to peasant indebtedness dissolved into a murky half-truth.

My historical research would undoubtedly add a missing dimension in most of these studies, but what could I possibly add to the accounts of the present? What I have done is to knit together the conversations of the past, between colonial officials and their informants, with the conversations that I had with women: I connect the construction of colonial interpretations with the current discourse on dowry and dowry deaths. In the process I hope to displace this discourse with a feminist narrative and a feminist voice, to both view and comment on the dynamic nature of dowry and property, and their relationship to domesticated, gendered violence in a rural-urban continuum in the last century and a half.

In the colonial period, their historical customary entitlements to the produce of the land were translated into a lack of titular rights in ownership of the land. ), I have explored the brunt of the new colonial revenue policies and command economy on the dynamics of power within peasant families. With the creation of male individual property rights in land, the British decided to create the individual peasant owner as the centerpiece of their modern revenue policy. What was to be called the ryotwari settlement involved giving property titles to the land directly to the peasants (ryots) who tilled it.

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