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In Pursuit of the Virgin Whore: Writing Caste/Outcaste Histories

Literature on caste and gender oppression has developed sophisticated methods and theories but there is little effort to explore the interconnections of varied feminine experiences. The silence by the upper caste feminist movements on marginalised femininities reinforces the notion of the homogeneity of Indian femininity. The corpus of works on sacred prostitution also reflects this notion. This article focuses on the outcaste ritual women who either as priestesses of temples or as moving shrines continue to be central to the religious cultural order in villages across parts of southern India. The fundamental challenge in writing the history of the outcastes is to make a paradigmatic shift and move beyond the history of pathos that defines the research on them.

REVIEW OF WOMEN S STUDIES

In Pursuit of the Virgin Whore: Writing Caste/Outcaste Histories

Priyadarshini Vijaisri

Literature on caste and gender oppression has developed sophisticated methods and theories but there is little effort to explore the interconnections of varied feminine experiences. The silence by the upper caste feminist movements on marginalised femininities reinforces the notion of the homogeneity of Indian femininity. The corpus of works on sacred prostitution also reflects this notion. This article focuses on the outcaste ritual women who either as priestesses of temples or as moving shrines continue to be central to the religious cultural order in villages across parts of southern India. The fundamental challenge in writing the history of the outcastes is to make a paradigmatic shift and move beyond the history of pathos that defines the research on them.

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