Dharma, Class, and Aspiration: The Shifting Religious Worlds of Urban Rajasthani Women Open Access

Ortegren, Jennifer Dale (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5x21tf55s?locale=en


This dissertation analyzes the relationship between religious and class identities among upwardly mobile Hindu women who have relocated from rural areas of Rajasthan, in northwest India, to Pulan, an urban neighborhood of Udaipur. It examines how upwardly mobile women - members of what I call the "aspirational middle class - are reconfiguring the aesthetic, narrative, and community dynamics of their ritual lives in ways that enable them to form and perform new middle class identities for themselves, their families, and their neighbors in urban areas. In doing so, women are also formulating new middle class models of dharma, the socio-moral grounding of Hindu identity that guides behavior according to caste, gender, and life-stage. Often translated as "religion" or "duty," dharma helps Hindus understand who they are and who they can or should become. I show how new models of dharma expand the traditional boundaries of caste, gender, and life-stage dharmas in ways that sanction women's shifting lifestyles, values, and aspirations in the urban middle classes and enable them to embody new middle class moral subjectivities. In analyzing class through the analytical lens of dharma, this dissertation outlines how class, like caste, gender, and life-stage operates as a dharmic category, introducing new social and moral frameworks for "how to be" in contemporary urban India. I conclude that upwardly mobile women do not simply adopt new values and practices in the process of becoming middle class, but rather, are creating new ways of being Hindu within India's middle classes.

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration. xi

Introduction. 1

Chapter 1. Pulan and the Aspirational Middle Class. 38

Chapter 2. Education, Aspiration, and Marriage: Negotiating Dharma in Pulan. 63

Chapter 3. Solah Somwar and a New Dharma of Conjugality. 93

Chapter 4. Karva Chauth and Neighbor Dharma. 125

Chapter 5. Ganesha Chaturthi and Neighborhood Dharma. 161

Chapter 6. Contesting Dharmas During Navratri. 194

Conclusion. 235

Glossary. 241

Bibliography. 243

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