Marriage, violence, and choice: Understanding Dalit women's agency in rural Tamil Nadu

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Literature on Dalit women largely deals with issues of violence and oppression based on intersections of class, caste and gender. Women’s bodies, sexuality and reproductive choices are linked to the ideological hegemony of the caste-gender nexus in India, with marriage and sexual relations critical in maintaining caste boundaries. Often the ways in which women manipulate their multiple, interlinked identities as women, Dalits, workers and home-makers to resist control over their bodies (labour and sexuality), negotiate conjugal loyalty and love, and construct a sense of selfhood is missed in the analyses. Based on research in rural Tamil Nadu, I analyse in this paper Dalit women’s narratives that reflect multiple concerns and dilemmas about marital choice and violence, generating in the process a deeper understanding of agency, voice and gender relations, as fluid, dynamic, and intersecting in response to changing experiences, positionalities and subjectivities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-433
Number of pages24
JournalGender and Society
Issue number3
Early online date5 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • marriage
  • violence
  • agency
  • Tamil Nadu

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