New Book: Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India

Ruby Lal, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), xviii plus 229 pages. ISBN: 978-1-107-03024-4.

Publisher’s Description of Book:

In this engaging and eloquent history, Ruby Lal traces the becoming
of nineteenth-century Indian women through a critique of narratives
of linear transition from girlhood to womanhood. In the north
Indian patriarchal environment, women’s lives were dominated by
the expectations of the male universal, articulated most clearly in
household chores and domestic duties. The author argues that girls and
women in the early nineteenth century experienced freedom, eroticism,
adventurousness and playfulness, even within restrictive circumstances.

Although women in the colonial world of the later nineteenth century
remained agential figures, their activities came to be constrained by
more firmly entrenched domestic norms. Lal skillfully marks the subtle and
complex alterations in the multifaceted female subject in a variety of
nineteenth-century discourses, elaborated in four different sites -forest,
school, household and rooftops.

Ruby Lal is Associate Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern
and South Asian Studies at Emory University. She has written
extensively on women and gender relations in Islamic societies in the
precolonial and colonial world. In addition to numerous academic
articles and political commentaries, she is the author of Domesticity
and Power in the Early Mughal World (Cambridge University Press,
2005). She is currently finalizing a historical biography of the Mughal
Empress Nur Jahan (forthcoming, W.W. Norton, USA; Random House,
India, 2015).

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