Modern Asian Studies



Emotional and Domestic Territories: The Positionality of Women as Reflected in the Landscape of the Home in Contemporary South Asian Women's Writings


LISA LAU a1
a1 University of Durham

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Abstract

The division of domestic space within South Asian households is indicative, and even reflective, of the social status of South Asian women. This article argues the dependence of South Asian women's positionality upon their position within the confines of the home, making a case for the correlation between women's domestic roles and their (self and social) identities.

Through an analysis of the contemporary literature written by South Asian women, this article will analyse the joint family system, with its particular gendered spaces and hierarchies of power, exploring how these dictate and limit the interaction of its members, and pattern the relationships formed within them.

The positionality of second wives will also be investigated, to trace exactly how the newcomers establish themselves in relatively hostile environments. The body language of the women will be paid particularly close attention, as much of what is being investigated is often not directly verbalised.

This article also examines how the private spaces of home can be both sanctuary and prison for South Asian women. It will be seen that for South Asian women, not only their identities, but their survival, may be dependent on their successful staking out of positions within their domestic territories.

(Published Online September 18 2006)