Untimeliness as moral indictment: Tamil agricultural labouring women's use of lament as life narrative

Kalpana Ram*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


How do Dalit women forge certain forms of critical perspectives in relation to their existence? This paper explores the very particular poetics that shape the women's responses to an invitation by the ethnographer to tell her their life stories. Their narratives made use of several dominant discourses in south India that ritually construct a woman's life as a teleology of an unfolding essence, an embodied force that comes into flower and fruition, and must be socially shaped and tended in order to bring about an auspicious confluence for both woman and the social order. The women also made use of the structure and tropes of several styles of performance that have tragedy at their emotional heart, and which gain their force against the normative construction of life cycle as temporality. By using these forms, women were able to bring into discourse several aspects of their experience of marriage that would otherwise gain no social recognition. In particular, they highlighted the prematurity of their marriage, having wed while still children themselves. The wider argument of this paper engages with two very different versions of agency - one predicated on the use of reason and consent by the individual, the other derived from an examination of the Dalit women's narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-153
Number of pages16
JournalThe Australian Journal of Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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