ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

02 – Rewriting Hindu Women within Contemporary Popular Media

This panel seeks to explore representations of Hindu women in contemporary popular film and literature.


Diana Dimitrova - Professor, Faculty of Arts and Science, The Montreal Centre for International Studies
Tracy Pintchman - Professor, Department of Theology, Loyola University Chicago
Deepra Dandekar - Researcher, Contested Religion Unit, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin

Long Abstract

This panel seeks to explore representations of Hindu women in contemporary popular film and literature. The last three decades constitute a period of great transformation for India, shaped by profound economic, social, political, and religious transformation. The rise of the internet and the neoliberal economy in particular have helped create and perpetuate spaces that allow for querying and even inverting “traditional” Brahmanical Hindu norms. What are the implications of all this tumult when it comes to contemporary, popular representations of Hindu women and the ways Hindu women’s roles are mediated to contemporary audiences worldwide? This session focuses on this question, exploring the assumptions inherent in contemporary, popular works about the values that twenty-first century Hindu audiences find appealing, particularly when it comes to gender. We propose that contemporary, popular media constitutes a fertile intellectual domain where transformative possibilities are charted as a space of negotiation between what is real, what is agential, and what is possible for women. Our panel posits this negotiation as a central thematic of rediscovery pertaining to women’s layered relationships within and outside the family. The narratives we explore demarcate contemporary transformation in women’s lives, portraying intricate, gendered trajectories that mitigate conflict, accept and negotiate, express disavowal, and broker women’s individual agency. The media we explore here demonstrate both endorsement and subversion when it comes to traditional gender norms, with implications for Hindu women’s everyday worlds.