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Devadasis Organizing for Social Change: Discourses of Power and Resistance
Unformatted Document Text:  Devadasis Organizing -- 17 Research on power relations often demonstrates that women in unequal power relations and/or oppressive conditions, with concomitant inequities in access to public spheres carve out discursive spaces for the enactment of their communication processes of influence and control. Boyd (1999) explained how Indian women dairy farmers in Kolhapur, Maharashtra negotiate and create meaning out of their participation in these dairy cooperatives through the spaces they create in the field, through silence and speaking, and in their participation in milk union training and thrift groups. I made similar observations in Belgaum, of devadasis constructing discursive spaces to enact their influence and control. Interestingly, women constructed these spaces to perform their “hidden transcripts,” consciously demonstrating inadequate identification with all the goals and values of the social reform program initiated by the KSWDC-MYRADA intervention program, deriding the notion of sanghas given the continued failure of their microenterprises, and occasionally reminding me that I was still an outsider. Public and Hidden Transcripts On reading Scott (1990) and de Certeau (1984), I was conscious about such notions as “public transcripts” and “hidden transcripts”, and tactics and strategies respectively. Most commonly, the “public transcripts” devadasis performed, reinforced power relations. This included identifying male personnel with “sir” and female personnel with “madam”. I was also addressed “sir.” I remember telling Suresh, currently the coordinator for the intervention program, that I was uncomfortable being addressed “sir.” Suresh remarked: You cannot change our social practices overnight. You people come from America and think we have to follow everything Americans do. Like you, I have met other people from America who come here and act different. I want to be very clear when you come to India you should be like us, when you go back you can follow their conventions. Suresh and I had several conversations on relationships and power. I sensed that Suresh was uncomfortable about people (either as personnel from nonprofit organizations or students) coming from the U.S. who always tried to show all practices in Indian villages as colonial and ancient. In the case of devadasis I did not try to force on them to call me by name because my past experiences have shown that when we try to create changes in practices, often with good intention, people view such behavior rather suspiciously. In the experience of disenfranchised people, power relations are considered a given, and therefore anyone trying to demonstrate otherwise is considered to be untrue and pretentious. Clearly these forms of address are imports from colonial India, and have been internalized by Indians and continue to serve as a reminder of Indian appropriation and legitimization of the colonizer’s conversational norms

Authors: Kandath, Krishna.
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Devadasis Organizing -- 17
Research on power relations often demonstrates that women in unequal power relations and/or oppressive
conditions, with concomitant inequities in access to public spheres carve out discursive spaces for the enactment of
their communication processes of influence and control. Boyd (1999) explained how Indian women dairy farmers in
Kolhapur, Maharashtra negotiate and create meaning out of their participation in these dairy cooperatives through
the spaces they create in the field, through silence and speaking, and in their participation in milk union training and
thrift groups.
I made similar observations in Belgaum, of devadasis constructing discursive spaces to enact their influence and
control. Interestingly, women constructed these spaces to perform their “hidden transcripts,” consciously
demonstrating inadequate identification with all the goals and values of the social reform program initiated by the
KSWDC-MYRADA intervention program, deriding the notion of sanghas given the continued failure of their
microenterprises, and occasionally reminding me that I was still an outsider.
Public and Hidden Transcripts
On reading Scott (1990) and de Certeau (1984), I was conscious about such notions as “public transcripts” and
“hidden transcripts”, and tactics and strategies respectively. Most commonly, the “public transcripts” devadasis
performed, reinforced power relations. This included identifying male personnel with “sir” and female personnel
with “madam”. I was also addressed “sir.” I remember telling Suresh, currently the coordinator for the intervention
program, that I was uncomfortable being addressed “sir.” Suresh remarked:
You cannot change our social practices overnight. You people come from America and think we have to follow
everything Americans do. Like you, I have met other people from America who come here and act different. I
want to be very clear when you come to India you should be like us, when you go back you can follow their
conventions.

Suresh and I had several conversations on relationships and power. I sensed that Suresh was uncomfortable
about people (either as personnel from nonprofit organizations or students) coming from the U.S. who always tried
to show all practices in Indian villages as colonial and ancient. In the case of devadasis I did not try to force on
them to call me by name because my past experiences have shown that when we try to create changes in practices,
often with good intention, people view such behavior rather suspiciously. In the experience of disenfranchised
people, power relations are considered a given, and therefore anyone trying to demonstrate otherwise is considered
to be untrue and pretentious.
Clearly these forms of address are imports from colonial India, and have been internalized by Indians and
continue to serve as a reminder of Indian appropriation and legitimization of the colonizer’s conversational norms


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