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Devadasis Organizing for Social Change: Discourses of Power and Resistance
Unformatted Document Text:  Devadasis Organizing -- 23 Another form of resistance the women engaged in is tied to their continuing beliefs about religion and the mores of society. Although most traditions are patriarchal, women sometimes willingly participate in sustaining the discursive conditions of oppression. I found such participation to be an acknowledgement of the women’s need to relate to a male partner, but also a resistance to the KSWDC-MYRADA efforts at persuading them to walk out of oppressive relationships. Consider the following situation. One evening Yallavva Nayak, a devadasi from Konankeri village in Hukkeri Taluk, came to the KSWDC-MYRADA office. Yallavva’s husband of eight years, Basavaraj Bambalvade was getting separated from her because she could not give birth to a child, and so she came to seek legal advice. On further inquiry by the legal officer, Yallavva mentioned her partner had got a vasectomy performed on her during the early years of her relationship when she was in her late teenage years and that only recently she found out that she would not be able to have her own children. However, the legal officer found this to be a difficult case because their marriage was not documented. Yallavva said “I still like him and I am still interested in continuing our relationship even though I cannot have children with him.” In the event her partner Basavaraj was determined to separate from her, Yallavva was seeking advice to explore any legal recourse available for her, at least to receive monetary compensation. Yallavva was told about the possibility of engaging village elders in the dispute and working to get her some money for support. At this point, she mentioned “I am interested in living with Basavaraj rather than leave him for good.” On being asked how such a relationship could ever be meaningful to her, Yallavva was reluctant to respond, but later acknowledged she would rather live in an oppressive relationship than be identified in society as being divorced. Although a paradoxical behavior, clearly she was resisting the norms of appropriate behavior that guide the intervention efforts by KSWDC-MYRADA. The examples elaborated thus far indicate some instances of resistance from these women. I am almost tempted to say, “I have told you what you like to hear.” However, on reflecting about fieldwork and my numerous encounters especially as a male attempting to engage the women on their resistance and hidden transcripts, I have realized what I report here is an artifact of what kind of data I gathered from the particular power relationships I maintained as a researcher. Undoubtedly, I did not maintain the same kinds of relationships with all of my participants and informants. What is reported here as examples of resistance, may be attributed to my more positive and less threatening relationships with the women. What happens if the data collected from forms of engagement recognize is the privileges we have and how we choose to maintain status quo or even alter power relations only to the extent our security and material conditions are not altered for the worse.

Authors: Kandath, Krishna.
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Devadasis Organizing -- 23
Another form of resistance the women engaged in is tied to their continuing beliefs about religion and the mores
of society. Although most traditions are patriarchal, women sometimes willingly participate in sustaining the
discursive conditions of oppression. I found such participation to be an acknowledgement of the women’s need to
relate to a male partner, but also a resistance to the KSWDC-MYRADA efforts at persuading them to walk out of
oppressive relationships. Consider the following situation. One evening Yallavva Nayak, a devadasi from
Konankeri village in Hukkeri Taluk, came to the KSWDC-MYRADA office. Yallavva’s husband of eight years,
Basavaraj Bambalvade was getting separated from her because she could not give birth to a child, and so she came
to seek legal advice. On further inquiry by the legal officer, Yallavva mentioned her partner had got a vasectomy
performed on her during the early years of her relationship when she was in her late teenage years and that only
recently she found out that she would not be able to have her own children. However, the legal officer found this to
be a difficult case because their marriage was not documented. Yallavva said “I still like him and I am still
interested in continuing our relationship even though I cannot have children with him.” In the event her partner
Basavaraj was determined to separate from her, Yallavva was seeking advice to explore any legal recourse available
for her, at least to receive monetary compensation. Yallavva was told about the possibility of engaging village
elders in the dispute and working to get her some money for support. At this point, she mentioned “I am interested
in living with Basavaraj rather than leave him for good.” On being asked how such a relationship could ever be
meaningful to her, Yallavva was reluctant to respond, but later acknowledged she would rather live in an oppressive
relationship than be identified in society as being divorced. Although a paradoxical behavior, clearly she was
resisting the norms of appropriate behavior that guide the intervention efforts by KSWDC-MYRADA.
The examples elaborated thus far indicate some instances of resistance from these women. I am almost tempted
to say, “I have told you what you like to hear.” However, on reflecting about fieldwork and my numerous
encounters especially as a male attempting to engage the women on their resistance and hidden transcripts, I have
realized what I report here is an artifact of what kind of data I gathered from the particular power relationships I
maintained as a researcher. Undoubtedly, I did not maintain the same kinds of relationships with all of my
participants and informants. What is reported here as examples of resistance, may be attributed to my more positive
and less threatening relationships with the women. What happens if the data collected from forms of engagement
recognize is the privileges we have and how we choose to maintain status quo or even alter power relations only to
the extent our security and material conditions are not altered for the worse.


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