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A Sociological Study of the Culture of Fasting and Dieting of Women in Urban India
Talukdar, Jaita

2008, PhD, University of Cincinnati, Arts and Sciences : Sociology.

The ‘new Indian woman’ occupies a unique social location in contemporary times; she is caught between twin forces of ‘recolonization’ (the influx of a global, consumerist market) and ‘reterritorialization’ (patrolling and protecting women’s familial nature). In public imagination she has achieved the unimaginable by becoming the globe-trotting, successful executive by the day and the vigilant mother by the night. Under the theorist’s gaze, she stands on a web of contradictions caught in a double bind of meeting contradictory expectations of being modern and traditional. My work stands in contrast to studies that assume women indiscriminately adopt cultural practices or that they feel conflicted while negotiating cultural messages.


Instead, combining theoretical strands of Bourdieu’s theory of distinctions and Lamont’s meaning-making, I base my study on the assumption that women are engaged in a process of meaning-making, and that they resolve contradictions or anomalies in their practice by calling upon repertoires of meanings common to the cultural terrain in which they live. I did a qualitative study comparing the religious institution of fasting and the modern institution of dieting to examine how women negotiated the traditional-modernity divide. Findings suggest that the dichotomy gets diffused in the accounts given by women, with no identification of intractable expectations confronting them. Instead women exercised a “speculative modernity” where they distanced themselves from traditional and contemporary explanations of the practices, thereby modifying both tradition and modernity in the process. However for both practices, the women constantly sought validation of their practice by referring to commonality of such practices by women (and men) in similar social (class) locations. In case of dieting, women thought of their practice as a non-gendered health requirement for people engaged in urban economies where as women who fasted identified the practice as an imperative to their role as home-makers.


Annulla Linders (Committee Chair)
Rhys Williams (Committee Member)
Kelly Moore (Committee Member)
233 p.

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Talukdar, J. (2008). A Sociological Study of the Culture of Fasting and Dieting of Women in Urban India. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Talukdar, Jaita. "A Sociological Study of the Culture of Fasting and Dieting of Women in Urban India." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2008. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Nov 2017.

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Talukdar, Jaita "A Sociological Study of the Culture of Fasting and Dieting of Women in Urban India." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2008. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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