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Purdah: Separate Worlds and Symbolic Shelter

  • Hanna Papanek (a1)

Purdah, meaning curtain, is the word most commonly used for the system of secluding women and enforcing high standards of female modesty in much of South Asia. Purdah is an important part of the life experience of many South Asians, both Muslim and Hindu, and is a central feature of the social systems of the area. The crucial characteristic of the purdah system is its limitation on interaction between women and males outside certain well-defined categories, which differ among Muslims and Hindus. Muslim purdah restrictions do not apply within the immediate kin unit,but only outside it, while Hindu purdah is based on a set of avoidance rules between a woman and her male affines. Muslim seclusion begins at puberty, Hindu seclusion strictly speaking begins with marriage.

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2 Mayo, Katherine, Mother India (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1927), esp. pp. 111–22.Hauswirth, Frieda (Mrs. Sarangadhar Das), A Marriage to India (New York: Vanguard Press, 1930);Das, Frieda Hauswirth, Purdah: The Status of Indian Women (New York: Vanguard Press, 1932).

3 Zwemer, Samuel M., Childhood in the Moslem World (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915).

4 Karve, D. D., The New Brahmans (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963). esp. pp. 11104.

5 See, for example, footnote I, page 172, Honigmann, John J., ‘Woman in West Pakistan’, in Pakistan: Society and Culture, Maron, Stanley, ed. (New Haven: Human Relations Area File, 1957), pp. 154–76.

6 Papanek, Hanna, ‘The Woman Field Worker in a Purdah Society], Human Organization, Vol. 23, No. 2, Summer 1964, pp. 160–3.

7 Marriott, McKim, ‘Caste Ranking and Food Transactions: A Matrix Analysis], in Structure and Change in Indian Society, Singer, Milton and Cohn, Bernard S., eds. (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co.. 1968), pp. 133–71.

8 Chipp, Sylvia A., ‘The Role of Women Elites in a Modernizing Country: The All Pakistan Women's Association‘, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1970.Chipp, Sylvia A., ‘Tradition vs. Change: The All Pakistan Women's Association’, Islam and the Modern Age, New Delhi, Vol. 1, No. 3, 09 1970, pp. 6990.Jacobson, Doranne, ‘Hidden Faces: Hindu and Muslim Purdah in a Central Indian Village’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, Department of Anthropology, 1970.Jacobson, Doranne, ‘Purdah in Central India’, paper presented at American Anthropological Association Meetings, New Orleans, 1969.Luschinsky, Mildred S., ‘The Life of Women in a Village of North India’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cornell University, 1962.Newman, Ruth E., ‘Cross-Cultural Test of a Trait of Mental Process and Its Categorical Correlates’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, Department of Psychology, 1963.Pastner, Carroll, ‘Sexual Dichotomization in Society and Culture: The Women of Panjgur, Baluchistan’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Brandeis University, Department of Anthropology, 1971.

9 Dumont, Louis, Homo Hierarchicus: An Essay on the Caste System (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), Chapter 10, pp. 201–16.Ansari, Ghaus, ‘Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh’, Eastern Anthropologist, Special Number, Vol. 13, No. 2, 12 195902 1960.

10 Papanek, Hanna, ‘Purdah in Pakistan: Seclusion and Modern Occupations for Women’, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 33, No. 3, 08 1971, pp. 517–30.

11 Stuers, Cora Vreede-De, Parda: A Study of Muslim Women’s Life in Northern India (New York: Humanities Press, 1968), p. 76.

12 Eglar, Zekiye, A Punjabi Village in Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), p. 30.

13 Honigmann, , p. 159.

14 Murphy, Robert, ‘Social Distance and the Veil’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 66, No. 6, Part 1, 12 1964, pp. 1263–74.

15 Husain, A. F. A., Employment of Middle Class Muslim Women in Dacca (Dacca: Dacca University Socio-Economic Research Board, 1958), p. 14.

16 Stuers, Vreede-De, p. 84.

17 Faridi, Tazeen, The Changing Role of Women in Pakistan (Karachi: Ferozesons, 1960).

18 McCarthy, Florence E., ‘Bengali Village Women: Mediators between Tradition and Development], unpublished MA. thesis, Department of Sociology, Michigan State Univer-sity, East Lansing, 1967, pp. 35–6.

19 Slocum, W. L., Jamila Akhtar and Abrar Fatima Sahi, Village Life in Lahore District: A Study of Selected Sociological Aspects (Lahore: Social Sciences Research Centre, University of the Panjab, 1960), p. 23.

20 Cambridge University Asian Expedition, The Budhopur Report, Lahore: Social Sciences Research Centre, University of the Panjab, 1962, pp. 1516.

21 Papanek, Hanna, ‘Pakistan's New Industrialists and Businessmen: Focus on the Memons,’ in Modernization of Occupational Cultures in South Asia, Singer, Milton, ed. (Durham: Duke University Program in Comparative Studies in Southern Asia, 1973).

22 Vreede-De Stuers, passim; Misra, S. C., Muslim Communities in Gujarat (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1964), pp. 159–60.

23 Maududi, Abul A'la, Birth Control: Its Social, Political, Economic, Moral and Religions Aspects (Lahore: English edition, Islamic Publications, Ltd., 1968), p. 82.

24 (Khan, Aga III) The Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time (London: Cassell and Co., 1954), p. 188.

25 Papanek, Hanna, ‘Leadership and Social Change in the Khoja Ismaili Community’, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Department of Social Relations, 1962.

26 Khan, Aga IIIPrecious Pearls, Firmans Mubarak of Mowlana Hazar Imam, compiled and translated by Alidina, Sherali and AH, Kassim (Karachi: Ismailia Association, Pakistan, 1954), p. 44.

27 Nawaz, Mumtaz Shah portrays some of these variations on the theme of purdah in a changing society, from the viewpoint of a single prominent Punjabi family in the years before the 1947 Partition, in her autobiographical novel, The Heart Divided (Mumtaz Publications,74 Lawrence Road, Lahore, 1957).

28 Mirza, Sarfaraz Hussain, Muslim Women's Role in the Pakistan Movement (Lahore: Research Society of Pakistan, University of the Punjab, 1969), pp. 67, 11, 27.

29 Mehta, Rama, The Western Educated Hindu Woman (New York: Asia Publishing House, 1970), pp. 1920.

30 Jacobson, , 1969 and 1970, p. 18.

31 Vatuk, Sylvia, personal communication; also see her ‘Reference, Address, and Fictive Kinship in Urban North India’, Ethnology, Vol. VIII, No. 3, 07 1969, pp. 255–72.

32 Hitchcock, John T. and Minturn, Leigh, ‘The Rajputs of Khalapur, India’, in Six Cultures: Studies of Child Rearing, Whiting, Beatrice B., ed. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1963), pp. 233–6.

33 Kapadia, K. M., Marriage and Family in India (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 124–34.

34 Kapadia, , p. 135;Stuers, Vreede-De, pp. 2831.

35 See, for example, Kapadia, , p. 145 and Census of India, 1911, Vol. 14, Part I, Punjab: Report, pp. 294–5.

36 Jacobson, , 1969, p. 10.

37 Orenstein, Henry, ‘Toward a Grammar of Defilement in Hindu Sacred Law’, in Structure and Change in Indian Society, Singer, Milton and Cohn, Bernard S., eds. (Chicago: Aldine Publishers, 1968), esp. pp. 122–3.

38 Yalman, Nur O., ‘On the purity of women in the castes of Ceylon and Malabar’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1963, 93: 2558.

39 Hadath, (ritual impurity), p. 115 and Wudu, (minor ritual ablution), pp. 635–6, in Gibb, H. A. R. and Kramers, J. H., Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1953).

40 Rahman, Fazlur, Islam (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1968), p. 37.

41 In the translation by Arberry, Arthur J., The Koran Interpreted (New York: Macmillan, 1955), II, pp. 4950, Sura 24: 30.

42 Rahman, , 1968, p. 35.

43 Sura, 4 (‘Women’): 129, in Arberry I, p. 119.

44 Fyzee, Asaf A. A., Outlines of Muhammadan Law (London: Oxford University Press, 1955, second edition), esp. Chapters 12–14, pp. 318403.

45 Fyzee, , p. 73.

46 Fyzee, , pp. 110–22;Stuers, Vreede–De, p. 15;McCarthy, , p. 31.

47 Mahmood, Shaukat, Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961 (Lahore: Pakistan Law Times Publications, 1962), pp. 26–7;Faridi, , pp. 17–8.

48 Mahmood, , Family Laws Ordinance, pp. 2730;Anderson, J. N. D., ‘The Role of Personal Statutes in Social Development in Islamic Countries’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 13, No. 1, 01 1971, pp. 1922.

49 Sura, 4: 35, in Arberry, I, p. 105.

50 Rahman, Fazlu, ‘Islamic Modernism: Its Scope, Method and Alternatives’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. I, No. 4, 10 1970, pp. 329–51.

51 Maududi, , p. 82, with footnote 110 included in parentheses.

52 Sura, 24: 1, in Arberry, II, p. 46.

53 Cf.Michener, James, Caravans (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), pp. 112–17 and 433.

54 Antoun, Richard T., ‘On the Modesty of Women in Arab Muslim Villages: A Study in the Accommodation of Traditions’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 70, No. 4, 08 1968, pp. 671–97;Abu–Zahra, Nadia M., ‘On the Modesty of Women in Arab Muslim Villages: A Reply’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 72, No. 5, 10 1970, pp. 1079–88;Antoun, Richard T., ‘Antoun‘s Reply to Abu–Zahra’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 72, No. 5, pp. 1088–92.

55 Dodd, Peter C., ‘Women's Honor (il 'ird) in Contemporary Arab Society’, September 1970, paper presented at seventh world congress, International Sociological Association, Varna, Bulgaria.

56 Brown, Judith K., ‘A Note on the Division of Labor by Sex’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 72, No. 5, 10 1970, p. 1074.

57 Ikramullah, Shaista, Behind the Veil (Karachi, Pakistan Publications, no date (probably early 1950's)).

58 McCarthy, , pp. 23.

59 Akhtar, Slocum and Sahi, , pp. 45–6.

60 Eglar, , p. 34.

61 Bean, Lee L., ‘Utilisation of Human Resources: The Case of Women in Pakistan’, International Labour Review, Vol. 97, No. 4, 04 1968 (International Labour Office, Geneva), pp. 391410.

62 For a more detailed discussion, see Papanek, 1971.

63 Papanek, 1973.

64 Other examples of this very special kind of division of labor are mentioned by Pauline Kolenda in a recent survey article dealing with family structure: Kolenda, Pauline‘Perspec-tives on Fertility in the Context of the Indian Family’, paper presented at conference on FamilyPlanning and Traditional Indian Values,University of Michigan,Ann Arbor,August 1970, p. 6.

65 Some work of this kind has been undertaken by Hitchcock and Minturn: Hitchcock and Minturn, 1963; Minturn, Leigh and Lambert, William W., Mothers of Six Cultures (New York: Wiley, 1964).

66 Lloyd, A.. and Fallers, Margaret C., ‘Sex Roles in Egeli’, unpublished draft paper, cited by permission.

67 Djébar, Assia, Women of Islam (London: André Deutsch, Ltd., 1961), pp. 1214.

68 Carstairs, G. Morris, The Twice–Born (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), p. 74.

69 Honigmann, , p. 156.

70 Kolenda, Pauline M., ‘Regional Differences in Indian Family Structure’, in Regions and Regionalism in South Asian Studies, Crane, Robert I., ed. (Duke University, Monograph No. 5, Comparative Studies on Southern Asia series), pp. 147226;Haddon, Lorraine and Kolenda, Pauline M., ‘Correlates of Indian Joint Family Living’, unpublished paper.

71 Pehrson, Robert N., The Social Organization of the Marri Baluch, Viking Fund Publica-tions in Anthropology No. 43 (New York: Wenner Gren Foundation, 1966), p. 70.

72 Pastner, , 1971, and personal communication.

73 Antoun, , 1968, pp. 683–5.

74 Dube, Leela, Matriliny and Islam: Religion and Society in the Laccadives (Delhi: National Publishing House, 1969), p. 24.

75 Korson, J. Henry, ‘Student Attitudes Toward Mate Selection in a Muslim Society: Pakistan’, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 31, No. 1, 02 1969, pp. 153– 65.

76 Eglar, , pp. 207–9;Stuers, Vreede-De, pp. 813;Ansari, , pp. 52–7.

77 Jacobson, , 1970, p. 205.

78 McCarthy, , p. 31;Pastner, , pp. 151–5;Eglar, , pp. 45, 186.

79 Husain, , p. 15.

80 Singer, Milton, ‘The Indian Joint Family in Modern Industry’, in Structure and Change in Indian Society, Singer, Milton and Cohn, Bernard S., eds. (Chicago: Aldine Publishing, 1968), p. 439.

81 Mirza, , p. 12;Stuers, Vreede-De, pp. 41, 53–4.

82 Tandon, Prakash, Punjabi Century 1957–1947 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 106.

83 Bertocci, Peter, personal communication.

84 Fyzee, , pp. 99100.

85 Sushila, , No, I am Not Ashamed (New Delhi: Capital Book Company, no date).

86 Cf.Haddon, and Kolenda, ; Inden, Ronald B. and Nicholas, Ralph W., ‘A Cultural Analysis of Bengali Kinship’, in Prelude to Crisis: Bengal and Bengal Studies in 1970, Bertocci, Peter, ed. (East Lansing: Michigan State University, Asian Studies Center Occasional Paper No. 18, 1972), pp. 91–7.

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