Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Language Selection

Breadcrumb Navigation


Guest Talk Shilanjani Bhattacharyya

Rethinking Femininity, Renunciation and Spirituality: The Case of Baul Women of Bengal


We cordially invite you to join Shilanjani Bhattacharyya's presentation on 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 4-6 p.m.
Room 0.33

Institut für Ethnologie
Oettingenstraße 67

80538 München

Shilanjani Bhattacharyya (Advanced Centre forWomen’s Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

Rethinking Femininity, Renunciation and Spirituality: The Case of Baul Women of Bengal

The talk will attempt to explore lived experiences of ‘Baul’ women of the Indian state of West Bengal in the sphere of the syncretic spiritual tradition they engage with, while situating them in the philosophical character of renunciation of the ‘Baul’ spiritual path. The ‘Baul’ philosophy reflects aspirations of an egalitarian social order, while aiming towards the recognition of the divine in all human beings regardless of caste, class, gender or religion. The talk will commence with a discussion of the ‘Baul’ philosophy, while proceeding to understand the position of ‘Baul’ women in the claim of egalitarianism of the ‘Baul’ spiritual path. To this effect, voices and experiences of ‘Baul’ women, gleaned through ethnographic fieldwork, will be presented in an attempt to understand how their agency is exercised and their identities cultivated and negotiated in their daily lives vis a vis what is portrayed and upheld in the ideals of ‘Baul’ philosophy. The lives of ‘Baul’ women, as informed by personal field notes, will also be juxtaposed against the enduring hetero-normative structures of the mainstream Bengali society they are situated in, to explore the variations or similarities that emerge in their lives, by the virtue of being ‘Baul’. Additionally, an in-depth analysis of various ‘Baul’ songs, especially those written and practised by ‘Baul’ women will be presented, so as to explore the domain of what they sing in relation to how they live and create meaningful lives for themselves in the social and spiritual contexts they inhabit.