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In the riverside neighborhood (mohalla) of Assi, in the south of Banaras, families of the following professions are to be found: the preparation and retail of foods such as: milk, sweets, tea, paan, peanuts and snacks; clerical work in offices or shops; private professional work, such as priesthood, teaching, boating, cleaning toilets; and crafts, such as masonry, weaving, making and maintaining jacquard machines, carpentry, and goldsmithy. All this work is done by men in the public sphere. In Banaras, the observable and articulated sphere of activity called "work" (kam) largely exists for men only. Men are the workers in that they are supposedly the breadwinners. The terms for the traders and shopkeepers, artisans, and craftsmen, laborers, priests, and other professionals, are all names for men. Women are not reported to be workers. Communities of artisans, particularly, state outright, "Our women do not work."


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Posted with permission from Stree-Samya Books.

“The (No) Work and (No) Leisure World of Women in Assi, Banaras” in Lina Fruzzetti and Sirpa Tenhunen, eds.Culture, Power and Agency: Gender in Indian Ethnography. Calcutta: Stree-Samya Publishers, 2006.

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© 2006 Stree-Samya

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