Dangerous Wives and Sacred Sisters
This comprehensive study explores the social construction of gender among highcaste (Brahman-Chetri) Hindus in rural Nepal. The unit of study is the family as it operates within kinship networks. Through a detailed examination of the social, mythic and ritual structures which shape the interaction between men and women, the study reveals the symbolic roots of women's power - and the complex social institutions, norms and beliefs which seek to contain that power and direct it to the perpetuation of the patrilineal group. The study shows how individual women live and strategize within the ambiguities of their position in the gender system. While the most “visible" aspects of this system focus on women's ritual impurity, assign them subordinate status and make even their basic livelihood security contingent on their relationship to a male, other strong currents also acknowledge women's purity and their power.