Queering women: disembedding the maternal script from woman and earth.
Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
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The paper is positioned inside the theistic tradition of Hinduism and approaches ‘body’ in the form of the Earth body and Woman body as masculine constructions in the sense that control is exercised over both these ‘bodies’. The paper queries these religiously connoted constructions, within Hinduism, and argues that they panoptically essentialise and mark women as child producing mothers, and are blind to the maternal objectification that strips other aspects of corporeality off the female body. Women are religiously ‘disciplined’ into having to biologically and socially fulfil a religiously authorized maternal role. There is thus a religiously sanctioned performance of discursive ‘othering’ or alterity that comes to be normatized. I argue that this conveniently confiscates much of the nurturing and mentoring responsibility away from the man, onto the woman in the same way as deifying the earth appears to work to remove ecological responsibility from us, with the claim that the ritually pure Earth Mother cannot be defiled. The paper attempts a queering of Hinduism and women by applying the deconstructive lens of queer theory in challenging both the feministic and eco-feministic assertions in Hinduism, and the congealed normatives around women and earth. The paper maintains that these normatives come to be naturalized through tradition. The genealogy of tradition creates and normalizes the ‘realities’ through textual history, which is in turn sustained by the genealogy of ritual praxis. The paper begins by pointing out that the claim of eco-feminism and environmental consciousness, within Hinduism, is routinely confused and conceptually entangled with the notion of bio-divinity. In the final analysis the paper queries the possibility of transforming feminisms in the context of the Hindu religious tradition, by ‘queering’ and re-signifying both woman and earth.