Search publications, data, projects and authors
His Enemies, Her Rivals: Gendered Expressions of Hostility in Ancient Indian Ritual Speech and Action, 1000 B.C.E.


This project will chart new territory in the study of the ancient Indian ritual texts of the Atharva-Veda (AV), the so-called “magic” Veda (c. 1000 B.C.E.). Because of its unorthodox elements, the AV has historically been overshadowed in India by the other three Vedas of the “high religion,” regarded as authoritative by later orthodox Hindu currents. The AV has been similarly neglected in research, despite the wealth of data it offers on marginal social strata through the oblique lens of its liturgical hymns. This project proposes to mobilize this data through a pioneering study focusing on the indigenous category of “hostile ritual.” It has not been noticed that while “hostile ritual” hymns calling for the death of an enemy exist from the point of view of both male and female agents, the chronologically later ritual manual devotes the “hostile ritual” chapter exclusively to male-oriented hymns, and makes hymns expressing women’s hostility a minor topic in the “women’s ritual” chapter. Do the hymns prefigure or contradict this later categorical separation by gender? To answer this, the hymns will be analyzed to detect any gendered sociolinguistic registers, a first for linguistic work on the AV, and the results of this analysis compared with details on ritual pragmatics from the manual. Since the AV’s core texts are still not fully edited and/or translated, this entails the critical edition from manuscripts of new hymns plus the first-ever translation into English of the hymns and of the relevant parts of the manual. The result, a case study for the dynamics of gender structuring through the prism of language and ritual evolution, will be a model for the meaningful integration of gender in text-based research. In terms of career development, this project will allow the researcher to broaden her expertise in historical linguistics, develop teaching experience, and expand the interdisciplinary potential of her work beyond South Asian studies.

Report a bug

Your Feedback

Please give us your feedback and help us make GoTriple better.
Fill in our satisfaction questionnaire and tell us what you like about GoTriple!