Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Social norms are reinforced and challenged not only through formal mechanisms such as laws and external interventions such as global media and related communication technologies, but also to a large extent via the circulation of more localized stories with strong cultural resonance. Mithila is a Nepal-India border region rich in stories situated in a centuries-old storytelling tradition; in particular, women in Maithil society have a long-standing practice of circulating stories orally and through the medium of painting, the latter of which practices has now become commercialized on an international scale. Gender norms in Mithila, as elsewhere in India, have been changing rapidly, though unevenly, in just the past few years. In this presentation, I describe a participatory film project, in in which members of a Maithil community explore the ways that stories are harnessed for the reinforcement of existing gender norms and also for challenging those norms and creating new visions for womanhood (and manhood) in Maithil society.