Challenging the Devadasi System from a Framework of Intersectionality



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The practice of marrying girls to deities or priests existed historically in many cultures across South Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. In India alone, this system is known by different names like Devadasi, Mathamma, Jogini, Basavis. Through this study, I represent the unheard voices of Devadasi women from South India and use HRD concepts and principles to synthesize the findings.

The field of HRD is not confined to the boundaries of an organization and can play a critical role in community development. This is the first step towards empowering the members of this system and it is hoped that the findings from this study will help inform the organizational practices of NGO?s working with this populace. This study includes a unique set of participants whose experiences have not been captured and examined using intersectionality and Bourdieu, thus contributing to literature.

Data was collected through interviews with Devadasi women from South India, specifically Nizamabad, Mahabubnagar, and Tirupati. Five themes emerged from the data ? dichotomy, identity, status, fear and locus of control. The theme ?status? refers to the participant?s intersecting identities as women and as people from lower castes. The themes ?identity? and ?dichotomy? indicate cultural and economic capital respectively. It is the intersections of these forms of capital that create intersections in statuses, which collectively result in symbolic violence. This is evident from the last two themes, fear and locus of control, which were identified from the data.