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Book Review: Masculinity and Its Challenges in India: Essays on Challenging Perceptions

Masculinity and Its Challenges in India: Essays on Changing Perceptions

Edited by Rohit K Dasgupta and K Moti Gokulsing; Foreword by Ruth Vanita

Jefferson, NC: Mcfarland.

2014, 252pp. $45

 Review by Lipi Begum, University of the Arts London, UK

This is book provides an up-to-date insight on how multiple male identities are made in modern Indian cultures. The interdisciplinary nature of the essays close the gap in our understanding of masculinities affected by various layers of social, political, economic and technological shifts operating within a rapidly changing, complex and fragmented cultural context. The book challenges everything one knew about masculinity in India. It delves into authentic narratives and unseen discussions of masculinity, confronting our understanding of issues such as patriarchy and colonialism on the effects of men’s emotional desires and their roles as bearers of tradition –issues usually confined to debates on female sexuality in India.

A great selection of essays and writer sincluding, Sanjay Srivasta’s great opening essay on modern culture of masculinity in India, where Srivasta demonstrates how multiple and complex male identities have been shaped and constructed by the Britishness of the colonial sphere to the rise and demise of the urban twentieth century Five Year Plan (FYP) Hero. Srivasta’s essay challenges our understanding of the singular masculine Indian identity of the stereotypical colonial ‘effeminate Bengali’ (Sinha 1997), with the rarely discussed militant and masculine identity of the ‘martial races’ (Omissi 1991). Srivasta makes important arguments related to masculinity and modernity, from the representation of provincial masculinities within the metropolitan milieu of 1950s and 1960s Hindi films to the embodiment of Nehruvian and technological identities intertwined within the ethnography of the modern city.

The book challenges the homogenous nature of masculine identities in India through several essays. In Pranta Pratik’s essay he reveals the reality of how fat is more than just a female issue. Pratik provides insight into the ways in which fat is a complicated issue, intersecting with the ways in which the online queer communities discriminate along the lines of class, caste, education, sexual position, region and religion. A point which leads nicely onto Mangesh Kulkarni’s essay, which outlines an agenda for ‘Critical Masculinity Studies’ for future teaching and research to better understand homogenous and indigenous male identities, and Roshan das Nairs’s essay, which takes on the intersectionality debate full on, arguing if singularity is the problem then could intersectionality be the solution…Access Full Text of the Review

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