Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India

The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness

In this engaging and eloquent history, Ruby Lal traces the becoming of nineteenth-century Indian women through a critique of narratives of linear transition from girlhood to womanhood. In the north Indian patriarchal environment, women’s lives were dominated by the expectations of the male universal, articulated most clearly in household chores and domestic duties. The author argues that girls and women in the early nineteenth century experienced freedoms, eroticism, adventurousness and playfulness, even within restrictive circumstances. Although women in the colonial world of the later nineteenth century continued to be agential figures, their activities came to be constrained by more firmly entrenched domestic norms. Lal skillfully marks the subtle and complex alterations in the multifaceted female subject in a variety of nineteenth-century discourses, which are elaborated in four different sites – forest, school, household, and rooftop.

Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World

Price varies
ISBN 978-1107521346
248 pages (paperback)
Cambridge University Press

“Like the fabulous Azra who serves as a guide and accomplice in this journey across nineteenth-century India, Lal’s book opens a door…”
– Lynne Huffer, Emory University

Praise for Coming of Age

Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India insists on the vital necessity of pleasure, creativity and play in lives constricted by patriarchal norms. This is feminist scholarship at its best. Erudite and expansive, rigorous and experimental, this book is much like the mischievous girl-child/woman it traces, escaping confinement to dance across rooftops and forbidden terraces.
Lynne Huffer, Emory University
Ruby Lal’s fine monograph, Coming of Age in Nineteenth-Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness radically shifts the terms of … inherited debates around the “woman-question. Lal urges us to retool our understanding of the place of the girl-child/woman…Learned, experimental, and engagingly ambitious, Lal’s book is a must-read…
Anjali Arondekar, Cambridge, January 2015