Becoming "Vulgar": Caste Domination and Normative Sexuality in Modern India


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2022-2023


“Becoming ‘Vulgar’” offers a multisite and microhistorical analysis of how Indians of various castes and classes paid intensive attention to managing social danger and moral disorder to make “decent” communities. In particular, they sought to discipline supposedly vulgar Dalit (“Untouchable”) women’s immoderate and overabundant sexuality through divergent methods of sexual violence and social and political control. Based on ethnographic and archival research and utilizing hitherto unexamined oral, legal, musical, and performative evidence, alongside vernacular textual sources, this research exposes how vulgarity became a political project for advancing the hegemonic interests and identity of elite Indians in twentieth-century Western India.