Accepted paper:

Ambivalent attitudes towards childbirth and hijras of Gujarat, India

Authors:

Akiko Kunihiro (Waseda University)

Paper short abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to examine the meaning of ritual pollution at the time of childbirth through describing ambivalent attitudes towards newborn babies and hijras.

Paper long abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to examine the meaning of ritual pollution at the time of childbirth through describing ambivalent attitudes towards newborn babies and hijras. Hijras are those who have been represented as the 'third gender' of non-Western society in the field of gender studies; however, no such consistent social niche exists in India. Hijras are often neglected or regarded as deviants according to societal norms. They renounced traditional familial and societal bonds. Not only that, but most hijras, who were born physiologically male, present as female through various methods, including transvestism and castration. Their altered appearance does not grant them the same status as biological women; instead, they straddle gender boundaries, they are neither men nor women. Although they are marginal people, hijras are traditionally invited to assist in important transitional life events such as childbirth. This liminal phase of childbirth is believed to ritually pollute and endanger women and children and families, and hijras are to dispel pollution and bestow blessings. In this paper, I will describe chaotic liminal scenarios where strangers collide, and ambivalent attitudes towards newborn babies and hijras.

panel P080
Cross-cultural perspectives on pregnancy and childbirth: encounters with unknowns at the natal/postnatal juncture