Purity and Communal Boundaries: Women and Social Change in a Bangladesh Village

Santi Rozario



Purity and Communal Boundaries explores the rich complexities of a central Bangladeshi village, populated by Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

Through a carefully constructed theoretical framework Santi Rozario demonstrates the ways in which class and communal domination reinforce gender inequality. The position of women is analysed in terms of linkages between religious values, sexuality, economics and politics. Rozario also examines the divergence between the demands of the economy and the system of values in Bengali society.

The author draws on concepts of sexual purity, shame, honour and parda (seclusion) to make new and stimulating observations about the connections between socioeconomic change, intercommunal tensions and specific aspects of women's contemporary experience such as increased physical mobility, and the shift from dowry to bride price.

As a Bangladeshi woman, Santi Rozario is in a unique position to explore this subject. She has overcome the constraints on mobility that would normally bar local women from conducting the kind of extensive anthropological fieldwork represented here. The result is an unusual achievement—the scholarly perspective of a Bangladeshi woman on her own society.

“an important contribution to the anthropology and sociology of Asia, development and women's studies” (ANZJS review)

“This wonderfully contextualized, empirically grounded ethnographic work adds much to our understanding of the interrelated mechanisms of class, gender, and communal domination” (AJS review)


Chapter 1. Introduction: Background to the study

Chapter 2. Political and religious-cultural background

Chapter 3. The village of Doria and its surroundings

Chapter 4. Doria's social structure

Chapter 5. Muslim and Christian social organisation

Chapter 6. Parda and female sexuality

Chapter 7. Women and development

Chapter 8. From pon to dabi

Chapter 9. Women as boundary markers

Chapter 10. Unmarriageability and marginality

Chapter 11. Conclusion

Publication Details

Purity and Communal Boundaries was first published jointly in 1992 by Allen and Unwin, Sydney and Zed Books, London. It was republished in 2001 by The University Press Limited (UPL), Dhaka, Bangladesh, in a second edition with a new Introduction

Purchasing Information

Some hardback copies of the Zed Books edition may still be available from Zed Books, 7 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF or by e-mail at this address.

The University Press Limited may be contacted at Red Crescent Building, 114 Motijheel Commercial Area, G.P.O. Box 2611, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh, or by e-mail at this address.


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GBS updated 03/03/2002