Book: Women Mystics and Sufi Shrines in India

Kelly Pemberton, Women Mystics and Sufi Shrines in India, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

Pemberton’s book draws on a number of issues like the gender issue and also subaltern studies since she locates women as a subaltern group. She seeks to understand how it is possible for them to “develop a sovereign consciousness that both imbibes and rejects elements of a dominant framework of reference”. In other words, her book questions “how women are able to exercise authority in the shrine setting despite a lack of official sanction for that authority” (p. xvii). It thus implies a different approach from that of Shemeem Abbas which focussed on “female voice” in Sufi Rituals (2002, Austin, University of Texas Press). Pemberton is able to highlight the agency permitting women to become pirs. It is interesting to see how gender studies devoted to South Asia Sufism are developing. The next step would be to devote a study to a shrine where a Sufi woman is buried, and thus venerated.

Michel Boivin


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