The home in the world: women, threshold designs and performative relations in contemporary Tamil Nadu, south India

Dohmen, Renate (2004). The home in the world: women, threshold designs and performative relations in contemporary Tamil Nadu, south India. Cultural Geographies, 11(1) pp. 7–25.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1191/1474474004eu290oa

Abstract

This article seeks to outline a performative reading of the Tamil version of the pan-Indian tradition of drawing threshold designs, an exclusively female practice seen as housework by the executing party. The argument put forward is that a reading of the practice in terms of a performative relation of ‘home’ and the ‘world’ as part of the Tamil cultural imaginary locates the ‘home’ not only in terms of a larger ‘local’ community but also within Tamil spatio-temporal perceptions constituting the ‘world’ at large. More generally, this performative perspective is situated in the context of the polycentric rearticulation in the visual field proposed by the emerging discipline of visual culture. It seeks to break from previous discussions informed by Eurocentric notions of art versus craft and understandings of the ‘primitive’ or ‘traditional’ as firmly located in the past and hence, in the present modern age, as characterized by a sense of loss.

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