Reconstructing Shakti : Investigating narrative representations of Hindu women within the context of intimate partner violence
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The survival and constitution of Hindu religious practices in South Africa are quite unique. Having survived indenture, racial discrimination, relocation, and the prejudices of Hindu reform movements, the Amman tradition, which has its roots in South India still seems to be very popular in South Africa. The literature around these practices as performed locally has been fairly limited. Even less prevalent on the local, literary landscape, are the stories of Hindu women. This study explores two narratives of a female Amman worshipper at the intersections of gender, religion and intimate partner violence. Employing intersectional and poststructural, feminist theoretical frameworks, the study interrogates and problematises how Hindu women survivors of intimate partner violence are textually represented. In this study, I interrogate the representations of Pat’s faith and her experiences of intimate partner violence, while employing feminist poststructural discourse analysis. In deconstructing the narratives, my analysis shows that the lived experiences of Hindu survivors of intimate partner violence are intersectional. Furthermore, portraying Hindu women as either victims or goddesses tends to exoticise and essentialise them. Drawing on empirical and textual data, my analysis reveals that faith practices are fluid and reconstitutive. Thus, they are able to be performed differently. More attention needs to be paid to the complexity of women’s experiences in order to understand that patriarchy is only one of the oppressions facing women of colour in South Africa. Transformation would require us to really listen to the voices from the edges.