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The Sari


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Also available in hardback, 9781859737323 GBP49.99 (October, 2003)

About the Author

Mukulika Banerjee is Reader in Social Anthropology, University College London and author of The Parthan Unarmed. Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology, University College London. Recent books include A Theory of Shopping, The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach (with Don Slater) and Ed. Car Cultures.


This is an intimate visit to India using a garment as a vehicle to transport the reader. Rather than producing a catalog of specimens or a historical chronology, the authors have created a biography of the sari. In this charming and personable book, Banerjee (Pathan Unarmed) and Miller (the author and editor of several books on culture), who both teach anthropology at University College, London, look at the development of the sari and its styles, designs, and history. But the focus is on the personal impact of the sari on everyday women in India, illustrated through interviews and individual stories. The agony of how to pick a sari as a gift for your mother, the dressing dilemmas of a young lady new to the garment, saris in the workplace, and other anecdotal issues personalize the discussion of this simple garment. While this book is uniquely appealing, its use of specialized terminology can be distancing. Still, as a fascinating look at a garment consisting of six yards of fabric, this celebration of the sari is recommended for most libraries.-Karen Ellis, Nicholson Memorial Lib. Syst., Garland, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'A fascinating look at this great Indian traditional wear told through the voices of women who love and live with it on a daily basis' G. Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham 'Intellectually compelling and theoretically sophisticated, The Sari will be of great interest to scholars in many disciplines - from anthropology to women's studies. It is also an absolutely fascinating read, which will appeal to anyone with an interest in India.' Valerie Steele, author of The Corset: A Cultural History 'A fascinating and original insight into one of the most enigmatic garments in the world' South Asian Studies Journal 'This book offers rare and intimate insights into the social life of the sari which becomes a metaphor and tool for understanding the biographies of Indian women.' Emma Tarlo, author of Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India 'Provides a visual feast and an easy introduction to the subject.' Fashion Theory 'The strength and charm of this book is the ease with which it distils in an extremely readable, vivacious, and often witty manner the ethnographic perspectives set within a broader context of social, political, and religious changes.' Nira Wickramasinghe, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (Vol. 12, No. 3, Sept. 2006) "This amazing book shows a fascinating aspect of the lives of so many women of and from the subcontinent. It's a worthwhile and compelling read and encourages one to consider the wearer rather than the worn."

Banerjee and Miller, a lecturer and a professor, respectively, in the anthropology department at University College London, examine five meters of fabric in their intricate study. Their academic background is only bothersome in the unnecessary and distracting footnotes, whose information could have easily been incorporated into the text. Otherwise, it's an enthralling celebration, exploration and analysis-through women's voices-of India's most symbolic garment. The authors quickly explain that their book isn't a primer on colors, types, draping and tying; rather, it uses interviews and research to explore the relationship between women and their saris. It covers the traditions and politics of acquisition, whether by a girl, a bride-to-be or a maid receiving a hand-me-down from her mistress; of learning to wear it; of storage and cleaning; and of sexuality. These implications combine with ever-present practical considerations: "She must try to avoid the frequent injuries that arise from getting the sari caught in doors, machines, or worst of all, the stove. But to achieve social respectability, she must learn to move, drape, sit, fold, pleat and swirl the sari in an appropriate way." One chapter takes readers through an executive woman's morning sari decision making and how she creatively makes her selection with specific visual (and political) goals in mind. The women's stories enrich throughout, successfully and unforgettably bringing the sari alive. Banerjee and Miller have provided an intimate peek into the culture of Indian women, and their research shows that although the subject is specific to a particular culture, its concerns are universal to all women. Photos. (Oct. 27) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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