The Living Story and the Storying of Life
This introductory chapter provides an overview of Maithil women and storytelling. Through the imperatives of purdah, Maithil womanhood entails a significant degree of constriction of movement and speech both in and outside domestic spaces. They do, however, tell and listen to stories in the context of women- and children-only settings and have collectively promulgated a rich body of tales, which, while inevitably modified at least slightly with each telling, nonetheless display strong continuities in their themes, structures, and complexity of cosmological thinking and moral lessons. The behavioral norms of purdah have never been totalizing, yet they have been subject to new challenges as well as reassertion in the era of globalization, with its attendant and uneven expansion of mobility, mediation, education, and consumption. It is in these shifting conditions that Maithil women continue to weave their tales and navigate the terrain of their increasingly unstable lives.
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