Commenced in January 2007
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Edition: International
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Gulf-Wives in ‘Home Cinemas’: Gender and Sexuality in Northern Kerala

Authors: Nusarath Jahan P.


Sexual vulnerability and accessibility of the gulf-wives (wives of gulf migrants) have been one of the anchoring themes of the 1990 ‘home cinemas’ in Northern Kerala. The home cinema phenomenon had an immense role in constructing the aesthetic framework of Kerala’s media culture specifically and perpetuating the gendered culture in general. The gender dynamics, performances, perceptions and experiences in Kerala’s public sphere even today are impacted by the indecent portrayal of the gulf-wives in these cinemas as sexually vulnerable and fungible beings without subjectivity and autonomy. The paper attempts to elucidate the complex psycho-social landscape of the gulf-wives and show how they have been adversely affected by their portrayals in the cinemas, both in terms of how the world perceives them and how they perceive the world. Drawing larger inspiration from Butler’s performative theory of gender and based on the qualitative content analysis and field-work narratives of the gulf wives, the paper will affirm that the category ‘gulf-wives’ was performatively constructed and is still perpetuated by the gendered culture and media in the Malabar region of Kerala.

Keywords: gendered culture, gulf-wives, home cinema, Kerala

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