ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Misogyny and Bar Ban

Bans and Bar Girls: Performing Caste in Mumbai’s Dance Bars by Sameena Dalwai, published by Women Unlimited (an associate of Kali for Women), New Delhi, 2019; pp 242, `595 (hardcover).

Bans and Bar Girls: Performing Caste in Mumbai’s Dance Bars is a poignant, and powerful book accessible to a wide variety of readership. The book opens with a clear statement of the research project as a socio-legal study of the cultural and legal ban on dancing by women in bars, in Mumbai. It does not situate itself as “ethnography of bar girls” but rather weaves in ethnographic vig­nettes of the lives of the dancers, clients, union leaders, and activists to illuminate the meanings and significance of the ban. The cultural ban and the legal ban—as lived experience—are the objects of feminist enquiry in this important book.

The book is divided into six chapters and an introduction. The introductory chapter tells us the story of the legal ban through legislative changes and court cases, as produced by moral panic. The dance bars in Mumbai were set up in the 1980s in the post-prohibition period. This was the time when the Maharashtra government promoted the sale of liquor and issued licences under its Rules for Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement and Performances Act of 1960 (p 2). In two decades, these dance bars found success and sensation: the dancers had innovated new forms of dance moves following the trends in Bollywood. The bars had entry fees, the dancers got hefty tips and the number of women working in these bars rose to 75,000 in 2015. The “barline” was stronger with the unionisation of the dancers, especially the emergence of the Bharatiya Bar Girls Union in 2004.

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Updated On : 19th Dec, 2021
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