Mary Hancock's Recent Publications

Womanhood in the Making: Domestic Ritual and Public Culture in Urban South India
(Westview, 1999)

Reviewers’ comments:
“An important addition to the literature of South Asian anthropology” –Choice

“A rich, artfully constructed study of women, ritual and the interpenetration of domestic and public space” – Journal of Asian Studies

You can purchase my book at


The gendered invention of tradition is considered further in several other articles

“Home Science and the Nationalization of Domesticity in Colonial India,” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 35 (Part 4): 871-904 (2001).


Hancock, M. 1999. “Gendering the Modern: Women and Home Science in British India,” In Gender, Sexuality, and Colonial Modernities, edited by Antoinette Burton. London: Routledge (1999)

“Unmaking the ‘Great Tradition’: Ethnography, National Culture, and Area Studies,” Identities, 4(3-4):343-388 (1998)


Several of my recent articles explore the politics of heritage in India’s globalizing urban centers, focusing particularly on the relations between popular historical consciousness and changing notions of citizenship and postcoloniality:

“Subjects of Heritage in Urban Southern India” Environment and Planning, D: Space and Society, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 693-718 (2002)

This article analyzes a privately-funded museum/cultural center that, as an interactive, “living” museum, exemplifies global trends in public historical representation. This project, Dakshina Chitra (“Vision of the South”), fuses craft center with architectural reconstruction, and is the work of upper-caste, globally connected elites; it represents southern Indian culture and history in ways that that are tied to consumerism and to elite perceptions of regional and national heritage. This effort, strategically placed alongside other “new economy” ventures in the city’s southern suburbs, departs from and poses a critique of the state-sponsored memoryscapes of the urban core. With this case I consider the ways that themed urban environments serve not only as indices of the changing political economy, but also as markers of changes in the cultural mediation of political subjectivity.


“Modernities Remade: Hindu Temples and Their Publics in Southern India” City and Society, Vol. 14: 1-35 (2002).

This article deals with a project undertaken by local heritage conservationists in Chennai, under their program “Places for People,” which has as its goal the rehabilitation/reclamation of historically significant sites that have either fallen into disuse or are threatened by urban development. The project focuses on a Hindu temple that remains functional but whose infrastructure has been adversely impacted by surrounding development. The bigger issue that this opens up to concerns the contending visions of self and community that are imagined, enacted, and critiqued in the social space of religious institutions. While some temples have served as stages for nationalist claims, others are visible in consumer and tourist discourses as nostalgia-infused emblems of Indic “traditions.” Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, I focus on the competing visions of modernity and publicity that are engendered in the contentious relations among temple constituencies in the context of recent debates on “heritage,” attending to the vernacular and somatic engagements with personal and collective pasts that religious practice involves


“Festivity and Popular Memory in South India,” South Asia Research, Vol. 21 (1): 1-21 (2001)


Return to Mary Hancock's Home Page