Le héron et les contre-modèles

9 novembre 2017

Gloria Goodwin Raheja and Ann Grodzins Gold, Listen to the Heron's Words: Reimagining Gender and Kinship in North India, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

On peut lire cet ouvrage en ligne sur le site de UC Press eBooks:

Raheja et Gold participèrent au tournant réflexif dans les travaux féministes sur la parenté, dont le modèle est Margaret Trawick dans Notes on Love in a Tamil Family publié en 1990. Elles aussi formées à Chicago, elles subirent l'influence de A.K. Ramanujan qu'elles évoquent ainsi:

(Heron's Words, 24) Before his death, Ramanujan began to explore the reflexive worlds and the "counter-systems" [les contre-modèles] he found in women's tales from South India (1991a). We find his observations to be a useful starting point for our own investigations of women's expressive traditions in North India.

La date entre parenthèses fait référence à une conférence publiée quelques années plus tard:

Attipat K. Ramanujan, A Flowering Tree: A Woman's Tale, Oral Tradition, 12/1 (1997): 226-243; reprinted in The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1999, Chapter 24, pp.412–428. Bibliothèque Ganapati. Republié aussi dans A.K. Ramanujan, A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997. On peut lire cet ouvrage en ligne sur le site de UC Press eBooks:

Ramanujan esquisse une analyse des contre-modèles féminins aux perspectives masculines dominantes:

In this short paper I shall present a story about a woman, told by women in the Kannada-speaking areas of south India, hoping that you will hear even through my translation the voice of the woman-teller. In such tales not only is the pattern of the tale different (and not easily accommodated by Propp's schemes, which work well for male-centered tales), but the same symbols that occur elsewhere may take on different meanings. For instance, a snake in a male-centered tale is usually something to be killed, a rival phallus, if you will. In women-centered tales, that is, where women are the protagonists and also usually the tellers, snakes are lovers, husbands, uncles, donors, and helpers (…). Thus the meaning of the elements, the interpretation of the symbolism, depends on what kind of tale it is: a snake in an animal tale, a male-centered tale, and a women-centered tale is not the same animal. Far from being universal, symbols do not even mean the same thing as one moves from genre to genre. So the gender of the genre, if one may speak of such (and surely the gender of the teller, the listener, and the interpreter), becomes important in interpretation. A woman's culturally constructed lifeforms, her meaning-universe, is different from a man's in such tales.

Voilà ce que Raheja et Gold, après Ramanujan lui-même, appellent des counter-systems, des perspectives féminines allant à contre-courant des perspectives masculines. Ici le serpent est un rival à écraser, là le serpent est un amant et un ami. Il en est de même du héron, ce prédateur hypocrite dans l'idéologie masculine, dont les femmes au contraire écoutent avec sympathie les paroles. Raheja et Gold, adoptant ce contre-modèle, placent leur ouvrage sous l'égide du héron, ce narrateur amical qui raconte des histoires d'adultères et soutient la résistance des femmes à la domination masculine.

(Preface, xi) The heron is a bird of ambiguous moral significance in North Indian traditions. Graceful and white, circling herons guide the lost and thirsty to refreshing pools in popular stories and epics. But in hymns or bhajans, largely a male performance genre, in Sanskrit texts like the Laws of Manu and the Panchatantra, and in a number of Hindi proverbs, herons symbolize predatory hypocrisy. Appearing pure when really deceitful and corrupt, they seem to meditate as they stand perfectly still gazing into the water of a pond, when in fact they are looking for fish to eat. In women's songs, however, a heron's speech suggests a different moral configuration. Herons act as narrators, inviting listeners to consider tales of illicit encounters, resistance to dominating power, or both. Such accounts are resonant with genuine but commonly suppressed truths. One insult song begins: "On a banyan sat a heron, listen to the heron's words." The heron boldly tells of an adulterous liaison that results in a desired birth. A devotional song addressed to the lusty male deity, Bhairuji, opens: "A heron spoke on the water's edge." The song goes on to describe Bhairuji's attempt to enter a low-caste wine-seller woman's house in the night, the excuses she makes to keep her door shut, and the curses he showers upon her for this resistance.

The heron is not a female image; rather herons in women's songs are grammatically male. But in contrast to the massive body of male lore, where these birds signify a dichotomous split between purity and corruption or surface and core, in women's texts a heron's framing speech points to a potent shift in moral register. In inviting our readers to listen to the heron's words, we undertake to convey that shift and suggest that its spoken truths, if sometimes devalued in male-dominated expressive traditions,/xii/ are compelling and consequential for the women we know in rural North India. The heron tells us of alternative moral perspectives on kinship, gender, and sexuality, ones that are shaped by women but are sometimes shared by men. This book describes such perspectives found in North Indian women's expressive traditions and begins to examine their consequences for the lives of these women in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Une formule clé dans le paragraphe précédent: these birds signify a dichotomous split between purity and corruption, annonce la controverse développée dans cet ouvrage contre des psychanalystes, des orientalistes et quelques anthropologues qui ont popularisé la thèse d'une image clivée (split image) de la femme en Inde, alternativement maternelle (pure) et séductrice (corrompue).