The art of adultery. An analysis of Samala's collection of stories 'Sudabahomteri' and its cultural setting

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (ongoing)



This PhD research project consists of two parts: (a) an examination of Samala's collection of stories 'Sudabahomteri' in its cultural setting and (b) an English translation of this collection of stories from Gujarati. Samala's Sudabahomteri contains a collection of stories about human relationships in general and what could be called 'the art of adultery' more specifically. They are told in the framework of a larger story, where a parrot explicitly instructs a young wife in this art of having extramarital relationships. Several of these stories illustrate the many ways in which adulterous wives (and some husbands) can cunningly escape from difficult situations. Others recount how people cope with emotions like jealousy or envy.

This collection of stories does not fit in the general western depiction of Indian culture as an embodiment of patriarchy and the oppression of women. The women in these stories are strong, independent, and outsmart their husbands or male relatives in a variety of situations. Generally, the stories appear to be part of a dimension of traditional Indian culture, whiched aimed to solve such difficulties of human existence and relationships in a humane way. 

The project will raise some questions: Are these stories really meant as instructions in the art of adultery and having relationships? Do they simply recount individual cases in order to entertain the listener? Or are they oblique moral judgements about women that violate the norms of social life? It will formulate a hypothesis about the nature and role of these stories and locate this within the larger context of Indian cultural traditions.