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Wedding Songs, Gender and Sensorial Memory in an Indian Jewish Community


Event Summary

Of all the songs that Bene Israel people of western India sing, wedding songs are perhaps the most drenched in emotion and memory. This talk by Anna Christine Schultz (University of Chicago) was about the sense-filled narratives that are activated when women sing Marathi wedding songs or remember their husbands singing Hebrew wedding songs. While men are tasked with singing during the main synagogue ceremony, until recently women also sang songs collectively in the days leading up to the main wedding ceremony. These songs were attached to smaller ceremonies—the turmeric ceremony, henna ceremony, and varaat procession—and helped prepare both the bride and her family for the changes that would bring her to another family’s home. Today, live singing is often replaced by recorded music, or the ceremonies are dispensed with altogether. Despite these changes in medium and context, older women continue to sing wedding songs as a way to reminisce about the most vivid moments of their lives. Listen as women narrate these memories of family and place in ways that affirm their Bene Israel identity while suggesting histories of engagement with mass media, other Indians, and other Jews.

This talk was sponsored by the Interwoven research project at the Neubauer Collegium.