Stirr’s ethnography of Nepali dohori performance manages to take something quite ordinary–a rural Nepali singing tradition–and do something extraordinary with it: tell a highly readable story about gender, nationhood, political agency, honor, caste, identity, and rural-urban transitions. Dohori, in Stirr’s telling, emerges as an anti-structural challenge to patriarchal marriage norms and caste endogamy. Stirr beautifully links quotidian concerns of love, sex, and marriage–particularly in the lives of non-elite Nepali women–to broad social forms around rural-urban migration, violence, and intimacy in Nepal, following the links formed among these subjects in dohori performance and its contexts.
From engaging the pleasure of shared music and the play of words to revealing the daring love that crosses many divides, Stirr stands both inside and outside the world she studies, fully engaging the dialogical nature of dohori in the very academic enterprise of the ethnomusicologist. Innovative in approach, bold in presentation, and lyrically delightful in composition, Singing Across Divides is a fitting recipient of the 2019 Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize.
Association for Asian Studies