I have spent many a solitary hour bent over notebooks and computers, but
I have done none of this writing, or the research leading to it, alone.
Forms of institutional and material support for this project were gen-
erously granted by the Magistretti Fellowship at the Center for the Study
of Sexual Culture, the Human Rights Center, and the Department of An-
thropology at the University of California (uc), Berkeley; the American
Institute for Indian Studies; and the National Institutes of Health, Alco-
hol Research Group (niaaa predoctoral fellowship grant t32 aa007240);
the Andrew Mellon Foundation; the Department of Gender & Women’s
Studies at the University of Kentucky; the Women’s Studies in Religion Pro-
gram at Harvard Divinity School; and the Department of Anthropology,
Program in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, and the Society for the
Humanities at Cornell University.
Kathryn Poethig introduced me to the reform of the brides of Yellamma
by the brides of Christ (Poethig 1992), thereby planting the seed for the
project that became my dissertation and resulted in this book. This was
but the beginning of the many years of lively intellectual engagement and
generous emotional and practical support from teachers, colleagues, and
friends in India and the United States that made it possible for me to bring
this project to fruition.
My greatest debt is to the women who permitted me to follow them
around and met my intrusive and stubborn questions with patience and
humor. I owe the deepest pleasures of my fieldwork to them. Listening
to their stories, laughing with them, and sharing food in their homes or
mine brought me much joy. In particular I am grateful to the woman I call
Yamuna, who drew me into her network of kin and appointed her sons to
look after my household. They have continued to generously nourish and
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