chapter  4
16 Pages

Alienation, Intimacy, and Gender: Problems for a History of Love in South Asia

Notwithstanding the debate around the presence and meanings of "homosexuality" in ancient Roman and Greek societies, there is one theme on which most of those who disagree can concur-the stratified nature of such societies, containing slaves, helots, and citizens. I This historical bedrock makes it possible to conduct the kind of debate that has emerged within that particular field of historical studies. For precolonial India, a histoty that puts slavery not at the margins of society but at its center is still to be written. The ubiquity of slaves, beginning their lives as social and natal isolates, through many epochs in the recorded Indian past, warrants such a study. Slavery in precolonial India would need to be carefully separated from the institution identified with eighteenth-and nineteenth-century plantation economies so that it would not be confiated with issues of fliolma but with a dialectic of a l i n t a ~ i o 1 1 and i11tinracy originating in peaceful sales and commerce characteristic of the South Asian evidence. Reading sexual relations in the Indian past through the lens of slavety adds important dimensions to our understanding of it.