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The Sari [Hardcover]

Mukulika Banerjee , Daniel Miller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 17, 2004 1859737323 978-1859737323
Drawing on experiences from villagers in Bengal to scientists in Bangalore, this book explores the beauty, adaptability and personality of India's most iconic garment. Banerjee and Miller show why the sari has survived and indeed flourished as everyday dress when most of the world has adopted western clothing. Their book presents both an intimate portrait of the lives of women in India today and an alternative way for us all to think about our relationship to the clothes we wear. Lavishly illustrated and rich in personal testimony, The Sari expertly shows how one of the world's most simply constructed garments can reveal the intricate design of life in modern India.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Banerjee and Miller, a lecturer and a professor, respectively, in the anthropology department at University College London, examine five meters of fabric in their intricate study. Their academic background is only bothersome in the unnecessary and distracting footnotes, whose information could have easily been incorporated into the text. Otherwise, it's an enthralling celebration, exploration and analysis-through women's voices-of India's most symbolic garment. The authors quickly explain that their book isn't a primer on colors, types, draping and tying; rather, it uses interviews and research to explore the relationship between women and their saris. It covers the traditions and politics of acquisition, whether by a girl, a bride-to-be or a maid receiving a hand-me-down from her mistress; of learning to wear it; of storage and cleaning; and of sexuality. These implications combine with ever-present practical considerations: "She must try to avoid the frequent injuries that arise from getting the sari caught in doors, machines, or worst of all, the stove. But to achieve social respectability, she must learn to move, drape, sit, fold, pleat and swirl the sari in an appropriate way." One chapter takes readers through an executive woman's morning sari decision making and how she creatively makes her selection with specific visual (and political) goals in mind. The women's stories enrich throughout, successfully and unforgettably bringing the sari alive. Banerjee and Miller have provided an intimate peek into the culture of Indian women, and their research shows that although the subject is specific to a particular culture, its concerns are universal to all women. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A fascinating look at this great Indian traditional wear told through the voices of women who love and live with it on a daily basis."--G. Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham

"Intellectually compelling and theoretically sophisticated, The Sari will be of great interest to scholars in many disciplines - from anthropology to women's studies. It is also an absolutely fascinating read, which will appeal to anyone with an interest in India." --Valerie Steele, author of The Corset: A Cultural History

"With this book Mukulika Banerjee and Daniel Miller offer rare and intimate insights into the social life of the sari which becomes a metaphor and tool for understanding the biographies of Indian women. Engaging photography and first person narratives invite us to look at the garment afresh and consider the web of material and symbolic complexities concealed in its simple form." --Emma Tarlo, author of Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India

"Provides a visual feast and an easy introduction to the subject."--Fashion Theory

"An enthralling celebration, exploration and analysis - through women's voices - of India's most symbolic garment ... The women's stories enrich throughout, successfully and unforgettably bringing the sari alive. Banerjee and Miller have provided an intimate peek into the culture of Indian women, and their research shows that although the subject is specific to a particular culture, its concerns are universal to all women."--Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berg Publishers (April 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859737323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859737323
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Book February 8, 2006
I own about 450 books on India and Indian culture, so when I say this is one of my 2-3 favorite books on India (the other probably being Meeting God by Stephen Huyler), it truly says something about this book.

The Sari is beautiful to look at, and fascinating to read. It draws us into women's lives in a way that is enlightening, personal, and does not play to Western preconceptions.

A cross between social antropology and coffee-table book, this book appeals on many levels. It has a ring of truth, drawn from hundreds of interviews with Indian women about their lives and their attitude towards the clothes they wear. It sets these individual attitudes squarely in the cultural milieu in which they belong.

I hope that it gets the wide readership it deserves.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing amount of detail, beautifully illustrated July 7, 2005
I have had a deep interest in Indian and Pakistani dress for four or five years. I own and wear several saris and shalwar kamiz, but didn't know much about their history or the nuances of dress; this book changed that for me. I was looking for a well illustrated coffee table book, but got that and much more! I could barely put it down from the moment it was delivered. Although there is a lot of detail, it is written in a way that is interesting and easy to read. I highly reccomend it!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a feast for the eyes and a fount of information! September 15, 2004
Mukulika Bannerjee's book, while easily accessible to Westerners with little to no knowledge of Indian clothing customs, also goes in-depth about the many levels of nuance attached to a deceptively simple 6-yard piece of unsewn cloth. She delineates cultural sentiments about what colors and styles are appropriate for unmarried girls, the new bride, middle-aged mothers, and widows. Sections include explanations of the many fabric styles, from ethnic handloom cottons and silks to garish polyester synthetics, along with discussions on what sort of woman is likely to wear each, and for what occasion. Fascinating real-life vignettes feature all sorts of sari wearers, from Hindu to Muslim and from the poorest villager to Bollywood stars and political leaders like Indira Gandhi. The many stunning color photographs make this book a real delight to the eyes as well as a great source of information on a topic rarely covered in the West.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment December 26, 2008
By Gwaitur
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't buy this book if you are expecting it to have the full-color photos that are in the original hard bound edition!! This volume uses poor black and white renditions of the color images used in the original.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely journey February 19, 2006
I really enjoyed Mukulika Banerjee's look into the beautiful but often complicated world of the sari. It provides a great deal of information on regional customs. I was disappointed that the book did not contian more photos.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Sociological Study .... March 15, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fabulous book. I spent 6 months in India. I because very aware of the social implications of wearing a sari. This book is the most thorough analysis of this social phenomenom. It was so interesting I could barely put it down.
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