This article focuses on girls and women perceived as deviant, difficult, or different by their communities in rural Punjab, even as it pluralizes and historicizes performances of rebellious, unruly selves. Specifically, the paper uses fieldwork interactions with girls who enjoyed wanderings in out-of-bound spaces, women who claimed a position of authority as headmistresses in village schools, and women who troubled the social imaginary through their acts of intimidation and involvement in local politics in order to examine defiance of gendered norms within the context of material, structural, and discursive realities framing individual lives. The analysis illustrates how regional differences among various parts of Punjab, and hierarchies based on class, kinship, and religion within regions, demarcated the contours, scope, and consequences of women’s deviance and unruliness. While the research participants’ agency remained constrained by the violence in and around their lives as well as, in certain cases, their own complicity with hierarchical relations and masculinist discourses, the accounts and performances of deviance highlight the heterogeneity of rural Punjabi women’s experiences, debunking the myth of passive Muslim women, and asserting the imperative for nuanced, in-depth understandings of women’s negotiations of power relations.

Author Biography

Lubna Nazir Chaudhry teaches Human Development, Women’s Studies, and Asian & Diaspora Studies at State University of New York, Binghamton. She is also affiliated with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, as a Visiting Fellow. She is the co-editor of a volume entitled Contesting nation: Gendered violence in South Asia scheduled for publication in 2009 by Zubaan Press, New Delhi. Her current work centers around the impact of different forms of violence, direct as well as structural, on women and children in Pakistan and Muslim women in the United States. Recent publications include articles in Muslim World, Cultural Dynamics, and Feminism & Psychology.