Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Carlos A. Lopez

Committee Member

Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pratyusha Basu, Ph.D.


Gender, Judith Butler, Mantra, Performativity, Sex


This thesis argues that the inscription of bodies is necessary in order to constitute the cosmos, gender and sex. A study of the Vedic cosmogonic mythologies of the deities Purusha and Prajapati illustrates the ways in which sacrifice, as a form of inscription, constitutes the cosmos by ordering and fashioning the boundaries of the bodies of the deities through differentiation and unification. An analysis of samskaras, or consecratory rites of The Law Code of Manu, show that they operate as regulatory norms in order to constitute sex and gender. But the instability and unnaturalness of the categories of gender and sex are exposed when an analysis of the samskara rituals of the bride and student show that performative acts and speech involved in their respective rites are nearly identical.

This discussion of bodies, gender and sex is founded on Judith Butler's work to show how bodies, sex, and gender are also social and cultural constructs. In particular, Butler's work with performativity reveals the ways in which performative action and speech acts constitute people through their stylized and strained repetition. It is this repetition that proves to be deceiving as it creates the illusion that sex and gender are inherent to bodies. We discover that the problems maintaining the appearance of these categories is experienced in both the cosmogonic myths and with the wife and student.