Although Louise Brown is a sociologist who teaches at Birmingham University in the U.K., The Dancing Girls of Lahore is not so much a work of scholarship as it is a journalistic memoir. Based on a diary she kept during eight visits to Lahore from 2000 – 2004, this book is full of vivid descriptions of life in Lahore’s famous Hira Mandi (Diamond Market) from the perspective of a white Western woman.
Brown actually lived in the Hira Mandi – initially with a famous artist, Iqbal Hussain, who grew up and currently resides there and whose mother was a courtesan, and later with a family of women and girls who are trained dancers and practicing courtesans. Living in the same neighbourhood as the people she is studying allows the author access to certain everyday situations and events that might not otherwise have been available to her. But while Brown’s observations are often intriguing, she offers only very brief analyses of the lives and choices of these women, choosing instead to focus on her personal interactions with them and with other residents of the Hira Mandi, including some members of the khusra or transgender community and a sweeper family.