Focaal
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Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

Managing Editor: Luisa Steur, University of Amsterdam

Deputy Managing Editor: Alina-Sandra Cucu, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Editor-at-large: Don Kalb, Central European University and Utrecht University

Editoral Collective: 
Charlotte Bruckerman, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle
Zoltán Glück, City University of New York (CUNY)
Dimitra Kofti, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle
Christopher Krupa, University of Toronto
Manissa M. Maharawal, City University of New York (CUNY)
Elisabeth Schober, University of Oslo
Steve Stiffler, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Joe Trapido, Birkbeck College, London
Theodorra Vetta, University of Barcelona
Oane Visser, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague



Volume 2016, 3 issues per volume (spring, summer, winter)

Subjects: Anthropology

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The practices, policies, and politics of transforming inequality in South Asia: Ethnographies of affirmative action

Alpa Shah and Sara Shneiderman

Abstract

This is the introduction to a special section of Focaal that includes seven articles on the anthropology of affirmative action in South Asia. The section promotes the sustained, critical ethnographic analysis of affirmative action measures adopted to combat historical inequalities around the world. Turning our attention to the social field of affirmative action opens up new fronts in the anthropological effort to understand the state by carefully engaging the relationship between the formation and effects of policies for differentiated citizenship. We explore this relationship in the historical and contemporary context of South Asia, notably India and Nepal. We argue that affirmative action policies always transform society, but not always as expected. The relationship between political and socioeconomic inequality can be contradictory. Socioeconomic inequalities may persist or be refigured in new terms, as policies of affirmative action and their experiential effects are intimately linked to broader processes of economic liberalization and political transformation.

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