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Mark Tully on India and Hinduism

From the Political to the Personal

Nivedita Misra

The article looks at the unique position of Mark Tully in talking about India and the role of travel in developing his oeuvre of writing. The article contextualizes Tully's “English” identity and problematizes the colonial spaces that dislodge the concept of a national identity based on boundaries. It also relates the traveler's sense of engagement at a deeper level due to his participation in India's national life at various levels, analyzing his two residences and his awareness of two different audiences. It posits that a look at the culture of the Other makes the writer self-aware of his own upbringing, religious beliefs, and social understanding. It also positions the traveler as an interpreter of cultures—the others and his own—tracing the development of his perspective from his No Full Stops in India (1991) to India: The Road Ahead (2011).

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Online Documents of India’s Past

Digital Archives and Memory Production

Katja Müller

How can the online distribution of heritage facilitate successful forms of collective online memory production? Two online archives from India are taken as case studies to analyze practices that make online archives effective as devices for recalling and constructing the Indian past. It is not only contextual conditions of the Internet age, but also particular applied practices of presenting, communicating, and using social media that enable it. Yet, the analysis of the two recently created online archives, which are partially driven by the idea of widening access, show that they do not so much set up counterpositions to established conceptions of archives as regulating entities, but rather aim at becoming acknowledged heritage agents.

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Maria Costanza Torri and Thora Martina Herrmann

From time immemorial, local and indigenous communities in India have developed traditions, representations, and beliefs about the forest and biodiversity. The cultural practices and beliefs of a community play a significant role in enhancing community-based initiatives, particularly in achieving sustainability in the long term. Nevertheless, too often conservation policies do not take into consideration the link between the culture of local communities and their environment. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship between cultural traditions and practices related to biodiversity and their current status and manifestations is crucial to the concept of effective and sustainable conservation policy. This article examines the traditional practices of the communities in the Sariska region (Rajasthan, India) as well as their beliefs and their values, underlining the special relationship that these tribal and indigenous communities maintain with the forest and their usefulness in community-based conservation. Some conclusive remarks on the importance of adapting conservation approaches to local cultural representations of the environment will be drawn.

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“Real, practical emancipation”?

Subaltern politics and insurgent citizenship in contemporary India

Alf Gunvald Nilsen

Th is article explores the articulations of citizenship in subaltern politics in contemporary India. Departing from Karl Marx’s acknowledgment that, despite its limitations, political orders founded on the modern democratic conception of citizenship had propelled “real, practical emancipation,” I argue that citizenship has to be understood as simultaneously enabling and constraining radical political projects and popular social movements. I flesh out this argument through a detailed analysis of Adivasi mobilization in western Madhya Pradesh, India. My analysis shows how the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, a local social movement in the region, democratized local state-society relations by appropriating basic democratic idioms and turning these against local state personnel and the violent extortion they engaged in. Drawing on James Holston’s work on “insurgent citizenship,” I argue that claims making around such democratic idioms inflected citizenship with new and potentially emancipatory meanings centered on local sovereignty and self-rule. I then detail how this mobilization provoked a substantial coercive backlash from the state and discuss the lessons that can be gleaned from this trajectory in terms of the possibilities and limitations that citizenship offers to progressive popular politics in India today.

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Talk and Practice

Ethics and an Individual in Contemporary South India

Soumhya Venkatesan

This article explores the intricate relationship between talk and practice in the anthropology of ethics by focusing on one individual, a temple and consecration priest, in Tamil Nadu, South India. By examining his relations with other people, gods and his ideal and present self, the article suggests that ethical self-cultivation is an ongoing practice and is based on ordinary and extraordinary encounters, evaluations and reflections thereon. It argues that the focus on an individual both allows an intimate and detailed reflection on processes of ethical self-cultivation and offers a window into the wider social world of which the individual forms a part.

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Thinking through Surrogacy Legislation in India

Reflections on Relational Consent and the Rights of Infertile Women

Maya Unnithan

As its main focus the article is concerned with explaining the proposed Indian Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2010 (2008), and in particular discusses some of its limitations using a relational conception of consent and autonomy. It is argued that two major limitations arise from, firstly, the way the Bill attempts to introduce ‘universal’ notions of informed consent into a cultural context of socially determined decisionmaking, resulting in the failure to safeguard the welfare of Indian surrogates. A second limitation is that the proposed law entitles only some poor women (surrogates) in India to realise access to quality medical healthcare services compared to others (poor, infertile women). Given the significant class and gender based inequalities which frame reproductive healthcare service delivery in the country, legally guaranteed access to health services for surrogates becomes a privilege where the rights of some individuals and couples to reproduce and exercise procreative agency is valued and not others. The article argues that the Bill must give due consideration to the complex, relational and highly stratified contexts in which women undertake childbearing in India to understand why legally comprehensive consent procedures can co-exist with violations of personhood in practice. Without such consideration the article suggests that injustice toward infertile women can become part of the same legal process wherein overcoming infertility is recognised as a right.

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Making a Community Embedded in Mobility

Refugees, Migrants, and Tourists in Dharamshala (India)

Natalia Bloch

This case study of Dharamshala (India), a community that emerged as an outcome of mobility just a few decades ago and is constantly fueled by refugees, migrants, and tourists, aims to challenge the conceptual boundary between a receiving society and mobile Others, and to pose questions about community making in the context of postcolonial mobility. The history of Dharamshala reflects both the legacy of colonialism and the modern processes of mobility in postcolonial Asia. The town’s highly fluid and heterogeneous community consists of people of different nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and castes from Tibet, Nepal, the Global North, and various Indian states. Most are seasonal migrants attracted by the success of Tibetans in turning this in fact refugee settlement into a popular tourist destination, while some have already settled there. Communities embedded in mobility—for which mobility is an everyday lived experience—reshape our thinking about adaptation processes and social coexistence.

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The politics of entitlement

Affirmative action and strategic voting in Uttar Pradesh, India

Lucia Michelutti and Oliver Heath

This article focuses on the struggles and shifting political strategies of two major political players in northern India: the Yadavs (a low-to-middle ranking pastoral agricultural caste) and the dalits (former untouchables, which in the region mainly come from the Chamar caste) and their political parties, the Samaj wadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, respectively. Both communities (and political parties) have strongly benefited from affirmative action policies over the last three decades. We argue that that these affirmative action policies, and the political rhetoric that has tended to accompany them, have been “vernacularized“ in local sociocultural structures, which in turn has helped to produce folk theories of democracy and social justice that are directly and indirectly legitimizing conflict, and producing new forms of caste-based strategic voting, based on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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Beyond Economy and Religion

Resources and Socio-cosmic Fields in Odisha, India

Roland Hardenberg

In anthropology, resources are commonly defined in terms of neo-classical theories of action. In order to widen this anthropological definition, a distinction between two ‘fields’ is introduced in this article: the ‘social field’ and the ‘cosmic field’. It is argued that both fields may be completely separate and express a pluralistic configuration of values, or they may form a more or less monistic field. These ideas are applied to a conflict about bauxite-rich mountains in Odisha, India, in which those involved have quite different concepts of resources. It is argued that politicians and mining companies, as well as their national and international opponents, separate and even oppose the social and the cosmic fields on the basis of conflicting values. In contrast, it is argued that for the local people named Dongria Kond, the mining companies endanger a cultural system of exchange and provisioning that maintains an undifferentiated socio-cosmic field based on the value of life-giving ‘wealth’.

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Securing Intergenerational Kin Relationships and a House of One's Own

Muslims' Ways of Ageing Well in Kerala, India

Willemijn de Jong

The author explores trajectories of creating well-being with regard to old age in a poor Muslim community in Kerala, India. Theoretically, she draws on the nonstate-led concept of 'inclusive social security' and links it with the anthropology of the house. In doing so she takes approaches of 'making' kinship, gender, age as well as citizenship into account. Care and respect for the elderly result from strong but gendered intergenerational kin relationships in and around the house, which they establish for a large part themselves. Governmental and civil provisions play an enabling or supplementary role. Elderly women, particularly widows, benefit from property relationships that are less gendered. Surprisingly, there is a remarkable tendency of creating house ownership, and thus of bargaining power, for women in this community. It is suggested that this is effected by a combination of Muslim inheritance rules, recent dowry-giving practices and Kerala's matrilineal history.