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Nagas as a ‘Society against Voting?’

Consensus-Building, Party-less Politics and a Culturalist Critique of Elections in Northeast India

Jelle J. P. Wouters

Interrogating the normative notion of ‘man the voter’, this article draws on ethnography among the Chakhesang Naga in Northeast India to communicate a cosmopolitan, culturalist critique – and an answer to this critique – of liberal democracy’s hallmark of party-based elections, individual autonomy and equal voting rights. While Nagas have been decorated as ‘traditional democrats’, their sense of the good political life is shaped by values of communal harmony, consensus-building and complimentary coexistence. However, these are threatened by practices and principles of liberal democracy, which led Phugwumi villagers to attempt a procedural adaptation of elections by substituting individual voting for consensus-building and the selection of a leader. I use this ethnographic case to provincialize the sprawling contemporary sense of ‘liberal universalism’, and to postulate that, in their political sociality, Nagas are a ‘society against voting’, an adaptation of Pierre Clastres’ (1977) Society against the State.

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Giving and Taking without Reciprocity

Conversations in South India and the Anthropology of Ethics

Soumhya Venkatesan

This article contributes to the anthropology of ethics through an analysis of conversations among Muslim and Hindu householders in Tamil Nadu, India, about instances of alms/charitable giving where there is no expectation of direct reciprocity and where both giving and taking make reference to religion. I argue, first, that people make certain kinds of giving or taking ethical or unethical through talk and, second, that instances of ‘ethical talk’, which constitute reflections on and evaluations of action, point to questions concerning freedom and choice in people’s efforts to lead lives that are good or ‘good enough’. Such conversations also reveal a striving toward accepted forms of societal attachment and detachment while considering the claims that people can or should make upon each another.

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Affirmative action and political economic transformations

Secondary education, indigenous people, and the state in Jharkhand, India

Rob Higham and Alpa Shah

This article proposes an anthropology of affirmative action that is embedded in analysis of the wider political economic transformations in which affirmative action policies emerge. It is argued that this historically situated approach enables analyses of the relative effects of affirmative action on processes of socio economic marginalization. The focus of the article is on the combination of preferential treatment policies and the provision of education as a state-led response to historical marginalization. These policies are explored in the context of adivasis (tribal or indigenous peoples) in Jharkhand, India. The analysis shows how, despite improvement in absolute educational outcomes among adivasis as a result of these policies, inequalities in relative outcomes are being reproduced and are widening. This is explained in part by market-led gains within the private edu cation sector for more advantaged sections of society that outweigh the predom inately state-led improvements for adivasis. The analysis demonstrates the limitations of contemporary affirmative action in affecting the relative position of socioeconomically marginalized groups in contexts where the state is losing some of its universal features and ambition.

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Akhila Ashok

The Idea of India AKHILA ASHOK

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Gatherings of Mobility and Immobility

Itinerant “Criminal Tribes” and Their Containment by the Salvation Army in Colonial South India

Saurabh Arora

In retelling the history of “criminal tribe” settlements managed by the Salvation Army in Madras Presidency (colonial India) from 1911, I argue that neither the mobility–immobility relationship nor the compositional heterogeneity of (im)mobility practices can be adequately captured by relational dialecticism espoused by leading mobilities scholars. Rather than emerging as an opposition through dialectics, the relationship between (relative) mobility and containment may be characterized by overlapping hybridity and difference. This differential hybridity becomes apparent in two ways if mobility and containment are viewed as immanent gatherings of humans and nonhumans. First, the same entities may participate in gatherings of mobility and of containment, while producing different effects in each gathering. Here, nonhumans enter a gathering, and constitute (im)mobility practices, as actors that make history irreducibly differently from other actors that they may be entangled with. Second, modern technologies and amodern “institutions” may be indiscriminately drawn together in all gatherings.

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The sanctioning state

Official permissiveness and prohibition in India

Ajay Gandhi

This article examines the Indian state’s engagement with deportable foreign migrants. It draws on an ethnography of officials’ responses in Mumbai to noncitizens from Bangladesh and countries in Africa. The conceptual focus is on the “sanctioning state”: official powers that alternately permit or prohibit migrants’ presence. At one level, the Indian state sanctions, or prohibits, unauthorized migration. Simultaneously, via authorities’ discretionary power, the state can sanction, or permit, foreigners’ presence. To address why state actors simultaneously sanction migrants’ enduring presence, and also sanction their intermittent removal, this article delves into the Indian state’s historical evolution and everyday functioning. The domains of bureaucratic practice, discretionary authority, and differentiated citizenship are framed by antecedent logics. This historical survey undergirds an ethnographic study of the state in migrant-saturated neighborhoods in Mumbai. Based on interviews and observations with officials and migrants, this article elucidates the rationales, capacities, and strategies that comprise the “sanctioning state.”

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Beyond citizenship

Adivasi and Dalit political pathways in India

Nicolas Jaoul

Does the dominant, statist conception of citizenship offer a satisfying framework to study the politicization of subaltern classes? This dialectical exploration of the political movements that emerge from the suppressed margins of Indian society questions their relationship to the state and its outcomes from the point of view of emancipation. As this special section shows, political ethnographers of “insurgent citizenship” among Dalits and Adivasis offer a view from below. The articles illustrate the way political subjectivities are being produced on the ground by confronting, negotiating, but also exceeding the state and its policed frameworks.

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Nirmala Erevelles

Anita Ghai. 2015. Rethinking Disability in India. New Delhi, India: Routledge.

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Dhananjay Tripathi

[Full article is in English]

English: This article analyzes the role of school education as a medium for indoctrinating young minds through school textbooks within the framework of India–Pakistan relations. This fact is more pronounced in Pakistan, but even in the case of India, eff orts are not undertaken to objectively teach subjects in a way that helps sensitize students about the India–Pakistan relationship. The author argues that the young generations in India and Pakistan largely lack a shared understanding until they undergo a process of de-learning and re-learning. Hence, the borders between India and Pakistan remained intact and militarized but defi nite types of borders are also created in young minds. Unless the psychological borders melt, it is diffi cult to imagine a porous physical border between India and Pakistan. This article att empts to understand how pedagogically the image of an enemy is created in young minds serving the purpose of the state.

Spanish: Este artículo analiza el papel de la educación escolar como un medio para adoctrinar mentes jóvenes a través de libros de texto en el marco de las relaciones India–Pakistán. Esta situación es más pronunciada en Pakistán, pero incluso en la India, no se llevan a cabo esfuerzos para enseñar objetivamente temas que apoyen la sensibilización de los estudiantes sobre la relación India–Pakistán. El autor argumenta que jóvenes generaciones en India y Pakistán comparten la falta de un conocimiento compartido hasta que pasen por un proceso de des-aprendizaje y re-aprendizaje. En consecuencia, las fronteras entre India y Pakistán permanecen intactas y militarizadas, pero también otros tipos de definición de fronteras son creados en las mentes jóvenes. A menos que las fronteras psicológicas se derritan, es difícil imaginar una frontera física porosa entre la India y Pakistán. Este artículo busca entender cómo la imagen del enemigo es pedagógicamente creada en las mentes jóvenes sirviendo el propósito del Estado. Los casos de los libros de texto en India y Pakistán son presentados para comprender los diferentes tipos de fronteras prevalecientes en el sur de Asia.

French: Cet article analyse le rôle de l’éducation scolaire comme un moyen d’endoctrinement de jeunes esprits à travers les livres scolaires dans le contexte des relations entre l’Inde et le Pakistan. Cette situation est particulièrement marquée au Pakistan mais y compris en Inde, aucun effort n’est mené pour enseigner objectivement des thèmes qui sensibilisent les élèves sur les relations Inde-Pakistan. L’auteur argumente que les jeunes générations indiennes et pakistanaises manquent de connaissances partagées jusqu’à ce qu’elles transitent par un processus de désapprentissage et de ré-apprentissage. En conséquence, les frontières entre l’Inde et le Pakistan continuent à être intactes et militarisées et d’autres types de frontières claires son créées dans les esprits de la jeunesse. À moins que les frontières psychologiques ne disparaissent, il reste difficile d’imaginer une frontière physique poreuse entre l’Inde et le Pakistan. Cet article cherche à comprendre comment l’image de l’ennemi est créée pédagogiquement dans les jeunes esprits et sert les intérêts de l’Etat.

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Robert B. Marks

In nature, tigers have existed only in Asia. Over the millennia, Asian peoples have had much interaction with tigers, and those experiences have come to influence the patterns of everyday life, especially for villagers. In short, humans and tigers have a long history in Asia. Through case studies of China, the Malay world, and India from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, this article argues that Asian rulers used tigers—or more properly, their control of tigers—to enhance their political power, further the reach of central states, and inform their understanding of colonizing European powers.