The recent economic crisis in the Indian tea industry has shattered the life of the plantation workers in the tea belt of Peermade, Kerala. They are the descendants of the Tamil “outcaste” indentured laborers who were brought to work in the colonial
Alienation in Kerala's tea belt
Religion and Education in Kerala, India
The anthropology of caste in India has conventionally rendered caste as a category of traditional religion, something that has been challenged by a historical anthropology of caste and its transformations under colonialism. Given this deconstruction of caste as tradition, how are we to approach its highly charged and contested presence within contemporary democratic politics in India? Examining the everyday institutional workings of secularism and democratic citizenship through the key institution of education, the article situates caste in relationship to secular modernity. In an analysis of the cultural politics of caste, religion, and secularism in a low-caste college in Kerala, India, that caters to the Ezhava caste community, the article argues for an understanding of caste as a fault line for the contested negotiations of tradition and modernity, the private and the public, the religious and the secular that mark contemporary cultural politics in India.
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.
Crop booms, rural uncertainty, and the neoliberalization of agriculture in South India
Responding to agrarian crisis at home, cash crop cultivators hailing from the South Indian district of Wayanad increasingly engage in the seasonal production of ginger in other states of India. This is a purely profit-based and unsustainable crop boom that takes a toll on both labor and the environment. This ethnographic analysis of speculative ginger cultivation situates this emerging economic complex in the regional political ecology, farming practices, individual farmers' hopes and aspirations, and in relation to the qualities of ginger as a cultivar. It argues that ginger is a special kind of boom crop and that its cultivation on large tracts of leased land is the manifestation of a moment of agrarian uncertainty and the neoliberalization of agriculture in South India coproduced by the properties of ginger. As a neoliberal boom crop, ginger exemplifies a regime of flexibilization of agrarian accumulation that has proved a profitable move for some, but has brought financial ruin and debt traps for many others.
Negotiated Spaces in India’s School Meal Program
Sony Pellissery, Sattwick Dey Biswas, and Biju Abraham
all. He looks at the clock in the classroom. It is just a minute before the bell. He closes his book and prepares himself to run to the area where the food is served. The above anecdote from fieldwork in a school in Kerala represents an everyday
A Spark of Hope
K. Ravi Raman
On 19 February 2003, the armed police of the currently rightwing government of the Indian state of Kerala descended on over one thousand adivasi1 families— men, women and children—who had peacefully settled on the fringes of the Muthanga range of the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary, driving them out in a most brutal fashion and even killing one of those women who resisted. The state had failed to give any prior warning of the police action, nor was any attempt made toward a mediated negotiation. The police unleashed a reign of terror in the region; physical molestation of women was also reported, the latter having been substantiated by the National Women’s Commission. Those who fell into the hands of the police were brutally manhandled en route to the police station; in a bizarre innovation, the activists were forced to beat one another. The movement had been launched by the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha—the Grand Assembly of Indigenous People—led by a tribal woman, C. K. Janu. The demands of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha for land, food, shelter, the enforcement of constitutional provisions, reparation for losses incurred by the intervention of foreign companies in their environment, etc., are paralleled in indigenous movements elsewhere, e.g., the Zapatistas in Mexico (see Collier 1994; Gledhill 1997; Hellman 2000; Weinberg 2000; Womack 1999). However, unlike other indigenous movements, the situation in Kerala has received little world attention.
Teyyam in Malabar
This article focuses on Muttappan and the practice of teyyam in Kerala, South India. The growing power and increasing presence of this ritual practice and its transition from traditional sacred spaces into modern public spheres, including cyberspace, are analyzed in order to understand its inner dynamics and potentialities. Engaged with the quotidian aspects of human existence, the male divinity Muttappan-teyyam is a being of the moment who overcomes any bounding or hierarchizing force in his path. I argue that Muttappan's modernity has a decentering and destabilizing fluidity that appeals to all social classes. The ritual practice has put the arts and the state at odds, with the latter co-opting it to serve the state's purposes through tourism and spectacles that encourage national solidarity.
Pierre Du Plessis and Sanal Mohan
Livelihoods in Post-Reform Kerala . New York: Berghahn, pp. 302, 2017. This book provides a critically engaged, ethnographically nuanced, interdisciplinary analysis of the contemporary conflict in Kerala over the livelihoods of Adivasis, historically one of
Bruce Kapferer, Andrew Lattas, Rohan Bastin, and Don Handelman
The idea of writing a personal statement regarding my approach to ritual and to present a self-portrait of my own movement into this field is difficult, to say the least. This is particularly so as the idea has too much of an overriding finality to it—an epitaph, after which there is no more. There is the implication that somehow over the 40 or so years that I have been working in the anthropological field of ritual and religion that I have been building a distinct coherent approach. It is tempting to say so, but it would be wrong. I would say that my orientation has taken many different paths. I have always, like most anthropologists, been directed by the problem-at-hand, given the empirical realities in which I found myself and the issue in the subject of anthropology that appeared to me to be particularly problematic at the time. This has sometimes resulted in a critical look at prevailing orientations and has led me in unexpected directions. The ethnographic materials with which I have been recently working, primarily in North Malabar of the Indian state of Kerala, is setting me off on new routes of analytical possibility, at least new for me. This is also the case with my (see Kapferer 2013a, 2013b, 2014) current interest in film and its relevance for the anthropological study of myth and ritual. Such changes in direction are far from unusual in the ethnographically driven circumstance of anthropology in which ethnography is the ground for analytical and theoretical construction (and not the other way around as in other social sciences where theory governs research, see Kapferer 2007).
What Do We Do and Where Are We Going?
Edited by Andrew Sanchez
Steur’s Indigenist Mobilization: Confronting Electoral Communism and Precarious Livelihoods in Post-Reform Kerala . I hope that you find the issue interesting. If you would like to know anything about the journal, then please contact me and ask