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Inside and outside: Conceptual continuities from household to region in Kumaon, north India.

Moller, Joanne (1993) Inside and outside: Conceptual continuities from household to region in Kumaon, north India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is an ethnographic study of the social organisation of a Central Himalayan village. Fieldwork was carried out between 1989-1991 in Almora district of the Kumaon region in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, India. Kumaoni villagers conceptually organise their social world on segmentary principles, locally expressed by the opposition between the inside (bhiter) and the outside (bhyar). The conceptual opposition of 'inside' and 'outside' is replicated at various levels of society. In this study it is examined with regard to intra-household, inter-household, affinal and inter-caste relations, and to interactions with the gods and spirits and plains society. Insiders and outsiders are ordered hierarchically such that insiders consider themselves morally superior to outsiders. At every level of identification, outsiders are constructed as greedy, dangerous and untrustworthy. Disorder and harm are presented as originating from 'outside', and are associated with 'outsiders'. The 'inside', as contextually defined, is vulnerable to these outside forces, and must be protected. Accompanying this presentation is the ideological stress on the separation, regulation and containment of social categories. This is most clearly elaborated on the household level, but is also pertinent on the levels of caste and region. Men and women's contrasting experiences of marriage, kinship and residence inform their representations of the household and supra-household relations. Although the inside/outside dichotomy and its associations are shared by both genders, men and women apply them differently. Men express the inside/outside opposition in terms of broader levels of community, be it lineage, caste, village or region. For women the inside/outside distinction, though significant on these broader levels, ultimately begins at the household level and extends outwards from there. The immediate 'community of insiders' for women is the household whereas for men it is the lineage. At the same time, however, the category of 'women' is not a homogeneous one; depending on their interests, status, role, age and so forth, women give different representations of the same social reality. Thus, men and out-married women (daughters and sisters of the village) talk about social relations in terms of harmony and cooperation. In-married women (wives of the village) present the village as a tense, conflict-ridden place where deceit and rivalry between households represent normal social relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropology, Cultural
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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