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Status, security and change: An ethnographic study of caste, class and religion in rural Rajasthan.

Mullard, Jordan C.R (2010) Status, security and change: An ethnographic study of caste, class and religion in rural Rajasthan. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Based on 17 months ethnographic research carried out in a medium sized village in North West Rajasthan, this thesis explores the relationship between status, security and social change in a context of extreme economic uncertainty. Through changes in tenancy laws, the redistribution of land after the abolition of Zamindars in the 1950s, the withdrawal of high castes from the village, success through affirmative action policies, and caste mobilisation via Sanskritisation an extended family of the untouchable leatherworking caste Meghval in the village of Mudharamsar have risen to be the new village elites. Their unusual position as wealthy landowners and political agents has caused conflicts, alternative commensalities, and 're-traditionalised' practices amongst other villagers. This was further exacerbated by the temporary closure of mines in the area that provided the bulk of employment for other villagers causing many of the lower castes to search for alternative means of income and status-making. Some returned to their traditional caste occupations, others organised as a 'labour class' and Meghvals drew on kinship obligations in search of solidarity and security. I argue that social mobility and change amongst the rural poor involves both confluence and variance of what Betielle (1974) termed the 'ideas of caste' and the 'interests of class' underpinning agrarian relations. In doing so, I extend Beteille's analysis to situate my informants' ideas of caste, class and religion within their broader interests in constructing, claiming and using identity and status as mechanisms for coping with economic uncertainty, social change and inequality. I highlight the contradictions between normative ideals concerning caste, kinship and religion on the one hand, and changing class and power relations on the other. I am concerned to look at the spaces between these oppositions wherein alternative discourses and identities are generated, which at times bring unlikely actors together and at others reaffirm pre-existing relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Social Structure and Development, South Asian Studies, Anthropology, Cultural
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Anthropology

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