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Understanding the state: an anthropological study of rural Jharkhand, India

Shah, Alpa (2004) Understanding the state: an anthropological study of rural Jharkhand, India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores understandings of the state in rural Jharkhand, Eastern India. It asks how and why certain groups exert their influence within the modern state in India, and why others do not. To do so the thesis addresses the interrelated issues of ex-zamindar and ex-tenant relations, development, corruption, democracy, tribal movements, seasonal casual labour migration, extreme left wing militant movements and moral attitudes towards drink and sex. This thesis is informed by twenty-one months of fieldwork in Ranchi District of which, for eighteen months, a village in Bero Block was the research base. The thesis argues that at the local level in Jharkhand there are at least two main groups of people who hold different, though related, understandings of the state. There is a local elite, usually descendants of the old zamindars, who both understands state ideas and interacts in its local processes. Understanding state ideas is, however, different to an internalisation of, or a commitment to, them. Indeed, the thesis argues that local elite interaction with the state is ultimately guided by their seeing state resources as for their own vested interests. A contrasting understanding of the state is held, however, by the second main group, the poorer tribal peasantry, who are usually descendants of the tenants of the old zamindars. They see the state as a new, outside and foreign agency that is not legitimated in the world of their spirits. As such, they see the state as dangerous and exploitative and seek to minimise interaction with it. The thesis suggests that there is a political economy through which the tribal peasant idea of the state, as distinct from and separate to tribal society, is reproduced. It is suggested that, due to their desires to limit the number of people interacting with the state, the local elite enhances the reproduction of the tribal peasant view. Furthermore, the thesis suggests that even alternative state visions, which appear to be concerned about the welfare of the 'exploited' and 'suppressed' tribals of Jharkhand, such as that of the new tribal state movement or that of the extreme left-wing Maoist Communist Centre, only serve to further marginalize and suppress those they allegedly serve.

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

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