Critical Themes in Indian Sociology


Sanjay Srivastava, Yasmeen Arif & Janaki Abraham

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    For Triloki Nath Madan and Patricia Uberoi, past editors and steadfast friends of Contributions to Indian Sociology


    The journal Contributions to Indian Sociology (CIS) was founded by Louis Dumont and David Pocock in 1957 but ceased publication in 1966. In 1967, at the initiative of T.N. Madan, a new series recommenced publication, this time from New Delhi. The year 2016 was the 50th year of the new series. It is this occasion that we commemorate in the present volume. Historically, the journal has had a very wide remit—in terms of readers, writers and topics—and the task of reflecting this aspect in a volume such as this was a complex one. Initially, we had planned on two volumes. However, given the disparate nature of the contributions we had in mind—to pay proper heed to what CIS has stood for—it became extremely difficult to imagine how we might organise the articles in order that there might be two ‘thematically coherent’ volumes. We finally decided to proceed with just one volume that takes up key concerns within Indian-related sociology. We believe that the final product is a genuine tribute to the life history of the journal and testimony to the generosity it attracts among sociologists around the world. We would, ideally, have liked the present volume to be out in 2016 itself. However, a project of this magnitude—coordinating a large number of contributors based in different parts of the world—has its own mind. We seek the readers' indulgence and hope that they will agree that the adage ‘good things take time’ finds adequate reflection in the pages of the current volume.

    There is much to celebrate in the 50 years of the journal. CIS has been an important space for sociological scholarship on India and for debate and dialogue among sociologists and social anthropologists globally. It has been the site of rich ethnographic and empirical work and conceptual formulations. As mentioned earlier, the themes that the journal has covered have been vast and range from caste, Hinduism and kinship in the early years of the journal to those of suicide, urban transformations and violence more recently. The section ‘For a Sociology of India’, which started as an article in the first avatar of the journal and then continued as a space for debate, has provided a vibrant context for articulations of very diverse views on the sociology of India. As Brazilian anthropologist Mariza Peirano (1991: 322) wrote in an article published under the same title,

    This debate must be included in the history of anthropology as an exemplary case of a different kind of discussion. Perhaps no other debate has lasted, as this one has for more than thirty years; perhaps no other recorded discussion has involved anthropologists of so many nationalities (including French, English, Indian, German, Norwegian, Swiss and New Zealander) offering diverse theoretical perspectives; and perhaps no other debate has emphasised as this one the conception of anthropology as a possibility of translation and communication among different cultures….

    In commemorating 50 years, our intention was not to ‘review’ the journal through these decades but to bring together the writings of a number of scholars on the diverse themes that have been critical to scholarship in sociology and social anthropology. When the editors of this volume approached authors from India and around the world about possible contributions that would commemorate CIS's 50th anniversary, the response was both immediate and enthusiastic. This volume is the result of the goodwill the journal enjoys among scholars of widely varying interests, as well as those at different stages in their careers.

    Our brief to contributors was quite straightforward: we were not seeking intellectual or institutional histories of Indian sociology. These already have a valuable presence in recent academic publishing (see, e.g., Patel 2016; Sundar et al. 2000; Uberoi et al. 2007), including its practice (Chaudhuri 2003). We intended the volume to be an accessible introduction to a range of themes in the sociology of India during the 20th and 21st centuries. This, however, is by no means an exhaustive list, nor has it sought to be that. Instead, the discussions in different chapters point to changes in both sociological debates and concepts, methods and themes.

    We have sought to keep the chapters relatively brief, as well as requested contributors to keep their pieces largely free of jargon, in order that students and a wider readership might feel more inclined to pick up the volume. Our argument is quite simple: human welfare cannot be advanced without an understanding of different forms of power and the social complexities that lie in the way of redistributing resources in a highly unequal society and that the discipline of sociology is fundamental to illuminating this context. Furthermore, what we mean to suggest is that a sociological sensibility is able to interrogate the idea of ‘usefulness’ itself and that in order to do this, we should suspend judgement on what is ‘useful’ as a sociological project. In this way, we strongly champion a non-instrumental view of the sociological project. This is, perhaps, a key difference in how sociology was imagined in the decades that immediately followed independence from colonial rule—with ‘nation-building’ as a significant sociological goal—and contemporary way of thinking about the discipline. We do not, however, wish to suggest that a significant strand of the post-independence scholarship characterised scholarly proclivities among all of India's early sociologists.

    The other aspect of a changed sociological sensibility concerns the emphatic qualitative turn in Indian sociology, an aspect that significantly distinguishes it from both early sociology in India and contemporary sociological trends in North America. Powerful voices in early Indian sociology sought to interpret the discipline as physical science manqué (Ghosh 2014). To take up another point that is also of specific relevance to India, in a post-colonial society, a discipline that so significantly relies upon the English language cannot but also reflect the differing forms of cultural capital that make for knowledge formations (see, e.g., Rege 2011). Finally, in this context, a great deal of ‘Indian sociology’ continues to be characterised by scientism—the tendency to ‘prove’ the validity of a knowledge claim through quantification. It appears to us that no intellectual history of the discipline in India would be incomplete without a consideration of the politics of language and that of scientism. Perhaps these are two defining characteristics of the history of social sciences and humanities in the post-colonial world.

    Travelling Concepts

    We hope that through the essays in the present volume, some part of the journey that Indian sociology has made over the past five decades will come to life. One dramatic shift in Indian sociology or a sociology of India as evident in the pages of CIS over the years is the idea of the unity of Indian social life. When we consider the multiplicity of influences upon human life, it is difficult to speak of a Patidar way of life or a Kashmiri Pandit way of life. This is not to say that Patidars and Kashmiri Pandits may not speak of their life ways in these terms, rather that sociologists are warier of accepting such terms without critical scrutiny of the politics and histories of self-identification. Not only this, in these 50 years we can no longer assume the stability of entities or concepts such as the village or caste or religious community (an argument well made in Jodhka's and Waghmore's chapters on the village and caste, respectively). Indeed, that staple of Indian sociology—the rural and its concomitant, agricultural practices—may no longer be, as Krishnamurthy points out in her contribution, what it was. Through an analytical lens that takes us from the ambiguous positioning of the grain heap, a locus classicus of the famously studied Jajmani system, central to Indian sociology, Krishnamurthy gives us another reading that translates the grain heap into the starting point of a conceptual path that leads to economic agents, material cultures and cultural meanings of economic activity.

    Not only caste, referred to as a gatekeeping concept for Indian sociology (see Appadurai 1986b; Das 2003), has changed very significantly as an institution over this period but so has the manner in which it is understood. In particular, the conceptualisation of caste has changed dramatically, as have the methods employed to study ‘caste-ness’, most importantly as it relates to autobiographical writing and literature in different Indian languages. The numerous sharp critiques that followed the publication in English of Louis Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus, including a special issue of CIS dedicated to a discussion of the book (1971), are indicative of the strength of debate and discussion on caste, and critical to the understanding of caste subsequently carried forward. Dumont has been critiqued for presenting a Brahmanical view of caste which, in turn, was linked to his argument that people who suffered in this system of hierarchy consented to their treatment (see, e.g., Das 1995; Madan 1971; Mencher 1975). Further, as Waghmore's and Michelutti's chapters tell us, contrary to the prediction that caste would disappear over time, it remains a significant institution in everyday life and has taken on new meanings in the efflorescence of contemporary political mobilisations. Waghmore presents the idea of civility as a means of examining changes in caste, especially in relation to citizenship, justice and equality concerns which were not central to the early work on caste. Another significant change is also in taking seriously the writings of B.R. Ambedkar, whose works brought power and discrimination centre stage to the study of caste and caste practices (for critiques of the marginalisation of Ambedkar's writing, see Kannabiran 2009; Rege 2013).

    The centrality of caste in Indian sociological literature has not, however, completely overwritten engagements with class. Indeed, in Milton Singer's study of social change in Tamil Nadu, caste and class were brought together within the analytical framework of ‘modernisation’ (Singer 1972). The connection between caste and class has more recently been explored—also, coincidentally, for South India—by Fuller and Narasimhan's (2014) study of Tamil Brahmins. One of the most fruitful engagements with class in India has been through the sociology of education. In addition to the ‘reproduction’ approach (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977), studies have paid close attention to the complexities of the local situation within which schooling in India is embedded. It is this landscape that forms the focus of attention in Meenakshi Thapan's chapter in the volume. Thapan's contribution shows us how colonial and post-colonial contexts of schooling in India have produced a terrain that fulfils neither the goal of providing genuinely humanistic education nor that of fully equipping the majority of students for the instrumental ends of securing gainful employment.

    Moving on to another significant theme within Indian sociology, while the volume does not have a dedicated chapter on kinship—a subject that has been an important theme in CIS—several essays address key issues in the study of kinship: for example, Perveez Mody elaborates on the concept of intimacy and briefly looks at its relation with scholarship on kinship and marriage; Shalini Grover discusses divorce, a subject on which there is little scholarship; in talking about aging in India, Sarah Lamb draws from her long periods of fieldwork in West Bengal to discuss aging, familial care and residence; Renu Addlakha, in her exhaustive discussion of disability studies in India, points to the literature on disability and familial care; Rajni Palriwala looks at shifts in the study of gender as expressed in a few journals including CIS; and Srimati Basu discusses the intertwined nature of law, property and familial relationships. Further, Paul Boyce and Rohit Dasgupta discuss law and the illegitimacies of certain intimacies. Most of these chapters also look at the interface between the state, kin and community, a theme that has been important to kinship studies.

    Various contributions to this collection also powerfully demonstrate sociology's capacity to explicitly engage with topics whose traces lie in a great deal of sociological writings about Indian society while not necessarily emerging as foci in their own right. What is important, we would like to emphasise, is the manner in which lineages of the present are sought to be located within longstanding sociological concerns. It is in the vein that Sara Dickey's chapter on cinema-viewing practices and Raka Ray's contribution on ‘middle class-ness’ can be located within broader socio-economic processes such as enduring concern with class and caste identities. Alpa Shah writes on contemporary ‘tribal’ identities and Perveez Mody explores the meaning of intimacies, with both authors making important connections between the present and topics that have animated sociological concern for a very long time, namely, hierarchies and the quest for equality. In a similar vein, Joseph Alter on cultures of masculinities and Paul Boyce and Rohit Dasgupta in their jointly written chapter point to caste, ethnicity and gender that, in different ways, structure meanings of alternative sexualities in the present. As well, Amita Baviskar's chapter shows us how food is a critical site through which caste and class differences are asserted.

    Gender, sexuality and food—the topics addressed by Palriwala and Alter, Boyce and Dasgupta, and Baviskar, respectively—have, of course, been areas that have interested sociologists of India for quite some time. Hence, Leela Dube explicitly utilised gender as a political framework to explore relations of power among women and men in different contexts (see, e.g., Dube 1988, 2001; see also Vatuk 2001). Similarly, scholars have dealt with sexuality in myriad ways, including contexts of marriage (Fruzzetti 1982; Uberoi 1995), women's ‘erotic imagination’ (Raheja and Gold 1994) and middle-class women and sexuality (Puri 1999). And food is, of course, in many ways a ‘staple’ of a variety of approaches to Indian life: studies of who eats with whom and how this defines social location in religious and hierarchical worlds are so numerous as to hardly need mention. What is different about approaches to gender, as presented by Alter, is the foregrounding of an aspect that has largely lain silent in studies of women's position in Indian society. The processes of masculinity, hinted at in Dube (1988), are now fully taken up as topics in their own right, informed by feminist theory and attentive to the ethnographic method as a way of capturing gendered reality. The odd anthropological study that addressed the issue (e.g., Carstairs 1958) has given way to sustained attention to the topic, seeking to flesh out ‘gender’ as a relationship.

    Further, while sexuality has been a point of discussion within the sociology of India, it is primarily—if not exclusively—the social dimensions of the heterosexual context that have been explored. More recent sociological writings—such as those represented by Boyce and Dasgupta here—have sought to destabilise the heteronormative moorings of academic work through focusing on non-heterosexual contexts, arguing that apart from intrinsic worth, the topic also allows us to reconfigure ideas of family, kinship, power and intimacies. This is a crucial shift that is of significance to kinship studies in general.

    The reconfiguration of sociological knowledge as far as diet is concerned relates to the kinds of avenues Baviskar urges us to explore beyond the well-covered areas of its role in systems of religious and caste identity. Public dining, the travels of ‘Indian’ food beyond national boundaries, newer kinds of food items that index ‘cosmopolitan’ habits and the contexts of the lack of food for certain sections of the population are important ways in which the new focus on the topic allows us to familiar areas of sociological concern.

    New Directions

    An area of research that not only widens the sociological oeuvre but could also be seen as instituting an entirely new domain of study consists of the recent focus on consumerism. ‘Consumerism’ differs from ‘consumption’ in as much as the former concerns the wider domain of the relationship with mass-produced goods that now play such a significant part in the making of modern identities. Changes in economic and social spheres in India have led to deeper entanglements between people and commodities that enjoin us to more rigorously explore the ‘social life of things’ (Appadurai 1986b; see also Brosius 2010; Mathur 2014). Van Wessel's contribution tracks this relatively new horizon of research through focusing on both consumption as a context of self-making—or aspirations—as well as the problem of overconsumption and the consequences of this for the natural environment within and through which social life unfolds. Van Wessel proposes to address the twin issues of consumerism and its consequences through the notion of ‘sustainable consumption’. This, she suggests, is an important manner in which sociological research and ‘social relevance’ might come together.

    To think about the widened fields of sociological research is to also reflect upon the changing nature of the discipline itself and to free ourselves from the burden of marking out immoveable disciplinary boundaries and methodologies. In recent times, sociology's relationship with history, political science, media studies, sexuality and queer studies, feminism, and cultural and human geography, among others, has produced scholarship that has both immeasurably broadened the discipline's horizons and reconfigured our ability to grasp social complexity. What has remained ‘sociological’ about sociology in India, however, is the attention to method which consists in the rigorous combination of fieldwork and theoretical analyses. It is for this reason that, for example, sociological studies of social media, sexual cultures, the state, organ transplants, the media and their audiences, bureaucracies, and advertising agencies—relatively new areas of research—can still be located within disciplinary boundaries, and this even though they continuously push and expand these boundaries.

    As mentioned earlier, the move towards interdisciplinarity has had a salutary effect on the sociology of India. Moreover, a move towards looking beyond the academy for the production of knowledge has also characterised the last few decades in particular. One change has been that the spread of literacy brought with it a greater engagement with producing knowledge about one's own community. The idea of the ‘native anthropologist’ has globally been a point of discussion as more and more people outside the academy, and informally, took to studying themselves through writing tracts about the origin of the caste, constructing genealogical charts of their families using the latest software available on the Internet and writing family and community histories. Sociology and social anthropology have been internally enlivened to the intersubjectivity of anthropologists and informants even if our representations of these are always partial (see, e.g., Trawick 1992). A range of different writing strategies and collaborations (see, e.g., Alter 1999; Gold and Gujjar 2002) have sought to address issues of power in sociological/anthropological projects. Given the colonial origins of the discipline, this has been of particular concern. Simultaneously, methodological shifts and shifts in the subjects of study have brought dramatic changes in the nature of fieldwork and fieldwork sites. There is no doubt that the influence of social movements and student movements have brought significant changes within sociology and how it is taught in schools and universities. This is seen, for example, in the field of disability studies (as argued by Renu Addlakha), gender and sexuality studies (as suggested by Rajni Palriwala) and for scholarship on caste (Waghmore). A greater emphasis on inequality, citizenship and justice has led to interesting writings and reflections on pedagogic practices and exclusions in centres of higher education (see, e.g., Deshpande and Zacharias 2013). Guru (2002) has pointed to how caste inflects the politics of knowledge production within academia. Events on Indian university campuses point to continued discrimination of Dalits in institutions of higher education, and these too have pointed to the need to debate and discuss marginalisations and discrimination of all kinds in public fora, and reflect on pedagogic practices and aspects of the production of knowledge that perpetuate this discrimination.

    Interdisciplinarity has played a significant role in leading sociologists to explore areas that were largely regarded as best left to ‘specialists’. One of these is medicine and health. In her contribution on the topic, V. Sujatha suggests that there has been an opening out of existing analytical parameters to include social questions of power, experience, legitimacy, state politics and policies—colonial or otherwise—and, importantly, the archive as well as the contemporary material. The resulting narrative is nuanced and far more capable of including considerations of integrative practices that display a richness in both epistemology and research protocols in approaches towards understanding medicinal practices in India. The idea that a very specific kind of expert knowledge is required to comprehend ‘technical’ topics is also problematised by Rita Brara's deliberations on environment and climate change. She speaks of the manner in which sociology has had wrest ground from the physical sciences to speak of the environment in a manner that positions it as part of a social context. The ways in which physical environments ‘encounter… the life world’, as Brara puts it, constitute the making of a sociology of the environment.

    A widening of analytical parameters is also obvious in Copeman and Quack's contribution on contemporary religiosities. They trace the lively debate over the suitability of the term ‘secularism’ in Indian circumstances and proceed towards an understanding of contemporary religiosities through linking the realm of the religious to a variety of others, such as class aspirations and consumerism, in order to suggest that religiosity both draws upon and nurtures the so-called secular domains. Tulasi Srinivas' piece on new religious movements (NRMs) sits well along that by Copeman and Quack. She suggests that NRMs are embroiled in the processes of the present and, notwithstanding their resemblance to ‘ancient’ forms, they are most usefully understood as spiritual ‘products’ made out of materials of modernity. ‘Spiritual capitalism’ is an apt term Srinivas deploys to describe this situation. In India, as we know, a dark side of religion is religious violence. Ronie Parciack's take on religious violence brings together the usually separated binaries of nation state/community, religion/secular and metaphysical/political. She offers an ethnographic take on informal media like printed and audiovisual texts from the conflict-ridden city of Ayodhya to speak of these fusions and frictions, thereby widening the ways in which we think of the topic.

    If religion has been significant in engendering a national imaginary, a concept that is frequently conflated with it, ‘the folk’, has also been a significant fuel for this imagination. Roma Chatterji's discussion on how the notion of the folk supported and articulated a national imaginary traverses multiple forms of dance, drama and pictorial art. This leads to a nuanced assembling of artistic practices whether they are sourced in the mythical, the religious, the indigenous or the western. It should be obvious that the state looms large in discussion of all kinds of cultural practices, including religion and ideas of folk-ness. It is only recently, however, that the state itself has become an object of sociological and anthropological enquiry. Touching on some of the most prominent writings on the Indian state from historians, political scientists to sociologists, Thomas Blom Hansen narrates a comprehensive take on the idioms used to understand the Indian state—for instance, the legacies of colonialism, the imaginaries of the post-colonial or the practices of government that amplify the question of caste politics or the dysfunctionalities of corruption.

    Lawrence Cohen's essay offers a specific rendition of state-ness through a reading of Aadhaar, India's recent and massive biometric identity project. Reading through ethnographic vignettes that lay out an innovative array of contexts that he compiles and calls an archive, Cohen sets out the parameters of the future trajectories of an anthropology of identity in India. The idea of technology as modernity is also explored in the contribution by Nicholas Nisbett and Aditi Bhonagiri on Internet cultures. They suggest that Internet cultures have not necessarily been the radical technological break that has ushered in political or social transformation, as it might have been expected or promised.

    Technology is also a site of identity politics and Carol Upadhya's essay reflects an approach that teases out the possible interfaces between India's ‘new economy’ and its work practices. Work related to information technology and communication, Upadhya suggests, profiles a match with middle-class aspirations linked to individual motivation, merit and achievement. The essay could be read productively along with Raka Ray's contribution on middle class-ness. Themes of labour and work in a broader context are taken up in Geert De Neve's essay on how labour issues have developed in Indian sociology, drawing from a more classical location in rural or agrarian contexts to the current horizon of urban labour seen in sectors related to information technology, service industries and special economic zones (SEZs). Along with technology, the city is a key site for many of the processes and relations outlined earlier. Indeed, the urban lends a very specific inflection to social life itself. Smriti Srinivas suggests, however, that the urban focus in Indian sociology has been slow in developing and, in many ways, is still finding its feet. She argues persuasively for the necessary recognition of the centrality of the urban in the locational nuances of the region.


    A reading together of these essays could suggest some of the crosscurrents and intersectionalities that touch upon both the descriptive and the analytic interventions. The essays that engage with the themes of labour, work and class—De Neve, Upadhya and Ray—sensitise us to the enduring concerns of exploitative labour as much as revealing the newer profiles and locations under which labour and work find definition and form. The problems of legal regimes or work cultures, for instance, show the pathways that these issues can follow. From Upadhya, we can trace a link to Nisbett and Bhonagiri's essay on Internet cultures, where both suggest the forms of social formations—whether as work profiles or as a mediated form of sociality—that present themselves for sociological and anthropological mapping in a technologising milieu. The movement of technology into large-scale governmental projects suggests a powerful development in Indian statecraft, as Cohen outlines. In these and other concerns appearing in almost all of the essays, we also note the ways in which localised Indian contexts of reference connect with global sociologically framed issues and concerns of research.

    The state as a sociological category per se traces its own evolution in Blom Hansen's essay and at the same time remains entrenched in the many and often fraught intersections with work, law (Basu), governmentality, religion and political violence in India—just to mention a few vectors. The point worth noting is that the state, in its national imaginings or its governmentalities, remains a constant in issues ostensibly far apart as Chatterji's folk aesthetics, Krishnamurthy's agricultural markets, Jodhka's village society, Cohen's Aadhaar identification techniques, Parciack's religious violence or Sujatha's medicinal research and practices. These kinds of movement of a sociological category or conceptual motif across terrains suggest the importance of identifying analytical constructs that provide access to emerging and innovative sociological concerns—and in that process aid the process of formulating research problems. In addition to the ‘state’, that kind of movement appears also to animate a social anthropological staple such as ‘religion’ in a set of essays—Srinivas’, Parciack's and Copeman/Quack's, for instance—to etch out a sense of the present that informs ‘religion’ in India as much as it expands the concept to encompass reflections upon epistemologies of violence, questions of belief, practice or even ‘spiritual capitalism’, social movements, gender questions and more.

    All in all, the gradual building up of thickness in a given area—like that of agrarian structure into agricultural markets and relationships between education, technology and class—shows the richness with which research objects evolve and find form and texture in ethnographic locations as much as in conceptual framings. The relative lack of thickness, so to speak, in the urban question (as Smriti Srinivas points out) calls for, on the one hand, an etching of a sociological map of connecting empirical motifs and parameters, like that evident in the current work on gender, sexualities, intimacies, violence, media and religion. On the other hand, it asks that we develop a methodological tendency to connect with other disciplines such as history, geography, law and philosophy. Perhaps, the quest that remains unsaid but finds expression in these essays is the importance of paying detailed attention to the crafting of a research object that can and will draw from the meaning-making potential of conceptualisations that could be excavated from the human sciences at large. This is common in much of sociology/ social anthropology, but perhaps less explicit in sociology in India.

    We take the liberty of making a few tentative suggestions as to what could spur on sociology in and of India. When Appadurai (1986b) talked of caste as a ‘gatekeeping’ concept that predominates Indian social anthropology and sociology about three decades ago (just as ‘honour and shame’ did for Mediterranean, for instance), he suggested a crucial epistemological point about how paradigmatic concerns can dominate the sensing of the sociological. However, our intent in this volume has not been to revisit these paradigms in order to overturn them or show their diminishing relevance, but rather to suggest a fundamental point. That is, we hope these essays have traced the ways in which dominant paradigms have retained their traction and gained density in emerging empirical locations, concerns and issues. These intents have not meant a comprehensive tracing of these articulations until the time of publication but more a representation of the diversity of issues and concerns that inform the academic content of social anthropology/sociology in and of India. As we received and read through the richly nuanced essays from the contributors, it was very clear that, among other things, this volume could be an important pedagogic reference as well at various levels of university education. The much too brief outline of the essays in this introduction cannot signal the potential of how the volume might be engaged with in a classroom.

    In that spirit, we would like to mention a few concerns that add to the pedagogic potential. A gap that remains to be suitably framed and filled is the question of method and epistemology. We referred earlier to the ‘qualitative turn’ that sociology in India has been privileging which might suggest the ‘peripheral’ or ‘provincial’ turn that sociology had taken in post-colonial locations when translating ‘American’ sociology. To that, we add further nuance by underlining the point that the conventional split between social anthropology and sociology has been understood as between qualitative and quantitative, whereby, on the one hand, northern (or metropolitan) locations have conventionally employed quantitative methods to study their own societies. On the other hand, ethnographic work was meant as a more classical anthropological approach, which was applied in the study of ‘other’, often ‘far away’, societies. However, as with the human sciences at large, the ethnographic method has become a mode with which to access and represent research in much of metropolitan sociology and elsewhere. Social anthropology in India has largely been a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods in the sense that these are the perspectives that sociologists or social anthropologists (both terms used interchangeably now) are trained in and the way that local syllabi are constituted.

    We repeat these concerns here to flag a concern that may need reflection: Is there a need to frame and articulate methodological and epistemological concerns in Indian social anthropology? Could these reflections frame a contribution to the wider notions of sociological/ social anthropological research in ways that illuminate the negotiations that are universal and disciplinary at large but particular and locational as well? To illustrate, in urban studies, the critique of universal theory has been in the shape of perspectives that speak as ‘theory from the south’—thus, in urban studies, proposing ‘slum as theory’ becomes a way of negotiating the lacunae perceived in global theory. An epistemological frame peculiar to local context makes an appearance. We wonder, just as gatekeeping concepts provided theoretical parameters with which to negotiate a region and its specificities, is it necessary to articulate these negotiations as theoretical constructs for the discipline at large and not limited to the region as such? At the same time, how can we incorporate the possible range of variation within the Indian subcontinent—not just in approach but in syllabi as well? While such critiques and their importance continue to be debated, the issues raised in the essays in this volume not just point to the importance of recognising these concerns but also push towards posing another crucial question—that of comparative ethnographic work. This has not been a visible trend within social anthropology in India (see Arif 2015, 2016). While funding and several other concerns of accessibility of non-India field-sited from India have been the chief deterrents to such endeavours, the area studies paradigm has been the limited framing that seems to continue to guide and shape social anthropology from and in India. In many ways, this is a reflection of the discipline in post-colonial contexts in various locations of Asia, Africa and Latin America—but the lack is far more pronounced in social anthropological practices in India than in those other locations. From that perspective, the worlding of Indian sociology or social anthropology remains an unfinished, or perhaps an uninitiated, discussion. However, some reflection on that possibility has been the recent opening up of a ‘World Anthropology’ section in the American Anthropologist which has recently carried essays on the question (Arif 2016; Das and Randheria 2014).

    Somewhat connected to the issues of connecting Indian sociology to wider comparative horizons is another question in the human sciences: that of disciplinary coherence as well as multidisciplinarity and its pedagogical, epistemological concerns. For instance, how do syllabi in Indian sociology find their focus or emphasis? How is the discipline imagined in pedagogical practice? What ‘foundations’ continue to influence the shaping of syllabi and what have been the critical influences that have made significant changes? Questions like these will continue to be a part of collective moments like this volume. In many ways, a small but significant concern is what questions does an ‘intra’ disciplinary conversation in and of India bring to the fore, some part of which, we hope, this volume has expressed.

    These essays, we hope, will be accessible to a readership beyond academic circles as we believe in the fundamental significance of the social sciences—beyond the discipline of economics—in understanding the past and present of Indian society in particular and human life in general. This collection is particularly important, we feel, in light of what appears to be contemporary downgrading of the social sciences which are seen as not particularly useful to the task of economic ‘progress’ and material or social welfare. Ironically, though, the downgrading is accompanied by an intense political struggle over the kind of social science that is most ‘relevant’ for our time. And, though the latter story cannot be fully narrated here, a collection such as this, at least implicitly, points to the themes and styles that professional sociologists deem valuable.

    We end with a note of thanks to our invited authors. As mentioned earlier, authors were given a fairly simple brief, that is, exploring social complexity in an accessible manner. Each has interpreted our request with varying interweavings of the personal, the conceptual and the disciplinary. Given that each topic under discussion demands the difficult exercise of fitting within limited space a wide range of debates and discussions as well as a narrative over time, the essays have managed to cover vast horizons as well as insight. Finally, each provides valuable bibliographies that are often found only under extensive reviews and that is another important contribution to the pedagogic and archival potential of this volume.

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    Appadurai Arjun. 1986a. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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    Arif Yasmeen. 2015. ‘The Audacity of Method’. Economic & Political Weekly 50(1): 5361.
    Arif Yasmeen. 2016. ‘Anthropologizing the World and Worlding the Anthropologist’. American Anthropologist 118(4): 84851.
    Bourdieu Pierre, and Passeron J.-C. 1977. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. Translated by R. Nice. London: SAGE.
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    Chaudhuri Maitrayee, ed. 2003. The Practice of Sociology. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
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    *The editors wish to thank Bikram Sharma, Editorial Associate, Contributions to Indian Sociology, for his invaluable assistance in preparing the book for publication.

  • About the Editors and Contributors


    Sanjay Srivastava is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University (North Campus), Delhi. His publications include Constructing Post-colonial India: National Character and the Doon School (1998), Asia: Cultural Politics in the Global Age (2001, co-authored), Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes: Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia (2004, contributing editor), Passionate Modernity, Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India (2007), Sexuality Studies (2013, contributing editor) and Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon (2015). From 2012 to 2016, he was co-editor of Contributions to Indian Sociology (CIS).

    Yasmeen Arif is Associate Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. Her book Life, Emergent: The Social in the Afterlives of Violence (2016) explores a politics of life across multiple global conditions of mass violence. Her forthcoming book The Unusual Urban: Cities in Conversation compiles her work on cities. She has held positions at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), Minneapolis; the Graduate Institute, Geneva; Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi; and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Fulbright–Nehru Scholarship, among others. From 2012 to 2016, she was co-editor of the Book Reviews section in CIS.

    Janaki Abraham is Associate Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. Her research interests include the study of kinship, gender and caste, visual anthropology, and gender and space, particularly the study of towns. She is currently finalising her manuscript entitled Gender, Caste and Matrilineal Kinship: Shifting Boundaries in Twentieth-century Kerala. Outcomes of a project on visual culture were presented at an exhibition entitled ‘Exploring the Visual Cultures of North Kerala: Photographs, Albums and Videos in Everyday Life’ at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 2008, and was based on her postdoctoral research. From 2012 to 2016, she was co-editor of the Book Reviews section in CIS.


    Renu Addlakha is currently Professor at the Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi. She is presently engaged in research on health, disability, gender and development. She did her masters in social work from Delhi University, Delhi, followed by an MPhil and PhD in sociology from the same university. Her doctoral work focused on the psychiatric profession in India, with a particular focus on gender issues. She has published widely in national and international peer-reviewed journals. Her most important publications are Deconstructing Mental Illness: An Ethnography of Psychiatry, Women and the Family (2008), Disability and Society: A Reader (2009, co-edited with Stuart Blume, Patrick J. Devlieger, Osamu Nagase and Myriam Winance), Contemporary Perspectives on Disability in India: Exploring the Linkages Between Law, Gender and Experience (2011) and Disability Studies in India: Global Discourse, Local Realities (2013).

    Joseph S. Alter teaches anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, and has published a number of books, including The Wrestler's Body, Knowing Dil Das, Gandhi's Body, Asian Medicine and Globalization, Yoga in Modern India and Moral Materialism. His research is based in South Asia and is currently focused on the cultural history of nature cure as a globalised system of medicine, biosemiotics and social theory, and the natural history of animals in the human imagination. With a focus on ecology and natural history, he runs a semester-long study-abroad programme Pitt in the Himalayas.

    Srimati Basu is Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She is the author of the monographs The Trouble with Marriage: Feminists Confront Law and Violence in India(2015) and She Comes to Take Her Rights: Indian Women, Property and Propriety (1999), editor of Dowry & Inheritance (2005) and co-editor of Conjugality Unbound: Sexual Economy and the Marital Form in India (2014, with Lucinda Ramberg).

    Amita Baviskar is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University (North Campus), Delhi. Her research focuses on the cultural politics of environment and development in rural and urban India. Her book In the Belly of the River: Tribal Conflicts over Development in the Narmada Valley and subsequent publications explore the themes of resource rights, subaltern resistance and discourses of environmentalism. Her current work examines food practices and agrarian environments in western India. Her recent publications include Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes (with Raka Ray) and First Garden of the Republic: Nature on the President's Estate.

    Aditi Bhonagiri works as a development researcher and digital media producer. Her projects focus on issues of gender, environment, agriculture, social and political movements. She holds an MA in development studies (IDS, University of Sussex, Brighton), a graduate diploma in international relations (London School of Economics and Political Science, London) and a BA in public communications and the media arts (University of Technology, Sydney). Her recent work includes co-producing an online learning module on ‘Health, Environment, and Development’ to strengthen health research across Africa and Asia, and authoring a topic guide on Social Movements, aimed at UK's Department for International Development (DFID) officials.

    Paul Boyce is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and International Development in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, Brighton. Boyce's work traverses applied and theoretical anthropological imaginaries.

    Rita Brara is a Senior Fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi, Delhi. She is the author of Shifting Landscapes: The Making and Remaking of Village Commons in India. Her research interests include the study of climate change, development studies and popular culture. She is presently the co-editor of CIS.

    Roma Chatterji is Professor at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, Delhi. Apart from an abiding interest in folk art and culture, she has also worked on social gerontology and collective violence. She is the author of Speaking with Pictures:Folk Art and the Narrative Tradition in India (2012, 2016), Writing Identities: Folklore and Performing Arts in Purulia, West Bengal (2009) and Living with Violence: An Anthropology of Events and Everyday Life (2007, with Deepak Mehta). She has edited Wording the World: Veena Das and Scenes of Instruction (2014) and co-edited Riot Discourses (2007, with Deepak Mehta).

    Lawrence Cohen is Sarah Kailath Professor of India Studies and Professor of Anthropology and of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is, also at Berkeley, Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies and former Director of the Medical Anthropology Program and of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. His research has engaged the ways the body is entangled in local familial and political worlds, with a focus on age and ageing, on sexuality, on organ transplantation and on the presumptions of biometric governance. He is the author of No Aging in India: Modernity, Senility and the Family (1999) and co-editor of Thinking about Dementia: Culture, Loss and the Anthropology of Senility (2006). His many essays include ‘The Pleasures of Castration’ (1995), ‘Where It Hurts’ (1999), ‘The Kothi Wars’ (2005), ‘Song for Pushkin’ (2007) and ‘The Gay Guru’ (2012). His research has been supported by grants from the Fulbright– Hays Program, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Fulbright Program, the Mellon Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Arcus Foundation, the University of California, Harvard University, the MOVE Consortium and the United States Department of Education National Resource Centers Program.

    Jacob Copeman is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh. He is the author of Veins of Devotion: Blood Donation and Religious Experience in North India (2009) and editor or co-editor of Blood Donation, Bioeconomy, Culture (2009), South Asian Tissue Economies (2013), The Guru in South Asia: New Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2012), Social Theory After Strathern (2014) and On Names in South Asia: Iteration, (Im)propriety and Dissimulation (2015).

    Rohit K. Dasgupta is Lecturer at the Institute for Media and Creative Industries, Loughborough University, Loughborough, where he teaches across a range of modules on media and cultural studies. As an ethnographer, his work cuts across several disciplines with particular interests in digital media, Indian cinema, protest culture, queer politics and South Asia. Prior to his current position, he held the position of lecturer in Global Media at the University of Southampton, Southampton; an associate lecturer at University of the Arts London, London; and has also held teaching and research posts at University of Sussex, Brighton; University of West London, London; and University of Westminster, London. He has co-edited Masculinity and Its Challenges in India: Essays on Changing Perceptions and Rituparno Ghosh: Cinema, Gender and Art.

    Geert De Neve is Professor of Social Anthropology and South Asian Studies at the University of Sussex, Brighton. He is the author of The Everyday Politics of Labour: Working Lives in India's Informal Economy (2005) and has published multiple articles on labour and ethical governance in India's garment sector in Economy and Society, Modern Asian Studies and Ethnography, among other publications. He is also a co-editor of Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (2008) and of Unmaking the Global Sweatshop: Health and Safety of the World's Garment Workers (2017).

    Sara Dickey is Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, in the United States. She has studied the production, consumption and circulation of Tamil cinema, and the roles of cinema and fan clubs in state politics; she also carries out research on class identities and relations in urban South India. Her books include Cinema and the Urban Poor in South India and Living Class in Urban India.

    Shalini Grover is currently Associate Professor in Social Anthropology and Gender Studies at O. P. Jindal Global University, Department of Liberal Arts and Humanities. She has published widely on marriage, kinship, divorce, legal pluralism and labour relations. Through the lens of ‘lived experience’, her ethnographic data engages with sections of India's urban poor and middle classes. Grover's articles have appeared in the Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA), CIS, Asian Journal of Women's Studies (AJWS) and an edited volume on Marrying in South Asia. Her 2011 monograph is now available as a new revised international edition (2017). Her publications and affiliation with the Institute of Economic Growth since 2007 can be viewed on

    Thomas Blom Hansen is the Reliance–Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology and the Director of Stanford University's Center for South Asia, Stanford. He has broad interests spanning South Asia and Southern Africa, theoretical and disciplinary interests spanning political theory, continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, comparative religion and contemporary urbanism.He is the author of (1999), (2001) and (2012), as well as many articles, book chapters and edited volumes.

    Surinder S. Jodhka is Professor of Sociology at JNU, New Delhi. His research interests include the study of rural society and dynamics of agrarian change; social inequalities—old and new—and their reproduction; the dynamics of caste and the varied modes of its articulation with the nature of social and economic change in contemporary India; and the political sociology community identities. His research publications include Caste in Contemporary India (2015), Interrogating India's Modernity (2013, edited), Caste: Oxford India Short Introductions (2012), Village Society (2012, edited) and Community and Identities: Contemporary Discourses on Culture and Politics in India (2001, edited, SAGE). He is among the first recipients of the ICSSR–Amartya Sen Award for Distinguished Social Scientists, for the year 2012.

    Mekhala Krishnamurthy is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Ashoka University. As a social anthropologist, Mekhala is interested in the ethnographic study of the state and market, particularly the political economy, regional histories, everyday lives, knowledge resources, and institutional practices of public systems and programmes in contemporary India. Over the last decade, her research, policy and professional engagements have involved work across a number of field sites and subjects, including women's courts and dispute resolution, community health workers and public health systems, agricultural commodity markets and regulation, and rural development, livelihoods and land acquisition.

    Sarah Lamb is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University, Waltham. Her research focuses on ageing, gender, families, and understandings of personhood and modernity in India and the United States. Her books include White Saris and Sweet Mangoes: Aging, Gender and Body in North India and Aging and the Indian Diaspora: Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad. With Diane Mines, she co-edited Everyday Life in South Asia. Her newest book is an edited volume, Successful Aging as a Contemporary Obsession: Global Perspectives.

    Lucia Michelutti is Associate Professor (Reader) in the Department of Anthropology at the University College London, London. Her major research interest is the study of popular politics, religion, law and order, and violence across South Asia (India) and Latin America (Venezuela). She is the author of The Vernacularisation of Democracy (2008) and has published articles on caste/race, leadership, muscular politics, crime and mafias, and political experimentations. She is currently the convenor of an international research programme ‘Democratic Cultures’ (

    Perveez Mody is a Social Anthropologist and Lecturer at the Division of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge. She is a Fellow and Senior Tutor of King's College, Cambridge. She is interested in transformations in South Asian kinship, intimacy, marriage, gender, sexuality and care. She has written a monograph about the practice of love-marriage in urban India and the history of civil marriage legislation and practice from the colonial period into the present (The Intimate State: Love-Marriage and the Law in Delhi 2008). More recently, her work concerns the legal protections against the phenomenon known as ‘forced marriage’ in the United Kingdom.

    Nicholas Nisbett is currently Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, where he works on politics and interventions to do with child malnutrition in India, Bangladesh and elsewhere. His research on Internet cultures was carried out in Bengaluru's Internet cafes and IT institutes and considered the role of gender, class and capital in shaping friendship, courtship and strategies for social mobility within the Indian IT economy. His monograph Growing Up in the Knowledge Society was published in 2009. He has worked for the British government on food, agricultural and trade policy.

    Rajni Palriwala, MA (JNU), MPhil, PhD (Delhi) is Professor at Department of Sociology at Delhi University, Delhi. Her research interests include gender, kinship and marriage, care, citizenship, the state, feminist theory and politics, agrarian and development studies and comparative sociology. She has authored Changing Kinship, Family and Gender Relations in South Asia: Processes, Trends and Issues (1994) and co-authored Care, Culture and Citizenship: Revisiting the Politics of the Dutch Welfare State (2005, with C.I. Risseeuw and K. Ganesh). She has co-edited Marriage, Migration, and Gender (2008, with P. Uberoi), Shifting Circles of Support: Contextualising Kinship and Gender Relations in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (1996, with C.I. Risseeuw) and Structures and Strategies: Women, Work and Family in Asia (1990, with L. Dube).

    Ronie Parciack is a faculty member at the Department of East Asian Studies of Tel Aviv University, Israel. Her research interests include the vernacular planes of political theology in India, political and aesthetic aspects in South Asian mass media and popular culture, and Indo-Islamic visual culture. She has published in refereed journals and anthologies, and co-edited a special issue of the Journal of South Asian Popular Culture on terror and media. Her book Popular Hindi Cinema: Aesthetic Formations of the Seen and Unseen (2016) is an analysis of core aesthetic and philosophical premises embedded in the visual language in Hindi cinema, as well as the recent transformations to local and digitalised VCD (video compact disc) industries in the Hindi and Urdu belt.

    Johannes Quack is Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His (ethnographic) research interests include popular Hinduism; religion, secularism and non-religion; medicine and therapeutic pluralism; and ethics and knowledge (trans)formations. He is the author of Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India (2012). He co-edited the volumes The Problem of Ritual Efficacy (2010), Asymmetrical Conversations: Contestations, Circumventions and the Blurring of Therapeutic Boundaries (2014) and Religious Indifferences: New Perspectives from Studies on Secularization and Nonreligion (2017).

    Raka Ray (AB, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, 1985; PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, 1993) is Professor of Sociology and South and Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the former Chair of the Institute of South Asia Studies and the Department of Sociology. Her areas of specialisation are gender and feminist theory, inequality, emerging middle classes, cultures of servitude, social movements and post-colonial sociology. Her publications include Fields of Protest: Women's Movements in India (1999, 2000), Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics (2005, co-edited with Mary Katzenstein), Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India (2009, co-edited with Seemin Qayum), Both Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes (2011, co-edited with Amita Baviskar), The Handbook of Gender (2011) and many articles.

    Alpa Shah is Associate Professor (Reader) in Anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE). She is the author of Ground Down by Growth (2017) and In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India (2010). She has also written about affirmative action, labour migration, agrarian change and India's and Nepal's Maoist-inspired revolutionary struggles.

    Smriti Srinivas is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at the University of California, Davis. She is also Co-Director of the Mellon Research Initiative in ‘Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds’. Her research over the last two decades has focused on the relationship between cities, religion, cultural memory and the body. She is the author of The Mouths of People, The Voice of God (1998), Landscapes of Urban Memory (2001), In the Presence of Sai Baba (2008) and A Place for Utopia: Urban Designs from South Asia (2015). Her research has been supported over the years by a Mellon Fellowship, a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, UC Humanities Network Multi-Campus Working Group and Multi-Campus Research Group Awards, the American Academy of Religion, the Davis Humanities Institute, the Indian Foundation for the Arts and CSDS, among others. She currently serves on the advisory board of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies and the editorial board of Contemporary South Asia.

    Tulasi Srinivas is Professor of Anthropology and Religion at Emerson College, Boston, and a fellow Luce-American Council of Learned Societies for 2018–19. Srinivas is the author of several books including Winged Faith Rethinking Globalization and Religious Pluralism (2010) and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Food, Globalization and South Asia (2012, with Krishnendu Ray). Her new work The Cow in the Elevator: Explorations in an Anthropology of Wonder was published in Spring 2018. She has held several prestigious fellowships: at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University and at the Kate Hamburger Kolleg, Bochum, Germany. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Srinivas is a primary advisor to the World Economic Forum, Davos, on the Global Agenda Council on the Crisis of Global Inequality.

    V. Sujatha is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU, New Delhi, and she specialises in sociology of knowledge and sociology of medicine. Her research and publications have focused on the politics of lay, folk, expert and non-expert knowledge, and changes in systems of knowledge under new institutions and structures, with special reference to medical knowledge. Her publications include, among other things, two monographs, Health by the People (2003) and Sociology of Health and Medicine: New Perspectives (2014), and an edited volume, Medical Pluralism in Contemporary India (2013, co-edited by Leena Abraham).

    Meenakshi Thapan is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi Delhi, and Coordinator of the D.S. Kothari Centre for Science, Ethics and Education, University of Delhi, Delhi. She has been Coordinator of the European Studies Programme (funded by the European Union, 2010–11), University of Delhi, Delhi. She is also a Trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation (India) since 2012. Meenakshi's work in the field of education has focused on schools and schooling processes in India and in Vancouver and Paris. Her first book was Life at School: An Ethnographic Study (1991, 2006) and the most recent are Education and Society: Themes, Perspectives, Practices (2015, edited), Ethnographies of Schooling in Contemporary India (2014, edited, SAGE), Living the Body: Embodiment, Womanhood and Identity in Contemporary India (2009, SAGE) and Contested Spaces: Citizenship and Belonging in Contemporary Times (2010, edited). She is also Series Editor of a Series on the Sociology and Social Anthropology of Education in South Asia (2015–17, SAGE) and of a five-volume series on Women and Migration in Asia (2005–08, SAGE). A new series on Education and Society is underway (2018–22).

    Carol Upadhya, a social anthropologist, is Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru, where she directs the Urban and Mobilities Studies research programme. Upadhya has been researching and writing on changing alignments of class, caste and capital in contemporary India for over three decades, including agricultural development and class formation in Coastal Andhra, software capital and labour and ‘new’ middle class, and transnational migration and regional diasporas. Upadhya's current projects focus on the urbanisation of rural landscapes in Andhra Pradesh and the restructuring of land, labour and livelihoods in Bengaluru. She is the author of Reengineering India: Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy (2016).

    Margit van Wessel completed her PhD in 2001 at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, Amsterdam. The topic of her (ethnographic) thesis was the way members of the newly emerging urban middle class in India confront globalisation and, with that, the diversity of cultural phenomena that are part of their daily lives. Her interest in interactions and in questions of meaning, developed in these years, continues to inspire and inform present research projects and teaching. Presently, Margit is Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication, Technology and Philosophy of Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands. She researches present-day manifestations of citizenship and civil society and its interactions with politics and policy-making.

    Suryakant Waghmore is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai. He is the author of Civility Against Caste (2013).

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