Critical Themes in Indian Sociology brings together the writings of a number of scholars—both well established and younger, in India and in different parts of the world—on various themes that express the richness and diversity that defines sociological scholarship on India. The book reflects changes in scholarship over time and charts out new subjects and methods for the study of social life in India. Commemorating the 50 plus years since Contributions to Indian Sociology was first published, this book is a tribute to a journal that has sustained an internationally acclaimed and rigorous sociological engagement with India. Comprising a wide range of themes such as village, city, class, caste, politics, gender, sexuality, media, food and education, this book presents a concise, yet in-depth sense of a sociological view of India today.
Chapter 1: The State as an Ethnographic Object
‘What is a state if it is not a sovereign?’ asked Clifford Geertz in 2004 in one of his very last articles. An older ‘island and mountain anthropology’ had been ill-equipped to understand the rough and tumble of birth of new nations and states across the Global South in the 20th century, Geertz admitted. Anthropologists, from the marginal locations they studied, had accepted the dominant fiction projected by all would-be nation states as ‘leviathan machines’: the fiction that the state comprehensively ruled a territory and a population by means of modern and rational forms of unitary governance (Geertz 2004). The power of the colonial and post-colonial states ...