This intriguing anthropological study investigates how the boatmen of Banaras have repositioned themselves within the traditional social organization and used their privileged position on the river to contest upper-caste and state domination. Assa Doron examines the evolution of the boatmen community, drawing on a variety of sources to illuminate the cultural politics of social and economic inequality in contemporary India. Caste, Occupation and Politics on the Ganges offers insight into recent debates about the cultural and historical forms of social practice and resistance at the juncture between tradition and the global economy, and will therefore appeal not only to anthropologists, but to anyone working in the field of development studies, globalization, religion, politics and cultural studies.
Contents: Foreword; Series editors' preface: Ritual transformations and the edges of history, Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart; Introduction; The criminal type: domesticating the Ganges boatmen; 'Step-sons of the state': marginalization and the struggle for recognition; The moral economy of boating: territorial clashes and internal struggles; River crossings: boatmen, priests and the ritual economy of Banaras; The romance of Banaras: boatmen, pilgrims and tourists; Conclusion; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Assa Doron is a Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, at The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Australia
Reviews: '…an immensely readable account of the everyday lives of the boatmen who ply their trade on the River Ganges. In seeking to understand the moral and ritual economies of the boatmen, their relations with the colonial and postcolonial state, and their interactions with pilgrims and tourists, Assa Doron brings their characters to life, showing how the fascinating lifeworlds of these "subalterns" are far richer, more nuanced and multidimensional than many analyses would lead us to believe.'
Joel S. Kahn, La Trobe University, Australia
'Doron’s rich ethnography lets readers taste the mist of the ghats and share the lives of the men who make their livings there. Both anthropologist and historian, Doron locates the story in the politics of modern Uttar Pradesh and in theoretical literature about subordination and power. This delightful book will help readers understand how the transformations of individual lives and occupations contribute to the remaking of a complex civilization.'
Robin Jeffrey, Australian National University, Australia
'...the book is extremely valuable in its account of the lifeworld of the boatmen community in Banaras, which is first of its kind. I definitely recommend it to all interested.'
'...a richly informative study, enhanced with numerous maps and photographs, that provocatively counterpoints particularised social practices with general anthropological theory and the dynamics of expanding global and domestic travel with a constantly evolving local order. It will be of interest to students of Banaras, of South Asia, of tourism and of the anthropology and sociology of ‘subalterns’ in all societies.'
Professor Philip Lutgendorf for The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
'Assa Doron has brought together the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, history and politics in his fascinating study of the boatmen of the Ganges at its most visited site, Varanasi...I am particularly impressed by Doron’s deft handling of the ambiguity and paradox that so frequently underlies formal categorizations of India and Indians.'
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
'…this book is a valuable contribution to the anthropology of marginalized communities in India, and a reflexive account of their struggles for social justice and their life-ways' survival in the midst of rapidly shifting socio-economic and political land- and riverscapes.'
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
'... this book offers a brilliant anthropological examination of the
livelihood and cultural aspects of boatmen of Banaras. ... The book will be interesting to historians, anthropologists and sociologists alike and contributes brilliant theoretical and empirical models to re-examine the role of capitalism, caste and subaltern agency.'
Journal of Intercultural Studies
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