Sociology (37)
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    Marriage, Love, Caste and Kinship Support: Lived Experiences of the Urban Poor in India by: Shalini Grover

    Marriage, Love, Caste and Kinship Support: Lived Experiences of the Urban Poor in India makes use of interesting case studies and photographs to describe the everyday life in a squatter settlement in Delhi.

    The book helps to understand the marital experiences of these people most of whom belong to the Scheduled Caste and live in one identified geographical space. The author describes the shifts within their marriages, remarriages and other kinds of unions and their striking diversities, which have been described with care. Shalini Grover also examines the close ties of married women with their mothers and natal families.

    An important contribution of the book lies in the unfolding of the role of women-led informal courts, Mahila Panchayats, and their influence in conflict resolution. This takes place in a distinctly different mode of community-based arbitration against the backdrop of mainstream legal structures and male-dominated caste associations.

    The book will be of interest to students of sociology and social anthropology, gender studies, development studies, law and psychology. Activists and family counsellors will also find the book useful.


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    Middle Class Values in India & Western Europe by: Imtiaz Ahmad, Helmut Reifeld,

    Thirteen extremely interesting essays discuss what constitutes the middle classes, and distinguishes their values and way of life in France, Germany and India.

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    Much Ado Over Coffee – Indian Coffee House Then and Now by: Bhaswati Bhattacharya

    Based on oral history, fiction, interesting intellectual gossip, and records of the Coffee Board of India, Much Ado Over Coffee: Indian Coffee House Then and Now is a many-sited description of the Indian Coffee House, possibly the world’s first coffee house chain.
    The book offers interestingly written accounts of the addas or informal meetings, of the educated middle class in the cities of Calcutta, Allahabad and Delhi. Addas initially flourished in the neighbourhood tea shops, and then switched to the newly created coffee houses.
    Readers will encounter their favourite writers, and other famous people at close quarters here. Bhaswati Battacharya brings to life the lanes and by-lanes of these cities as they were then, through the sheer gift of her ethnographic skills. Some workers, now forgotten but who were once immensely popular with the regular visitors of the coffee houses, live on again on these pages bringing back old memories. In this context one should perhaps mention that in an interesting departure, some footnotes in this book are used to carry video links of luminaries visiting these coffee houses.
    Change has set in here too as everywhere else.

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    Nature, Culture and Religion at the Crossroads of Asia by: Marie Lecomte-Tilouine

    Nature, Culture and Religion at the Crossroads of Asia explores how ethnic groups living in the Himalayan regions understand nature and culture. The first part addresses the opposition between nature and culture in Asia’s major religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Shamanism. The second part brings together specialists of different representative groups living in the heterogeneous Himalayan region. They examine how these indigenous groups perceive their world. This includes understanding their mythic past, in particular, the place of animals and spirits in the world of humans as they see it and the role of ritual in the everyday lives of these people. The book takes into account how these various perceptions of the Himalayan peoples are shaped by a globalized world. The volume thus provides new ways of viewing the relationship between humans and their environment.

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    Negotiating Marginality: Conflicts over Tribal Development in India by:

    Providing a critical ethnography of five different tribal movements fighting against the mega-industrialization projects in Odisha, India, Negotiating Marginality: Conflicts over Tribal Development in India presents a thick description of the confrontation of the tribals to the authoritative forces of state domination. This confrontation, a counter-hegemonic discourse, is neither antagonistic to change nor anti to development, but rather in fact, the author argues, that the tribals are the subaltern citizens who aspire for not only more material and economic prosperity but also freedom – freedom from domination and deprivation. The book therefore seeks to answer one important question: how do the tribals appropriate marginality in their everyday lives in challenging domination and celebrating their desires, wishes, anticipations and material prosperity as well as in coping with the ruins of frustration and suffering.  Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork carried over a decade (2006-16), this book provides empirical evidences and conceptual explorations on the resistance of subaltern citizens against domination. The author challenges current theories of social movements which claim that a cultural critique of the ‘development’ paradigm is writ large in the political actions of those marginalized by ‘development’ – tribals who lived large in the political actions of those marginalized by ‘development’ – tribals who lived in harmony with nature, combining reverence for nature with the sustainable management of resources. On the other hand, questioning the established notion of ‘marginality as a problem’, the author re-visits ‘marginality’ as a possible site that nourishes the capacity of the tribals to resist and to imagine and create a new world. The complexity of tribal politics, then, cannot be reduced to an opposition between ‘development’ and ‘resistance’. The book therefore persuades us to re-examine the politics of representation within the ideology of progressive movements.

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    New Mansions for Music: Performance, Pedagogy and Criticism by: Lakshmi Subramanian

    The essays in New Mansions for Music: Performance, Pedagogy and Criticism look at one of the most ancient and rigorous classical musical traditions of India, the Karnatik music system, and the kind of changes it underwent once it was relocated from traditional spaces of temples and salons to the public domain. Nineteenth-century Madras led the way in the transformation that Karnatik music underwent as it encountered the forces of modernization and standardization. This study also contributes to our understanding of the experience of modernity in India through the prism of music. The role of Madras city as patron and custodian of the performing arts, especially classical music offers an invaluable perspective on the larger processes of modernization in India As the title suggests, the areas of classical music, which were most influenced by these developments were pedagogy or modes of musical transmission, performance conventions and criticism or music appreciation. Once the urban elite demanded the widening of the teaching of classical music, traditional modes of music instruction underwent a major change involving a breakdown of the gurushishya parampara or the tradition wherein the teacher imparted knowledge to a chosen few. Caste and kinship were important determining factors for the selection of these shishyas or students, but in modern institutions like the universities these boundaries had to be demolished. Simultaneously, the public staging of music brought the performer into a new relationship with his audience, especially as the art form became subject to validation and criticism by the newly emerging music critic. In an immensely readable book peppered with anecdotes and conversations with leading musicians and critics of the day, as well as humorous visual representations, part caricature, part satirical, the author describes a rapidly changing society and its new look in early twentieth century Madras.

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    Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons: Memoirs of an Indian Woman by:

    Of Colonial Bungalows and Piano Lessons can be read as a metaphor — as an icon — of the encounter between cultures. The memoir is based on Monica Chanda’s recollections between about 1913 and 1927, of life in Calcutta, districts of undivided Bengal, holidays in Kashmir and in Europe. There is more than a whiff of a Victorian upbringing in the pages. Neither honed in one culture nor fully at home in those practices superimposed by Monica’s father’s professional life as a member of the Indian Civil Service, her dilemma comes through in these writings. While her father, Jnanendra Nath Gupta, was avowedly against formal schooling for girls, he encouraged his daughter to undertake long and at times hazardous journeys by river, rail and road to perfect her skills as a pianist. Though there was an occasional longing for a freer life like that lived by her cousins, yet, Monica also enjoyed the privileges of living in spacious bungalows with a retinue of servants, going on exclusive launch trips down the Ganges, and being invited to parties at Government House and even Buckingham Palace. While there is a tautness palpable in her narration of an encounter with a clearly racist Eurasian sergeant and almost near-encounter with a tiger, Monica’s style avoids hyperbole and dramatic sequences. She presents facts and situations as she saw them — though there are a few times when emotions of love, fear and excitement ripple through the pages of this tightly–woven memoir.

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    Partners in Development: India and Switzerland by: Richard Gerster

    This abundantly illustrated, accessible and perceptive account of the Indo-Swiss cooperation in India’s development programme is a remarkable book. The cooperation dates back to 1958, and it is not widely known that Switzerland was the first country to enter into a treaty of friendship with the then newly independent India on 14 August 1948.

    Development interests were preceded by business interests and the first Swiss watches reached the subcontinent around 1600. By the end of 2005, Switzerland ranked tenth among foreign investors in India.

    Partners in Development, as the title suggests, brings out the rare quality of a partnership between a donor and a recipient country. Written with a dispassionate assessment of this dynamic relationship which has undergone changes as India has itself become a donor country, the book throws open many important questions relating to development programmes in India today. The book states candidly that however important in specific instances, development cooperation should not be overestimated and that the Indo-Swiss development cooperation has benefited both sides. Nevertheless it comments that India is indeed a world economic power today, and Switzerland, jointly with other foreign agencies, has contributed to this success.

    The book begins with an excellent introduction of the country’s brief history from independence to the present day, and concludes that India’s ‘economic miracle’, however important, is not as impressive as the survival and vitality of the country’s democratic institutions. This idea has been echoed by Gerster and other contributors to this volume. It then moves on to dwell on areas where the cooperation has been successful as well as where it has not. The important areas of success have been in vocational training, animal husbandry and dairy farming, biotechnology and microfinance and methodology.  The book brings in a note of uncertainty about the future of development programmes in India.  It ends by pointing out that there are many issues that can be resolved only through international cooperation.

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    Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World by: Hent de Vries, Lawrence E. Sullivan,

    In a globalized world, how can one bridge the private lives of individuals and public cultures or ways of life? In what ways does religion, with regard to words, gestures, and things, exert a pressure on structures of governance? Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-secular World opens an inquiry concerning the engagement of religion with politics.

    The seventeen papers in this volume examine interrelationships between the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ‘age of globalization’ on the one hand and the vision of society and structures of governance developed over millennia by religious traditions on the other.  It examines if contemporary political theologies have practical relevance in aspects of policies and decision-making by individuals and governments. It explores the possibility that religion might give people a chance to lead better lives in the modern milieu. The volume will be of great interest to students of religion, politics, sociology and philosophy, as well as the interested general reader.

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    Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal by: Sarah LeVine, David N. Gellner,

    Rebuilding Buddhism describes in evocative detail the experiences and achievements of Nepalis who have adopted Theravada Buddhism. This form of Buddhism was introduced into Nepal from Burma and Sri Lanka in the 1930s, and its adherents have struggled for recognition and acceptance ever since. With its focus on the austere figure of the monk and the biography of the historical Buddha, and more recently with its emphasis on individualizing meditation and on gender equality, Theravada Buddhism contrasts sharply with the highly ritualized Tantric Buddhism traditionally practiced in the Kathmandu Valley.

    Based on extensive fieldwork, interviews, and historical reconstruction, the book provides a rich portrait of the different ways of being a Nepali Buddhist over the past seventy years. At the same time it explores the impact of the Theravada movement and what its gradual success has meant for Buddhism, for society, and for men and women in Nepal.