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The Oxford India Srinivas
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The Oxford India Srinivas
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About the Book

Sanskritization', 'dominant caste', and 'vote bank' describe important aspects of Indian politics, society, and social life in the new millennium. Interestingly, all three terms owe their genesis to one of India's most distinguished sociologists, M.N. Srinivas. Apart from his path-breaking work, Srinivas was instrumental in setting up two pioneering centers of sociology and social anthropology in India-at M.S. University Baroda and at the University of Delhi.

The Oxford India Srinivas brings together some of Srinivas's best writings on a wide range of subjects, including village studies, caste and social structure, gender, religion, and cultural and social change in India.

In an Introduction written especially for this volume, eminent historian Ramachandra Guha highlights Srinivas's relevance in academic research and contemporary thought in India. The Foreword, written by renowned sociologist A.M. Shah, discusses Srinivas's legacy in examining the dynamics of social reality in India.

Beginning with essays on the village of Rampura, the subject of his fieldwork during the 1940s, the volume then discusses caste and social structure, including its form and place in modern India. It reflects on gender and its significance in Indian society before moving on to discuss social change, nation building, and changing institutions and values in contemporary India. Srinivas also examines the state of sociology and social anthropology in the Indian academia, including methods of study and research in these disciplines. Autobiographical essays complete the picture, leaving the reader with a sense of having known the eminent sociologist and his times.

This classic collection will be useful for students, scholars, and general readers interested in contemporary Indian society.

About the Author

M.N. Srinivas (1916-1999) was Former J.R.D. Tata Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, Fellow of the British Academy, and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London. He authored a number of books including the classics Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952) and The Remembered Village (1976).

Introduction

I was recently reading an interview given by the Pakistani cricketer-politician Imran Khan to Newsweek magazine, where he said: 'My vote bank is increasing'.

To whom do we owe the term 'vote bank'? One can be certain that Imran Khan does not know the answer, although, like the rest of us, its use comes naturally to him. The term is very widely known in India, and in Pakistan; apparently, it is well understood by foreign journalists as well (it was reproduced by Newsweek without explanation).

'Vote bank' was coined by the sociologist M.N. Srinivas. Born in Mysore in 1916, he was part of an extraordinary generation of writers and artists who lived in that city-among them the novelist R.K. Narayan, the poet-translator A.K. Ramanujam, the cartoonist R.K. Laxman, and the photographer T.S. Satyan. Srinivas took his first degree in Mysore and then went to Bombay for his graduate work. His PhD thesis was on the religion of the Coorgs (or Kodavas, as we would now call them). He then did another doctorate at Oxford, his second thesis a reworking of the first with the help of the (then) advanced theory of structural-functionalism.

The Kodavas in the 1940s were rather isolated and apolitical. However, later in the same decade, Srinivas did a second spell of fieldwork in a peasant village not far from Mysore, which he named 'Rampura'. This was a time of intense social change. Irrigation water from the Kaveri was making subsistence farmers moderately prosperous. The Constitution of India was giving Dalits rights for the first time in living memory. The elections mandated by the Constitution were bringing party politics into the village.

Based on those two extended spells of field-work, Srinivas coined three concepts that, between them, capture a wide range of social processes in modem India. The first, which he termed 'Sanskritization', referred to the practice among the lower castes of adopting manners of speech, dress, and ritual practice normally identified with the upper castes, and especially the Brahmins. The second, 'dominant caste', referred to the fact that in most parts of India, village life was dominated by a particular community. Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra, Vokkaligas in southern Karnataka, Lingayats in northern Karnataka, each were the 'dominant caste' in their region. This dominance, argued Srinivas, was a consequence of the fact that these castes were quite numerous, were placed fairly high in the ritual hierarchy, and owned much of the land (the most valuable resource in rural India). These three attributes had to come together-without the numbers, or if they were placed at the bottom of the social ladder, no landed caste would be 'dominant' in the village.

Any social scientist would give an arm and a leg to coin one new concept. Srinivas invented three such, with each resonating widely with the intellectual community. And each illuminated and encapsulated a crucial aspect of social life and social organization. It may be that, with the (perhaps inevitable and necessary) delegitimization of Brahminical ideals, 'Sanskritization' is no longer as useful in understanding Indian social reality as it once was. But through much of the twentieth century it certainly was. In any case, 'dominant caste' is still indispensable as an analytical device to explain how village politics works across much of the country. As for 'vote bank', it is a term whose relevance is not restricted to India alone.

Preface

This collection of 42 essays spans a range of M.N. Srinivas's work and interests. Here we. find his writings on the Indian village, caste, women, religion, social change as well as social anthropology and its method, all of which were topics close to his heart and which he devoted a lifetime to. The volume concludes with a selection of autobiographical essays. The reader is therefore able to encounter Srinivas through his many interests, his commitment to sociology and social anthropology and to field research as well as his reflections on his life.

Srinivas was pleased with the volume and was looking forward to seeing its completion. With his characteristic enthusiasm he talked about it over the phone to me saying how useful such a volume would be for readers as they would be able to find many of the essays in one place-a remark at once revealing of his passion for organization. Sadly, he did not see its completion and we do not have his preface to introduce us to the essays, which would have been an important contribution in itself. We can however finally enjoy the fruits of the many hours he and others put into the making of this volume.

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The Oxford India Srinivas

Item Code:
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2009
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9780198060345
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764
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About the Book

Sanskritization', 'dominant caste', and 'vote bank' describe important aspects of Indian politics, society, and social life in the new millennium. Interestingly, all three terms owe their genesis to one of India's most distinguished sociologists, M.N. Srinivas. Apart from his path-breaking work, Srinivas was instrumental in setting up two pioneering centers of sociology and social anthropology in India-at M.S. University Baroda and at the University of Delhi.

The Oxford India Srinivas brings together some of Srinivas's best writings on a wide range of subjects, including village studies, caste and social structure, gender, religion, and cultural and social change in India.

In an Introduction written especially for this volume, eminent historian Ramachandra Guha highlights Srinivas's relevance in academic research and contemporary thought in India. The Foreword, written by renowned sociologist A.M. Shah, discusses Srinivas's legacy in examining the dynamics of social reality in India.

Beginning with essays on the village of Rampura, the subject of his fieldwork during the 1940s, the volume then discusses caste and social structure, including its form and place in modern India. It reflects on gender and its significance in Indian society before moving on to discuss social change, nation building, and changing institutions and values in contemporary India. Srinivas also examines the state of sociology and social anthropology in the Indian academia, including methods of study and research in these disciplines. Autobiographical essays complete the picture, leaving the reader with a sense of having known the eminent sociologist and his times.

This classic collection will be useful for students, scholars, and general readers interested in contemporary Indian society.

About the Author

M.N. Srinivas (1916-1999) was Former J.R.D. Tata Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, Fellow of the British Academy, and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London. He authored a number of books including the classics Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952) and The Remembered Village (1976).

Introduction

I was recently reading an interview given by the Pakistani cricketer-politician Imran Khan to Newsweek magazine, where he said: 'My vote bank is increasing'.

To whom do we owe the term 'vote bank'? One can be certain that Imran Khan does not know the answer, although, like the rest of us, its use comes naturally to him. The term is very widely known in India, and in Pakistan; apparently, it is well understood by foreign journalists as well (it was reproduced by Newsweek without explanation).

'Vote bank' was coined by the sociologist M.N. Srinivas. Born in Mysore in 1916, he was part of an extraordinary generation of writers and artists who lived in that city-among them the novelist R.K. Narayan, the poet-translator A.K. Ramanujam, the cartoonist R.K. Laxman, and the photographer T.S. Satyan. Srinivas took his first degree in Mysore and then went to Bombay for his graduate work. His PhD thesis was on the religion of the Coorgs (or Kodavas, as we would now call them). He then did another doctorate at Oxford, his second thesis a reworking of the first with the help of the (then) advanced theory of structural-functionalism.

The Kodavas in the 1940s were rather isolated and apolitical. However, later in the same decade, Srinivas did a second spell of fieldwork in a peasant village not far from Mysore, which he named 'Rampura'. This was a time of intense social change. Irrigation water from the Kaveri was making subsistence farmers moderately prosperous. The Constitution of India was giving Dalits rights for the first time in living memory. The elections mandated by the Constitution were bringing party politics into the village.

Based on those two extended spells of field-work, Srinivas coined three concepts that, between them, capture a wide range of social processes in modem India. The first, which he termed 'Sanskritization', referred to the practice among the lower castes of adopting manners of speech, dress, and ritual practice normally identified with the upper castes, and especially the Brahmins. The second, 'dominant caste', referred to the fact that in most parts of India, village life was dominated by a particular community. Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra, Vokkaligas in southern Karnataka, Lingayats in northern Karnataka, each were the 'dominant caste' in their region. This dominance, argued Srinivas, was a consequence of the fact that these castes were quite numerous, were placed fairly high in the ritual hierarchy, and owned much of the land (the most valuable resource in rural India). These three attributes had to come together-without the numbers, or if they were placed at the bottom of the social ladder, no landed caste would be 'dominant' in the village.

Any social scientist would give an arm and a leg to coin one new concept. Srinivas invented three such, with each resonating widely with the intellectual community. And each illuminated and encapsulated a crucial aspect of social life and social organization. It may be that, with the (perhaps inevitable and necessary) delegitimization of Brahminical ideals, 'Sanskritization' is no longer as useful in understanding Indian social reality as it once was. But through much of the twentieth century it certainly was. In any case, 'dominant caste' is still indispensable as an analytical device to explain how village politics works across much of the country. As for 'vote bank', it is a term whose relevance is not restricted to India alone.

Preface

This collection of 42 essays spans a range of M.N. Srinivas's work and interests. Here we. find his writings on the Indian village, caste, women, religion, social change as well as social anthropology and its method, all of which were topics close to his heart and which he devoted a lifetime to. The volume concludes with a selection of autobiographical essays. The reader is therefore able to encounter Srinivas through his many interests, his commitment to sociology and social anthropology and to field research as well as his reflections on his life.

Srinivas was pleased with the volume and was looking forward to seeing its completion. With his characteristic enthusiasm he talked about it over the phone to me saying how useful such a volume would be for readers as they would be able to find many of the essays in one place-a remark at once revealing of his passion for organization. Sadly, he did not see its completion and we do not have his preface to introduce us to the essays, which would have been an important contribution in itself. We can however finally enjoy the fruits of the many hours he and others put into the making of this volume.

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