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VOLUME 7 (2005), ISSUE 12 (YEARLY)

 

RETHINKING POWER AND CASTE IN RURAL INDIA

KIRK JOHNSON AND MIKE KARLBERG

 

SUMMARY

Caste as a system of social stratification remains an important aspect in the lives of many people in rural India. Yet the Indian caste system may be at a turning point at the dawn of the new millennium. Modern forces such as urban migration, mass communication, transportation, consumerism and education are influencing the power structures within village India in complex ways. This study analyzes the changing face of power within the rural Indian caste system. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in two remote mountain villages in Western Maharashtra between 1995 and 1996, as well as during a more recent visit in the summer of 2000. The study documents changes that have been brought on by contemporary processes of modernization such as increasing economic integration and competitiveness, new forms of political pragmatism, the restructuring of ritual status and mobility, the introduction of new mass media, and the rising spirit of consumerism. It concludes that although village society is still highly stratified, its historical traditions and balances of power are changing in complex ways to create a new social environment within village communities.

KEYWORDS

Rural - Caste - Class - India - Power - Social Stratification - Modernization - Consumerism - Social Change

AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION

Kirk JOHNSON, Ph.D., grew up in the beautiful rural mountainside of western India. Now an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Guam, Kirk has made his home on Guam for the past eight years. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. His research often takes him back to the villages of rural India where he studies modernizing forces impacting social and cultural change. His first book on the topic of social change in rural India was published in 2000. His major areas of research inquiry include Multicultural Education, Social Change and Globalization, Media, Culture and Rural Development.  He is also involved co-director of Field Schools in Bali, Indonesia and has published research on “travel abroad courses” as well as “diversity and higher education”. Dr. Johnson continues to be involved in rural development activities in Micronesia as well as in India.

Michael KARLBERG, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Western Washington University, USA.  His research and writing focus on the relationship between culture, communication, and conflict.  He has published a book ('Beyond the Culture of Contest', 2004) and numerous articles in national and international journals on these themes.  He also teaches courses in the fields of media studies and cultural studies.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the 3d Annual International Convention of Asia Scholars in Singapore, August 19-22, 2003.

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