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Malavika Karlekar

By D.B. Miller
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1975, 211, 60.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

In a world of growing interest in urban problems such as pollution and environmental hazards, it is good to know that the Indian village continues to attract the social anthropologist. D.B. Miller’s revised doctoral dissertation is a study in minute ethnographic detail: whether he is talking informally about the impact of electricity on Badipur's social life, or on a more serious plane of various Jat thoks and their relative dominance, his capacity for absorbing detail is admirable, Miller's aim is to examine the impact of adminis­trative policies of Independent India on a village economy in the Haryana of the late nineteen sixties. However, rather than describe this process of change and modernization, Miller ends up by portraying elaborately the existing power structure of Badipur as he saw it. Central to his book is a thorough investiga­tion of the jajmani system, and stemming from it, an examination of the important sociological concept of dominant caste. The author finds that not only is the jajmani system very much in existence, but it also determines the relative position of various caste groups or local representatives of sub-castes and castes in the village hierarchy. Thus the Kaushik Brahmins are accorded the traditional prestige of family purohits, but the Jat landlords privately hold them in disdain because they live off the charity of their wealthy patrons. Economic power in Badipur as in all of rural India is determined by the control over land. Thus, the Parik Brahmins, landowners, vie with the Jats for supremacy, their claims bolstered up by ritual superiority. Among the Jats themselves, one group competes with another. Again with great concern for minutae—sometimes to the point of tedium—Miller describes the various caste groups in Badipur, their functions, styles of life and so on. It is a village where the Jats control the most amount of land. But then are Jats what Srinivas has called the dominant caste, numerically, economically, ritually the most powerful? Miller's answer is that Srinivas's concept is not applicable to his village. Quoting other sociologists who have also studied rural India the author establishes that no single caste can be said to dominate in the sense in which Srinivas envisages. Referring back to his area­ wise analysis of Badipur, Miller shows that dominance is a relative term: at best it can refer to the domination of a caste group in a certain area ...

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