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Transformation, Turbulence and Nostalgia


Amiya Kumar Bagchi

CONTESTED TRANSFORMATIONS: CHANGING ECONOMIES AND IDENTITIES IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA
Edited by Mary E. John , Praveen Kumar Jha and Surinder S. Jodhka
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. xxii 344, Rs. 625.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

India is a very large country and has been home to perhaps a seventh of the human population for the last five hundred years, with some fluctuations around that proportion. It has hosted a greater diversity of documented or undocumented faiths, with their own peculiarities, for a longer time than any other country. India also has been home to one of the persistent, most variegated caste systems, which has changed like a chameleon as epochal changes have taken place, reappearing in a new colouring rather than taking on one uniform hue.   These are well-known facts but old theorizing about those facts continues to blunt the edge of analysis by social scientists even as they grapple with new issues and seek to construct conceptual structures to understand those issues. Most of the issues the authors of this volume grapple with is about the struggle of an ever larger work force to find remunerative employment and a slightly better life for their children than they have been used to. In a world governed by an ungoverned globalization of the rich the contours of which have been delineated by Prabhat and Utsa Patnaik with their usual dispassionate passion, agriculture is ceasing to provide even a subsistence for most people whose main income is derived from it. If they can find a non-agricultural employment in their own region, well and good. Otherwise, they migrate permanently or seasonally. The migration can be to cities or it can take the form of circular migration: whole villages or rather their adult members migrate as construction workers from West Bengal to Kerala, or as seasonal farm workers from Bihar to Punjab and Haryana. There are whole communities with their families, which are bonded to work in brick kilns or in the sugar cane fields, and their origins are often difficult to trace. Migration and industrial change produce new slums, tensions between the recent immigrants and older immigrants into the cities, and even seasoned researchers tend to forget that all cities are built of immigrants, some recent and some going back to the colonial times (especially true of the three Presidency cities, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras or Bangalore).   The overarching framework for analysing the nature of what has been dubbed as Globalization II, to distinguish the current phase of globalization by the rich for the rich, with finance at the helm, from an earlier phase of globalization with similar ...


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