ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Migration, Bachelorhood and Discontent among the Patidars

Juxtaposing data collected in the 1950s with data from 2013, this paper describes some of the consequences of a crisis of agriculture in India as a crisis of values and aspirations. Among a relatively prosperous Patidar community in western India, agriculture continues to be economically remunerative while farmers are considered poor. Instead, the ability to secure a job away from land, to move out of the village and possibly overseas have come to constitute new markers of status in a traditionally competitive society. The paper departs from common representations of the caste as an upwardly mobile and successful group, and focuses instead on the discontent and on those who try to achieve the new values of the caste, but fail. As a consequence of failure it shows how Patidars recur to what, from an outsider's point of view, may seem paradoxical: in order to "move up" and participate in the culture and economy of the caste, they have to "move down." In this respect, the paper also contributes to understanding the unevenness of India's growth and the contrary trends that work both to strengthen and weaken caste identity.

The research for this paper was undertaken as part of a project funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council UK (RES–062– 23–3052) and based at SOAS, University of London, in which Edward Simpson was the principal investigator. Some of the material for this paper particularly developed in conversation with Simpson and will form the basis of a longer co-authored paper. I also acknowledge the contribution to ideas expressed here by all those who took part in seminars and workshops associated with the project, in particular, Patricia Jeffery, Tina Otten, Tommaso Sbriccoli and Adrian Mayer. I am grateful to Jonathan Parry for his insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and to all those in Sundarana who generously shared parts of their lives.

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