Caste, Occupation and Politics on the Ganges: Passages of Resistance, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Caste, Occupation and Politics on the Ganges

Passages of Resistance, 1st Edition

By Assa Doron


216 pages

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This intriguing anthropological study investigates how the boatmen of Banaras have repositioned themselves within the traditional social organization and used their privileged position on the river to contest upper-caste and state domination. Assa Doron examines the evolution of the boatmen community, drawing on a variety of sources to illuminate the cultural politics of social and economic inequality in contemporary India. Caste, Occupation and Politics on the Ganges offers insight into recent debates about the cultural and historical forms of social practice and resistance at the juncture between tradition and the global economy, and will therefore appeal not only to anthropologists, but to anyone working in the field of development studies, globalization, religion, politics and cultural studies.


'…an immensely readable account of the everyday lives of the boatmen who ply their trade on the River Ganges. In seeking to understand the moral and ritual economies of the boatmen, their relations with the colonial and postcolonial state, and their interactions with pilgrims and tourists, Assa Doron brings their characters to life, showing how the fascinating lifeworlds of these "subalterns" are far richer, more nuanced and multidimensional than many analyses would lead us to believe.' Joel S. Kahn, La Trobe University, Australia 'Doron’s rich ethnography lets readers taste the mist of the ghats and share the lives of the men who make their livings there. Both anthropologist and historian, Doron locates the story in the politics of modern Uttar Pradesh and in theoretical literature about subordination and power. This delightful book will help readers understand how the transformations of individual lives and occupations contribute to the remaking of a complex civilization.' Robin Jeffrey, Australian National University, Australia '…the book is extremely valuable in its account of the lifeworld of the boatmen community in Banaras, which is first of its kind. I definitely recommend it to all interested.' '…a richly informative study, enhanced with numerous maps and photographs, that provocatively counterpoints particularised social practices with general anthropological theory and the dynamics of expanding global and domestic travel with a constantly evolving local order. It will be of interest to students of Banaras, of South Asia, of tourism and of the anthropology and sociology of ’subalterns’ in all societies.' Professor Philip Lutgendorf for The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 'Assa Doron has brought together the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, history and politics in his fascinating study of the boatmen of the Ganges at its most visited site, Varanasi…I am particularly impressed by Doron’s deft handling of the a

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Series editors' preface: Ritual transformations and the edges of history, Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart; Introduction; The criminal type: domesticating the Ganges boatmen; 'Step-sons of the state': marginalization and the struggle for recognition; The moral economy of boating: territorial clashes and internal struggles; River crossings: boatmen, priests and the ritual economy of Banaras; The romance of Banaras: boatmen, pilgrims and tourists; Conclusion; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Assa Doron is a Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, at The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Australia

About the Series

Anthropology and Cultural History in Asia and the Indo-Pacific

This series offers a comprehensive view of Asian and Indo-Pacific anthropology and cultural history. It carries studies from China, Japan, South-East Asia, South Asia, and the entire Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand. Focusing mainly on detailed ethnographic studies, the series further incorporates pressing thematic work on issues of cross-regional impact, gender and globalization, precarity, refugees, and asylum-seekers, and alternative medical and wellness-seeking practices. The series aims to link anthropological theory with history and religious studies, with discussions of ritual, politics, religious change, and economics. Studies of adaptation and conflict in small-scale situations enmeshed in wider scale processes of transformation form a particular thematic focus. The series aims to reach a core audience of specialists in Asian and Pacific studies, but also to be accessible and valuable to a broader multidisciplinary readership.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General