Dalit movements and the meanings of labour in India

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Peter Robb
Oxford University Press, 1993 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 354 pages
Labour conditions and the disadvantage suffered by those of low social-status (Dalits) are two issues of great academic importance and pressing practical concern in India. Dalits have been caught up in different modes of work; this book brings new perspectives to bear on the change, including those of Dalits themselves. It reflects on the social and economic disabilities against which Dalits have campaigned, particularly the link between occupation and inherited status. This book traces aspects of the story of labour from the eighteenth century to the present day, assessing the degrees of continuity with past practice, and whether the 'modern' assumptions about work, its separation from other aspects of daily life, its 'commoditization' and its 'class' implications have often been reflected in Indian experience. The essays propose a number of general points on how ideological and religious ferment accompanies economic change, and also treat particularities that resonate against entrenched social conditions and attitudes. Two main definitions of 'movement' are intended - migration and protest. As a whole the book forms a comparative study of the concepts of labour and of social hierarchy. Among the central questions are whether current scholarly terminology is appropriate to South Asia, and in what ways there are distinctive 'Indian' characteristics. Included are an extensive critical essay by the editor, and eleven illustrative papers by established or younger scholars. David Washbrook and Michael Anderson provide a framework in terms of pre-colornal conditions and colonial law; Crispin Bates and Marina Carter, Arjan de Haan, and Dagmar Engels discuss labour migration; Dilip Menon, Nandini Gooptu and Valerian Rodrigues examine religious movements among Dalits; Nigel Crook shows some present-day consequences of 'modern' work amidst long-standing inequalities of social and ritual standing. The result is a collection of very high quality and importance, diverse in subject, rich in echoes and contrasts. It contributes to a new direction in its field, and has much to offer to scholars of several disciplines, and to all those eager to understand more of India's past and prospects.

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Ideological Origins of Labour Law
the Struggle for Indias Jharkhand
Rethinking Female Participation in Tribal Labour

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About the author (1993)

Peter Robb has divided his time between Brazil, southern Italy, and Australia during the past quarter century. He is the author of "Midnight in Sicily" and "M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio" (0-312-27474-2), a "Publishers Weekly" Best Book of the Year. He writes for "The Times Literary Supplement" and the "London Review of Books,"