Poverty and the Quest for Life: Spiritual and Material Striving in Rural India

University of Chicago Press
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The Indian subdistrict of Shahabad, located in the dwindling forests of the southeastern tip of Rajasthan, is an area of extreme poverty. Beset by droughts and food shortages in recent years, it is the home of the Sahariyas, former bonded laborers, officially classified as Rajasthan’s only “primitive tribe.” From afar, we might consider this the bleakest of the bleak, but in Poverty and the Quest for Life, Bhrigupati Singh asks us to reconsider just what quality of life means. He shows how the Sahariyas conceive of aspiration, advancement, and vitality in both material and spiritual terms, and how such bridging can engender new possibilities of life.

Singh organizes his study around two themes: power and ethics, through which he explores a complex terrain of material and spiritual forces. Authority remains contested, whether in divine or human forms; the state is both despised and desired; high and low castes negotiate new ways of living together, in conflict but also cooperation; new gods move across rival social groups; animals and plants leave their tracks on human subjectivity and religiosity; and the potential for vitality persists even as natural resources steadily disappear. Studying this milieu, Singh offers new ways of thinking beyond the religion-secularism and nature-culture dichotomies, juxtaposing questions about quality of life with political theologies of sovereignty, neighborliness, and ethics, in the process painting a rich portrait of perseverance and fragility in contemporary rural India.
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About the author

Bhrigupati Singh is an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University and is coeditor of The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2015
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9780226194684
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Hinduism / General
Religion / Religion, Politics & State
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The guiding inspiration of this book is the attraction and distance that mark the relation between anthropology and philosophy. This theme is explored through encounters between individual anthropologists and particular regions of philosophy. Several of the most basic concepts of the discipline—including notions of ethics, politics, temporality, self and other, and the nature of human life—are products of a dialogue, both implicit and explicit, between anthropology and philosophy. These philosophical undercurrents in anthropology also speak to the question of what it is to experience our being in a world marked by radical difference and otherness. In The Ground Between, twelve leading anthropologists offer intimate reflections on the influence of particular philosophers on their way of seeing the world, and on what ethnography has taught them about philosophy. Ethnographies of the mundane and the everyday raise fundamental issues that the contributors grapple with in both their lives and their thinking. With directness and honesty, they relate particular philosophers to matters such as how to respond to the suffering of the other, how concepts arise in the give and take of everyday life, and how to be attuned to the world through the senses. Their essays challenge the idea that philosophy is solely the province of professional philosophers, and suggest that certain modalities of being in the world might be construed as ways of doing philosophy.

Contributors. João Biehl, Steven C. Caton, Vincent Crapanzano, Veena Das, Didier Fassin, Michael M. J. Fischer, Ghassan Hage, Clara Han, Michael Jackson, Arthur Kleinman, Michael Puett, Bhrigupati Singh

The guiding inspiration of this book is the attraction and distance that mark the relation between anthropology and philosophy. This theme is explored through encounters between individual anthropologists and particular regions of philosophy. Several of the most basic concepts of the discipline—including notions of ethics, politics, temporality, self and other, and the nature of human life—are products of a dialogue, both implicit and explicit, between anthropology and philosophy. These philosophical undercurrents in anthropology also speak to the question of what it is to experience our being in a world marked by radical difference and otherness. In The Ground Between, twelve leading anthropologists offer intimate reflections on the influence of particular philosophers on their way of seeing the world, and on what ethnography has taught them about philosophy. Ethnographies of the mundane and the everyday raise fundamental issues that the contributors grapple with in both their lives and their thinking. With directness and honesty, they relate particular philosophers to matters such as how to respond to the suffering of the other, how concepts arise in the give and take of everyday life, and how to be attuned to the world through the senses. Their essays challenge the idea that philosophy is solely the province of professional philosophers, and suggest that certain modalities of being in the world might be construed as ways of doing philosophy.

Contributors. João Biehl, Steven C. Caton, Vincent Crapanzano, Veena Das, Didier Fassin, Michael M. J. Fischer, Ghassan Hage, Clara Han, Michael Jackson, Arthur Kleinman, Michael Puett, Bhrigupati Singh

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