Crushed by neoliberalisation

Kenneth Bo Nielsen of the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo has authored a new book review for JCA. Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in Twenty-First Century India has just been published by Pluto Press.

It is a rather unique book, having seven authors: Alpa Shah, Jens Lerche, Richard Axelby, Dalel Benbabaali, Brendan Donegan, Jayaseelan Raj and Vikramaditya Thakur.

In his review, Nielsen explains that this arrangement is an research collective. This research effort “has involved spending a lot of time developing explicitly comparative frameworks and methods.” This meant a “set of methods to be used across sites and cases.” It also brought the researchers together “during the fieldwork period and even visited each other’s field sites.” Nielsen says this:

joint effort is reflected in all chapters having considerable historical depth and in the remarkable homogeneity in the manner in which recurring themes are taken up across the ethnographic chapters. As such, the book clearly shows the value of a systematic and comparative ethnographic approach to exploring processes of socio-economic transformation that link identity-based oppression to class relations and power…. Ground Down by Growth is highly recommended for its careful attention to ethnographic detail, its systematically comparative approach and its grasp of political economy.

This innovative approach means a powerful work: ” Ground Down by Growth describes a vast ‘India of dislocation and despair’ … and reminds us that 800 million Indians survive on less than US$2 per day.” Nielsen observes that:

the authors show how economic growth of the neo-liberal kind re-entrenches rather than dilutes identity-based social oppression of caste, tribe, gender and region. Three interrelated processes drive this entrenchment of social difference: inherited inequalities of power (especially caste power); super-exploitation based on migrant labour; and conjugated oppression.

He concludes that this “book is masterfully written, broad in scope and ambition, and innovative in terms of collaborative research and writing.”

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