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Simpson, Edward and Kapadia, Aparna, eds. (2010) The idea of Gujarat: History, ethnography and text. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

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The emergence of modern Gujarat is a remarkable story, from poorly-defined obscurity to one of the best known regions of India with a powerful diaspora in the passage of less than a century. Today, Gujarat is a clearly defined and bounded political unit, and is also commonly regarded as a cultural unit. The state has a reputation for firebrand politics and communal violence, highlighted in the media. The idea of Gujarat has never, however, simply been contiguous with political borders; neither is life in the state today simply characterised by aggressive politics and religious hatred. This volume unsettles a number of conventional popular wisdoms. It uncovers the considerable variation in linguistic, religious, sub-regional and diasporic traditions in Gujarat. The essays examine a wide range of topics—from the place of caste to violence in cities, the symbolism of clothing, the nature of the diaspora and the situation of minorities. The first four essays problematise institutions and epistemologies often taken for granted. The first chapter examines the role of the judicial process in the expression of caste identities in Gujarat. The next explores the production of knowledge by revisiting Alexander Forbes’ Ras mala. The next two chapters, on Kutch and on the genealogy of the goddess Bahuchara, analyse the epistemological practices that have gone into the making of the region. The fifth chapter is an examination of the correlation between caste and political power, and the sixth looks at the politics of land in post-colonial Gujarat. Chapters seven and eight are studies of Ahmedabad, analysing the evolution of the city’s ethos, its treatment of different groups.The final three chapters focus on ‘minority’ groups of different kinds in Gujarat; each, in various ways, allowing historical experience of the community in question to expose the assumptions from which the idea of a ‘majority’ is constructed in modern Gujarat. The essays are arranged more-or-less chronologically representing pieces of a much larger jigsaw which depicts the emergence of today’s political Gujarat. The book serves as a critical introduction to the region, the scope of its history and the nature of its society. It will be of use to students and scholars interested in the study of Gujarat, and in the wider questions of identity formation and contemporary politics.

Item Type: Edited Book or Journal Volume
Keywords: Gujarat, Ethnography, History, Colonialism, Ahmedabad, Kutch, Saurashtra
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISBN: 9788125041139
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2010 12:34

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