SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Selwyn, Christopher Thomas (1981) The Thakur and the Goldsmith: Aspects of legitimation in an Indian village. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (18MB) | Preview


The research upon this thesis is based was carried out from October 1973 to March 1975, and from January to March 1980, in the village of Singhara (a pseudonym), Jabalpur District, Madhya Pradesh state (see map 1., p.viii). Although situated in middle India, Singhara's culture and social morphology are fairly typical of north India. This is mainly because the villagers, with the significant exception of its tribal (Gond) population (the original inhabitants of the region), are all descended from immigrants who came into the area from the north in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The thesis has two parts: 1) an examination of traditional caste values (chapters 3-7) and 2) a description and discussion of aspects of the modern political and economic life of the village (chapters 2, 8 and part of chapter 1). As far as the analysis of caste values is concerned, the overriding concern is to further understanding of how the 'holistic ethic' (the defining ideological feature of caste society according to Louis Dumont) actually works and what it consists of. One of the purposes of the description of the political and economic life of Singhara is to suggest that the material conditions which nurtured the 'holistic ethic' in the past have changed, and are changing, significantly - and that such changes are inevitably accompanied by an emergent individualism. An attempt to interpret some of the political events in the village (partly) in terms of the moral uncertainties engendered by the simultaneous presence there of these two radically different ethical systems (i.e. one based on holism and transendence, the other on individualism and materialism) is made in chapter 8. The two parts of the thesis are reflected in its title, "The Thakur" standing for traditional order and values, "The Goldsmith" for the emerging new ones. The hope is that there will appear no discordant break between the two parts, that each will complement the other, and that, taken together, they will be seen as natural (and possibly even inevitable) aspects of an ethnographic account of a contemporary Indian village. A full account of the theoretical framework in which the study is cast is presented in the thesis Introduction.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item