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Tapper, Bruce Elliot (1975) Rituals of hierarchy and interdependence in an Andhra villege. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The purpose of the thesis is to examine the relationship between social structure and ritual. It is based on data collected in a peasant village in Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh, South India, over a period of twenty-three months 1970-1972). In this village, in which Gavara farmers are the dominant caste, the formal organizing principles of the society are hierarchy and interdependence. A detailed statistical survey of the realities of the society reveals that these principles, while on the whole upheld, are constantly under challenge. Women constantly challenge male dominance in domestic economic affairs and disputes and also play a major role in the high degree of marital instability and divorce. Brothers pursue their own households' interests to the detriment of their interdependent co-operation with each other. Between castes, economic relations do not always conform to a strictly hierarchical pattern. The caste hierarchy itself is a mass of discrepant unreciprocated claims. In the face of these violations and contradictory pressures it is ritual activity and its symbolism which define and uphold the formal conventions of social hierarchy and interdependence. This is achieved through the constant repetition of symbols of respect and in the principal ritual act, puja. This symbolic acting out of hierarchy is thus presented through rituals as the epitome of morality itself. The subordinate role of women is similarly defined by ritual concepts. The woman who is subordinated to her husband is virtuous and auspicious. A woman who becomes a widow is no longer subordinate to an elder male and is inauspicious. Performances of rituals of the major agricultural festivals foster ideal models of inter-caste cooperation by activating responsibilities for castes to participate interdependently. They are, however, also occasions through which numerous political and economic rivalries find expression.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:00

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