Situating the Gaddi Community of Himachal Pradesh, India in a Wider World
How does the process of claiming historically and socially situated identities play out? How are anxieties of reconfigured gender relations expressed in the present? The anthropolo-gists of this Special Issue (SI) interrogate these questions by focusing on what it means to be a Gaddi person in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. This commentary focuses on three articles that are based on multiple, long-term fieldwork focused on the travails of being marginalized and possibilities of subaltern agency. Whether it is status competition among Sippis (Christopher), a community with both Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe designations in different states, or women being stigmatized as ‘witches’ (Simpson), espe-cially among caste groups considered inferior within the Gaddi hierarchy, these are far from isolated phenomenon. These struggles reflect crucial aspects of ‘Gaddiness’ in the present where the term Gaddi is an ethnonym to refer to various unequally stratified caste groups that is popularly abstracted to mean high-caste pastoralists (Christopher and Phillimore). The three articles also reflect on the socioeconomic transformations across South Asia in general but particularly experienced in rural India. Himachal Pradesh may have been more geographically remote only a few decades ago, but deeper penetration of the state and market along with new infrastructure are forcing a reconsideration of colonial stereotypes about ‘tribality’. As a scholar who primarily works on western India, my commentary flags some key issues dealing with social theory, identity, state-formation and gender roles by comparing trends cross India with the specific Gaddi case study.
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