Monday, May 14, 2012

Abstract 2012 David Devadas

David Devadas, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University Berlin

Exclusion and Inclusion: Emergent Middle Classes in Kashmir's Suburb

This paper focuses on the burgeoning Kashmiri middle classes which have been migrating to the new suburbs around the cities in the Valley of Kashmir during the past quarter-century. Migration to these new suburbs, simultaneously from inner city areas and from the rural hinterland, is weakening the traditional polarity between the city and the rest of the population. The first part of this paper shows how that traditional polarity is giving way to new kinds of socio-economic stratification as segments of once mutually exclusive social classes coalesce. Whether their earlier locations were in an inner city area, a village or the forests at the fringes of the Valley of Kashmir, migrant families have tended to choose a wealthier or relatively less well-off suburb depending on their new self-perceptions of their status and spending power. Kashmir’s suburbs have thus become the sites for the re-engineering of socio-economic classes: most suburban residents think of themselves as being middle class, only as relatively higher or lower middle class depending on the suburb in which they reside.

The second part of the paper presents aspects of ongoing pioneering research on the anthropological processes at work within these suburbs. It explores the extent to which middle class values are shaping various aspects of exclusion and inclusion, including:

• whether the high walls that typically surround suburban bungalows signify withdrawal from the local community.

• linkage to trans-local, even global, communities, particularly religion-based networks.

• the formation of new communities, which include different linguistic ethnic groups, in some of the less well-off suburbs.

• changes in self-identification (including changes in surname or caste titles) among some of those who have migrated in to such suburbs.

• estrangement from wider family ties and the re-negotiation of authority, rights, privacy and individual aspirations in the often first-generation nuclear families that live in these suburbs.

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