The panel addresses the implication for anthropological research, and in particular for fieldwork, of the recent transformations that have taken place in contemporary India.
Over the past decade India has become more connected to the global economy. This process has entailed a number of transformations. The GDP, the size of the middle classes and foreign investment in the country have grown. But so has the gap between rich and poor and between urban and rural areas, phenomena which also contribute to the growth of emigration from the country. These recent transformations have also entailed changes in how India is imagined, within the country as well as abroad. Within the country there is a contrast between the transformations that have taken place and the discourses surrounding these. In the West, the image of India is undergoing a change as well. No longer only represented as an exotic dreamland populated by barefoot beggars and wandering holy men, India has also become, in the Western imagination, a superpower in-the-making, a new frontier for technology and market opportunities and a potential competitor. What do these changes imply for how we conduct anthropological research in contemporary India? The panel will explore the new trends of fieldwork in India and enquire into how anthropologists can critically face the transformations taking place there. How can we overcome the limitations of older discourses and refocus our research while avoiding the current celebratory rhetoric? What kind of approaches would avoid reifying India according to older categories but also eschew new stereotypes? Is there a way to combine divergent issues such as caste, new sectarian movements, village structures, state institutions, Bollywood, reproductive medicine clinics, kinship studies and hi-tech call centres into a new critical framework? Which innovative methodological tools and ethnographic practices can be used for an ethnography of these fields? The panel addresses questions regarding the implication of these changes for the modalities of fieldwork and the longstanding tradition of anthropological research in India.