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Accepted Paper:

The continued stigma of criminalization: The Madaris of Uttar Pradesh, India and their social-cultural mode of life  
Abir Lal Mazumder (University of Hyderabad, India)

Paper short abstract:

The paper seeks to understand the Madari community and their historical tryst with criminalization which has continued to affect their social-cultural mode of life through the colonial and post-colonial period. I use my ethnographic study in the state of Uttar Pradesh to discuss their social stigma.

Paper long abstract:

India in the colonial period came under British mode of social-cultural existence. These included the fact that many communities were criminalized because of their way of life, living by traveling in a nomadic mode of life. In other cases, some practices such as street performances-dance, street theatre or magic, especially with involvement of animals was banned. Amongst the performing groups is a community who are known as Fakirs or Faqeer. Fakir is an Arabic term which refers to those who have accepted an austere life of poverty. In the state of Uttar Pradesh the Fakirs are referred to as Madari Faqirs. The Madari Fakirs have been traditional street magicians who used bears as a part of their act. Although the British put an end to most of these street performances, the bear acts were allowed and even patronized. However, in the post-independence period with the ban on use of forest animals for such acts the Madaris were left without a means livelihood, many turned to adopt monkeys while others continued performing in the streets without any animal companions. Interviews I conducted with the Madaris in the state of Uttar Pradesh reveal that many within the community continue to be picked on by Indian police. They are often forced into testifying for petty cases of theft or highway robbery and even custodial cases at the whims of the law enforcers. The paper seeks to understand this facet of historical criminalization and how it directed my ethnographic narratives of understanding the community.

Panel OP304
Doing and undoing ethics, methods, and positionality in the anthropology of crime and criminalisation [AnthroCrime Network]
  Session 1