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India Dreams: Cultural Identity among Young Middle Class Men in New Delhi
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In 1991 the Indian government officially sanctioned the country’s definitive entry into the global market and into a new era.

This study focuses on the generation that epitomizes this new era and is based on fieldwork among young English-speaking, educated, Delhi-based men involved in occupations such as tourism, Internet, multinationals, journalism and sports. These young men construct their role in society by promoting themselves as brokers in the ongoing exchanges between India and the outer world. Together they constitute a heterogeneous whole with different class-, caste- and regional background. Yet, they can all be seen as members of the ‘middle class’ occupying a relatively privileged position in society. They consider the opening of India to the global market as the key-event that has made it possible for them to live an “interesting life” and to avoid becoming “boring people”.

This exploration into the life-world of these young men addresses in particular how they construct their identities facing the messages and images that they are exposed to through work- and leisure-networks. They understand themselves and what surrounds them by invoking terms such as ‘India’ and ‘West’, ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’, mirroring the debates on change that have gone on in India since colonization. Yet, they imaginatively re-work the content of these discourses and give the quoted terms new meanings. In their usage ‘being Indian’ is turned into a ‘global’, ‘modern’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ stance while ‘being Westernized’ becomes a marker of ‘backwardness’ and lack of sophistication. Their experiences mark out the popularity of notions of ‘Indianness’ in contemporary metropolitan India.

The study focuses on how social actors themselves experience their self-identity and how these experiences are influenced by the actors’ involvement with international flows of images and conceptualizations. It will primarily approach cultural identities through labels of belonging to abstract categories with shifting reference (referred to them as ‘phantasms’) such as ‘India’, ‘West’, etc. The study suggests that the ‘import’ of trans-national imagination into everyday life gives birth to sub-cultural formations, new ‘communities of imagination’. Their members share a similar imagination of themselves, of Delhi, their country and the world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University , 2005. , 275 p.
Stockholm studies in social anthropology, ISSN 0347-0830 ; 56
Keyword [en]
phantasms, hybridity, cultural identity, globalization, India
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-344ISBN: 91-7155-010-0OAI: diva2:192732
Public defence
2005-02-25, Reinholdsalen, Juristernas hus, Frescativägen 18, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2005-02-01 Created: 2005-02-01 Last updated: 2014-02-06Bibliographically approved

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