Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University
Postal address: SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Visiting address: Universitetsvägen 10 B, Frescati
Fax: +46 (0)8 15 88 94
Web page: http://www.socant.su.se
SARI – Stockholm Anthropological Research on India
SARI consists of a group of researchers within the Dept. of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. It makes one of the major South Asian studies environments at Swedish universities.
The research has since a long time focused on cultural values and changing identities in contemporary India. Several researchers in SARI carried out their fieldwork in India, approaching their areas of research from a relatively new angle. These projects have been informed by a perspective on contemporary India as a part of the global scene and by a focus on processes of cultural communication. Both the geographic locations and the people studied in these projects are approached within a framework of translocal and transnational interconnections.
The projects undertaken constitute a potential link between traditional small-scale ethnographical studies and macro-oriented studies of overarching political and economic transformations. Several projects emphasize the process of identity formation in contemporary India as well as the construction (reconstruction) of images of Indian society and their distribution in different contexts (in social movements and NGOs, among journalists, tourist guides etc).
SARI works on themes and from 2007/2008 the theme chosen has been “Dalits in the Neoliberal Global Order”.
(Both Eva-Maria Hardtmann and Christer Norström have previously been members of the SASNET board)
South Asia related researchers in the department:
• Dr. Eva-Maria Hardtmann defended her doctoral dissertation on ”
Abstract: This study focuses on the cultural discourses as well as the organizational aspects within the contemporary Dalit movement, so as to examine processes related to identity formation. Most Dalit activists, protesting against caste discrimination, are to be found in India, but the movement networks reach beyond the Indian state borders. The international and global involvement of the activists, as, for example, in the UN or more recently in the global justice movement, has increased during the last decade.
Activists among ‘scheduled castes’ (so-called untouchables) have, for the reason that they were excluded from the Indian public sphere, created and re-created their own counterpublic at least since the 1920s. They have their own arenas, publishing houses, magazines and networks to express their own cultural discourses. Since the beginning of the 1990s the Dalit discourses have reached the general public to a larger extent than before. The heterogeneity within the movement, with a multitude of groups and varied movement perspectives, will be displayed and mutually re-lated. It will also be shown how the Dalit activists have come to share a tacit knowl-edge regarding their common main conflict with ‘Hindus’ and ‘Hindu values’.
More information on her personal web page.
In November 2004 Eva-Maria Hardtmann received a three-years grant (June 2005–May 2008) from Sida/SAREC for a project on ”
Abstract for project: The transnational Dalit movement (a protest movement against the caste-system) has the last years become part of the global justice movement. Dalit activists now formulate their demands in terms of economic equality, democracy and human rights. The project takes the international and global contexts in which the Dalit activists interact and communicate as a point of departure. A central aim of the study is to understand the processes in which the experiences from these contexts are transmitted to local/regional NGOs in India and Nepal, where the activists are also active. Parts of the fieldwork have been carried out at international conferences in Hague and Genève during 2006 and at World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007.
In August 2007, Eva-Maria Hardtmann received SEK 62 000 as a SASNET Planning grant for interdisciplinary workshops, for a ”Conference on Dalits in the Global Justice Movement: Researchers and Activists in Dialogues”. See the full list of SASNET planning grants 2007.
The workshop was organised within the framework of the above-mentioned research project on ”Dalits in the Global Justice Movement”. It was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, 3–4 April 2008, and co-organised by the Dalit activist Vincent Manoharan.
In 2009, Eva-Maria Hardtmann published her book 'The Dalit Movement in India: Local Practices, Global Connections' (Oxford University Press, New Delhi). More information about the book.
In October 2008, Dr. Hardtmann was awarded SEK 2.170 M as a three-year grant (2009-12) by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Stiftelsen Riksbankens jubileumsfond), for a new research project entitled ”
Abstract (in Swedish only): Det årliga World Social Forum som erbjuder ett alternativ till World Economic Forum i Davos (Schweiz) har sedan starten 2001 lockat till sig aktivister, intellektuella, musiker, konstnärer och andra under parollen: ”En annan värld är möjlig!” Det ursprungliga intresset från media och allmänheten verkar dock ha mattats av något och under det senaste World Social Forum i Nairobi 2007 sjönk deltagarantalet för första gången. Detta betyder inte att aktivisterna i globala rättviserörelsen är inaktiva, utan snarast att formerna för deras aktiviteter har förändrats. Idag skapar aktivisterna nätverk på en mer regelbunden basis och World Social Forum processen pågår året runt. Dessa nätverk kommer med största sannolikhet att få en stor politisk betydelse under de närmsta decennierna och bör därför studeras ingående av forskare inom olika discipliner. Detta projekt kommer att studera aktivister i fyra olika transnationella sociala rörelser som alla är del av globala rättviserörelsen. Syftet är att bidra till förståelsen av processer, då aktivister i rörelser som involverar olika kategorier av människor med olika fokus, och med bas i olika delar av världen skapar nätverk mellan sina respektive rörelser. Genom att följa och dokumentera det dagliga arbetet bland aktivisterna kommer studien att bidra med ett etnografiskt exempel på det som brukar benämnas alternativ globalisering.
During the spring 2011, Eva-Maria was doing fieldwork among Dalit activists in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was working with Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), and Jagaran Media Centre, a media centre run by Dalit journalists. The ambition was to study and understand how the activists maintain trans-national contacts with activists in other parts of South Asia and the rest of the world.
• Dr. Christer Norström defended his doctoral dissertation on “
The dissertation deals with the Palni Hills of South India, where the Paliyans for decades have combined hunting and gathering with work within a plantation economy, it seems that the economic relations between them and their landholding Tamil neighbours is based on negotiation rather than subordination. These findings challenge earlier views, grounded on an ecological framework, which states the incompatibility between contemporary hunting and gathering societies and an expanding modern market economy. With a focus on the Paliyans’ arguments and strategies Norström demonstrated how their social system and basic values allow them to incorporate outside forces into their own “mode of subsistence”. The study also incorporates the role of the local government and NGOs. Fieldwork was conducted during several periods during 1991-2001, totally 25 months. Read the abstract (as a pdf-file).
Christer Norström is now teaching full-time at the department, and besides he is working on a book dealing with the modern history of the Palni Hills, the area he has studied for many years. It was supposed to be published during 2005.
In January 2003 Norström received SEK 108 000 as a SASNET planning grant for a programme on ”
The programme aimed at establishing a multidisciplinary research network between Nordic and South Asian scholars. The planning grant was used to arrange a conference on the issue at the Centre for Indian Studies, Mysore, India, 17–19 October 2003. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Environment, Development, Innovations, Technology & Trade, CREDITTe, Bangalore.
Go to the conference page, where the papers presented are available for download.
Since 2007, Christer Norström has been involved in two India related research projects. First, a project on ”
Abstract: This project deals with the way food, food consumption and food production is perceived among farmers and other actors in South India. By using this focus the idea is to illuminate broader processes of a political-economic nature, including ideas and strategies for creating food security in a world which goes through a process of global agro-food restructuring. The perspective is global but the focus is on the local and regional articulation of globalisation. This approach is built on the assumption that the restructuring of production and relationships caused by globalisation, commoditisation and new farming techniques constrain life chances and options. However, people are not dealing with these changes as ‘passive victims’, but use their own capabilities and other resources, guided by their own perspectives on food, food consumption and food production, to try to create food security.
The second project was entitled ”
The latter implies a more general theoretical orientation within anthropology that gives emphasis to the place of the individual in anthropological theorising and ethnographic writing, and the way individuals consciously and creatively engages with their socio-cultural milieu. Fieldwork and the information for this book have been generated since 1988 until today through my close interaction and co-operation with Indian environmentalists.
More information about Christer’s research on his personal web page.
Abstract to project: Many farmers in South India have found themselves in deep economic trouble during the last decades due to their dependency on land, and especially so in the dry-land areas where heavy land degradation in combination with deficit rainfall have forced them to a significant change in their agriculture. Today these problems have evoked a lot of attention and many different actors are trying to deal with these issues. The research is based on ongoing anthropological fieldwork concerning food security and changing consumption patterns among farmers in Tamil Nadu, and aims to discuss a local environmental NGO (themselves farmers) and its interaction with other partners, including farmers, regional and international NGOs as well as government agencies. Although all actors involved have the same general idea of turning a negative trend of agriculture into a positive one, Norström intends to demonstrate that the agendas of the different actors involved do not always go in tandem. This fact put severe pressure and a demand of a high degree of negotiation skill on the local NGO to be able to mediate and use these inputs to achieve their goal of a sustainable agriculture for the future.
• Dr. Marie Larsson defended her doctoral dissertation about mobilisation among women against men’s alcohol consumption in Andhra Pradesh on Friday 9 June 2006. The thesis is titled ”
Abstract: In the early nineties an anti-arrack campaign started among poor village women in Andhra Pradesh in Southern India, primarily among Scheduled Castes (formerly Untouchables) and Muslims. The movement subsequently spread throughout the state. Its origin is usually taken to be the event when, in 1991, women from Dubagunta, Nellore District, drove the liquor contractors out of their village. The so-called anti-arrack movement finally led to that alcohol was prohibited in Andhra Pradesh on the 16 of January 1995. The main participants were disprivileged women from Muslim groups or so-called “Scheduled Castes “, supported by voluntary organisations and later on by politicians from the opposition parties.
The local state administration, the literacy campaign and the newspaper Eenadu have also been described as important for the expansion of the movement. The present study is an attempt to use this case in order to understand how people can be mobilised from concerns with problems in their own everyday life to join a translocal, maybe transnational movement, with a certain political agenda. What effect does participation have on women´s private situation? What does the social mechanism for mobilisation look like? How does the translation from the private to the general occur?
At the other end, where do movement leaders get their ideas from? What makes a special question in the international supply of issues relevant for regional intellectuals? Why are they interested to mobilise the poor? Which audience do they have? What methods do they use? What is the relation between the participants of the movement and political leaders and the state administration? These are topics that I will address in my study. I will also relate the women’s temperance movement in India to wider issues of feminist mobilisation as well as to class and caste emancipation. Attitudes towards alcohol will obviously be a part of the analysis.
On October 22, 2009, Dr. Marie Larsson was awarded SEK 1.985 M as a three-year grant (2010-12) by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Stiftelsen Riksbankens jubileumsfond), for a new research project entitled ”
Institute of Development Research (GIDR) in Ahmedabad.
Abstract: This project deals with transnational mobilization among home-based workers. Its participants consist of persons, mostly women, who carry out low-paid remunerative work at (or near) their homes as industrial homeworkers or as self-employed. Their tasks have often not been considered as work, which have contributed to their low salaries and uncertain labour conditions.
The aim of this study is to explore transnational and localized activism among home-based workers from the perspective of three groups: PATAMABA in Manila, the Philippines; Homeworkers Worldwide (HWW) in Leeds, England; and SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) in Ahmedabad, India (photo of SEWA workers to the right). Which networking practices have taken place? What is the role of the three organizations in the translation of ideas on the rights of home-based workers from one locality to another?
The study is based on fieldwork in Manila, Leeds and Ahmedabad. Dr. Larsson aims is to trace the networks and explore the ongoing debates by following activists in their daily life. The project points to the interconnection between the global division of labour and how women’s work is valued locally. On the other hand, the study discusses emergent forms of global activism through transnational advocacy networks, social movements and Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs).
More information about Marie’s research on her personal web page.
Dr. Bengt G. (Beppe) Karlsson , previously at the Dept. of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University, works at the department since January 2010, but during the spring 2010 he combined this with staying in the Republic of Sakartvelo (Georgia), teaching at the Center for Social Sciences at Tbilisi State University. He moved back to Sweden in July 2010.
Beppe Karlsson defended his doctoral dissertation on ”
One of the central points of the book relates to the question of identity – the construction of identity as a form of resistance. Beppe Karlsson discussed the Reba's ongoing conversion to Christianity and their ethnic mobilisation. The main theoretical issue of the book concerned the agency involved in the making of cultural or ethnic identities. Read the full thesis on Google Books (as a pdf-file).
Later, he taugt anthropology at Linköping University and Uppsala University. In 2006 he became Associate Professor at Uppsala University. Karlsson has also been guest researcher at North Bengal University in Siliguri, India, University College London, UK, University of Chicago, USA, and North-East Hill University in Shillong, India.
His main research interests relate to questions of ethnicity and environment in India, with particular focus on indigenous peoples issues. At Uppsala University, he worked closely with the researcher Dr. Gunnel Cederlöf. From 2001, they were involved in a joint research project entitled ”
Beppe Karlsson’s sub-project was entitled ”
More information about the project.
At the International Conference on the Forest and Environmental History of the British Empire and Commonwealth held at the Centre for World Environmental History, University of Sussex, UK in March 2003 Beppe Karlsson presented a paper on ”Deforestation and conflicts over forests in Meghalaya”.
In 2005 Beppe Karlsson edited a volume called ”Indigeneity in India” together with Tanka B. Subba, Professor of Social Anthropology, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. More information on the book.
A monograph entitled ”Unruly Hills: Nature and Nation in India’s Northeast” is published in May 2011. This book summarises the 10 year old research project.
On 4 May 2011, Dr. Karlsson participated in the Lund University seminar on ”Forest Rights in India” that was jointly organised by SASNET, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), and The Swallows India Bangladesh. More information.
In the period between 2006 and 2008, Beppe Karlsson was enged in a research project on ”
Between 2004 and 2006, Dr. Karlsson combined his research at Uppsala University with being Director on a 50 % basis for the Nordic Centre in India university consortium, NCI, administered from Uppsala University (more information about NCI).
More information on Beppe’s research at Uppsala University.
More information about Beppe’s research on his Stockholm University personal web page.
In October 2012, Bengt G Karlsson received SEK 2.7 m as a grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) for a three years (2013-15) project entitled ”The Indian Underbelly: Marginalisation and Migration in the Periphery”. It will focus on migrants from Northeastern India now living and working in the metropolitan cities of south India. More information.
Bengt G Karlsson’s Indian research partner is Associate Professor Sanjay Barbora at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), based at the TISS Northeast India campus in Guwahati. Dr. Barbora is also an Advisor for Media and Conflict at Panos South Asia. A sociologist by training, he has been associated for a long time with media and research initiatives in South Asia. He has edited a book on land alienation among indigenous peoples in Northeast India and has authored several academic articles on conflict, human rights and peace processes in South Asia. He has also been a regular contributor and political commentator for renowned dailies, magazines and journals. He is also the co-producer and director of a documentary film on migration and political change in Central Asia.
Project abstract: This project focuses on emerging forms of poverty and related process of marginalisation and migration in India. In particular, it wishes to understand the problems and prospects associated with the expansion of developmental activities and state-control, in areas that were traditionally associated with economic backwardness, social ferment and protracted political conflict. Since the past two decades, India’s economic growth has overshadowed the discordant realities of armed conflicts, be they against Maoists in central and eastern India, or ethnic autonomistsand separatists in Kashmir and the Northeast. Two clusters of villages in Assam and Manipur will be selected for in-depth investigations of changes in livelihoods, migration patterns and social organisation. Within the villages, we will trace movements from agriculture-based livelihoods to off farm activities, from rural to peri-urban/urban and further migration routes outside the region. The two states of Assam and Manipur have diverse populations, based in both valley and hills and have experienced political turmoil and demographic shifts in the past three decades.
The project will be carried out in collaboration with a larger British research group led by Dr. Alpa Shah, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London. (Her group has received funding from the Europan Commission).
• Dr. Per Ståhlberg defended his doctoral dissertation on ”
Since 1 March 2010, Per Ståhlberg works as Associate Professor at the Division of Media and Communication Studies, Department of Culture and Communication, Södertörn University College in Huddinge, south of Stockholm. He is now (2013) Head of department.
Per actually started to teach part-time at Södertörn University College in Huddinge already in 2006. Another part-time he spent teaching in ”Omvärldskunskap” at the Swedish National Police Academy in Stockholm.
The dissertation project dealt with the regional Hindi-language press and its journalists in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The aim of the study was to ascertain the conditions under which media produces its image of reality in a developing country. Of particular interest is how journalists use collective categories when reporting about religious or social groups in society. Theoretically, the project links up with mass media research on news production, anthropological discussion of the distribution of knowledge in complex societies, as well as specific research on institutions in the modern Indian nation state.
In October 2006 Per Ståhlberg was given SEK 1.7 million as a grant from the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Stiftelsen Riksbankens jubileumsfond), for a research project about ”
Project abstract: India is nowadays viewed as a coming economic superpower. Economic liberalization and a good supply of low wage English-speaking labour have made the country competitive in the global market place. The high quality of technical education and successes for companies in the ICT business contribute to the image of a new “knowledge nation”. However, the Indian superpower is, despite certain impressive developments, very much a vision of the future. The image of success could be regarded as a social construction, created in the interaction between a numbers of actors with partly different motives. For example, the Indian Government and industry that are promoting a strong “Brand India”, international finance institutes aiming to interpret changes in world economy, and the mass media (Indian as well as international) creating comprehensible representation of a country. The aim of this project is, firstly, to examine the production of a new image of India and analyse its themes and variations, within the country as well as in an international context. Secondly, Per Ståhlberg will study what is happening on the ground, in a place that has a key position in the vision about a glorious Indian future: How are grand expectations interpreted among some categories of “brokers” that in a concrete manner deal with this vision? The first part of the study is based on media material and text documents. The second part is based on fieldwork in the South Indian city of Hyderabad.
Currently, Per Ståhlberg is working on a project similar to his dissertation project, now entitled ”
Abstract: The aim of the study is to ascertain the conditions under which media produces its image of reality in a developing country. Of particular interest is how journalists use collective categories when reporting about religious or social groups in society. Theoretically, the project links up with mass media research on news production, anthropological discussion of the distribution of knowledge in complex societies, as well as specific research on institutions in the modern Indian nation state. The point of departure will be to focus on everyday practice of news production, and on the occupational culture of journalism and the journalist's assessment of the news and objectivity. Field research will be carried out over a period of twelve months on newspapers in the city of Lucknow. The study will be conducted primarily through participant observation and informal interviews. To a limited extent printed news material will also be analysed.
More information on Per’s personal web page.
• Dr. Paolo Favero defended his doctoral dissertation on ”
In addition to the doctoral dissertation a documentary film called ”Fly over Delhi” was produced by Paolo Favero and Angelo Fontana. The film was shown during the conference on ”Structures of Vulnerability: Mobilisation and Resistance” that the department organised 12–14 January 2005.
Project abstract: The project focuses on the dynamics of social mobility and cultural change among young middle-class men in contemporary urban India. With the opening of Indian economy to the global market in 1991 new life-worlds as well as new possibilities for social mobility have entered the country and influenced especially young people. A new era of increased interactions with the outer world started. 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- 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 “average Indians”.
“India dreams” will primarily approach cultural identities through abstract categories with shifting reference (Favero refers to them as ‘phantasms’) such as ‘India’, ‘West’, ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. The young men in this study understand themselves and what surrounds them by invoking such terms, 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’ can become a marker of ‘backwardness’ and lack of sophistication. Their experiences mark out the contemporary popularity of notions of Indianness in metropolitan India.
In November 2005 Dr. Favero received SEK 648 000 as a three-years grant (2006-08) for a post-doc project titled ”‘FILMI STYLE’ AND THE AESTHETICS OF EVERYDAY LIFE, a visual study of visual culture in Indian diaspora in Rome” from the Swedish Research Council. More information about the project (only in Swedish).
Dr. Paolo Favero is now working at Centro de Estudos de Antropologia Social (CEAS), Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE), University of Lisbon, Portugal.
• Dr. Björn Alm defended his doctoral dissertation at the department on ”
Björn Alm is now working at the Division for Social Anthropology, Department of Religion and Culture (IRK), Linköping University.
• PhD Candidate Charles Camâra is working on a project on
• PhD candidate Per Drougge planned to work on a research project focusing on the social and cultural impact of electronic mass media in Bhutan and local ways of managing this potential threat to the cultural integrity of the ‘last Buddhist country in the Himalayas’. But he has now decided to work on a project on Zen Buddhism instead.
His research interests include the ‘westernization’ of Buddhism, comparative monasticism, and the interfaces of Buddhist practice and (western) psychotherapy.
From January 2009 till September 2010, Mr. Drougge was a deputy member of SASNET’s board, as a representative for doctoral candidates. More information about the board.
More information about Per’s research on his personal web page.
MSc Johanna Sommansson is anthropologist rooted in the field of South-East Asian studies and Indology. After graduating as a Master of Anhtropology from Stockholm University, Johanna has been working on a visual anthropology project called ”Desi Girls!”, about middle class college girls in Delhi and how they view expressions of gender in their daily lives. ”Desi Girls!” premiered in May 2010 and currently Johanna is preparing a follow-up project with the same college girls who figured in the mini documentary.
During 2011 and 2012 Johanna will be in India working on a cross-urban project since the Delhi college girls now are located at different Indian universites.
Johanna Sommansson participated in SASNET’s conference on South Asian Studies for young Nordic scholars that was held in Höllviken, south of Malmö, on 18–20 August 2010, and her film was shown as part of the programme. 23 masters students, PhD candidates and recent PhDs from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland participated in the three-day conference focusing on three major issues: Interdisciplinary Research; Field Work and Ethics; and Academic Career (Publishing, Teaching, Networking). More information.
Research conference on ”Structures of Vulnerability: Mobilisation and Resistance”
In collaboration with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Sida, the Dept. of Social Anthropology organised a conference focusing on ”Structures of Vulnerability: Mobilisation and Resistance”, 12–14 January 2005.
It was the largest gathering so far in Sweden of Third world oriented researchers, within fields such as Biodiversity, Children and youth, Climate, Corruption, Environment, Ethnicity, Food and water, Gender, Hazards, Health, Infrastructure, Law, Religion, Urbanity, War and violence, and Welfare. More than 300 researchers and graduate/post graduate students took part in the higly succesful conference, and a vast number of South Asia related research papers were presented in the workshops.
Key note speakers were Professor Ben Wisner, lecturing on ”Root causes of vulnerability: What do we know after 30 years and what is to be done about them”, Professor Hunter Wade and Professor Johanne Sundby. A panel debate was also held on ”Victims and Actors – who get the blame? Concepts of structure and agency in the development research”, with Ass. Prof. Hans Abrahamsson and Prof. Björn Hettne from PADRIGU, Göteborg University, Prof. Thomas Hylland Erikssen, Oslo University, and Prof. Gudrun Dahl, Dept. of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University (photo above).
It was the third conference in a series of conferences financed by Sida, on the challenges faced by the research community in developing countries. The first conference was arranged with Göteborg University in January 2000, and the second, named ”Poor and Rich” was held at Lund University in January 2003 (more information on the Lund conference).