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Drawing on ethnographic research carried out in rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, this talk analyses how local idioms of traditional justice, healing/possession and debt intersect with one another. These idioms are intricately connected. Indeed, it is difficult to prize them apart or even imagine them as separate from one another. While these terms have mostly been treated by scholars as pre-political, they are an integral part of the local political discourse and reveal a distinctive understanding of the logics of power and authority as these cross domains of social action. A brief trip through a toll plaza in Madhya Pradesh will eventually make us meet some English terms mixed with local ones to describe specific socio-political processes in a context where a new kind of subject is worked upon at the crossing between local life and politics, between state politics and the capitalist logics of extraction.

About the speaker

Tommaso is a social and political anthropologist who teaches the Anthropology of South Asia at the University of Siena. He has conducted extensive ethnographic research in norther India since 2003, focusing on the interaction of customary and state justice and law, on forms of rural politics, on local idioms and practices of relatedness, and on social change. He has worked on a number of international projects focusing on Indian villages, infrastructure, microcredit and debt, and law. He conducted most of his research in the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, working in Hindi, Marwari and Malwi. He has written on traditional councils (panchayats), crime, gifts, and communalism in rural Madhya Pradesh, having recently published on the life and legend of a bandit in a Malwa village. Tommaso also works on migration and asylum seeking, and on intercultural theory and translation. He is editor, with Stefano Jacoviello, of Shifting Borders: European Perspectives on Creolisation (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2012).