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Title: Within the limits : respectability, class and gender in Hyderabad
Author: Gilbertson, Amanda Kate
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 2983
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Drawing on twelve months of fieldwork in suburban Hyderabad, India, this thesis contributes to emerging debates on the Indian new middle classes and postcolonial middle classes more generally. I challenge images of a homogenous middle class enjoying the benefits of liberalization by highlighting the diversity in wealth, lifestyle and access to opportunities within this class sector. Contrary to the pervasive image of a hedonistic and morally corrupt new middle class, I assert the centrality of moral discourses to the construction of middle-class identity in Hyderabad. Middle-class Hyderabadis engage in moral discourses of ‘respectability’ and ‘open-mindedness’ in relation to caste, consumption, education, and women’s public and domestic roles. These discourses of morality are central to the reproduction of class and gender inequality as successfully balancing the demands of respectability and open-mindedness is particularly difficult for those with fewer resources such as the lower middle class and for women who are expected to embody authentic Indianness in their demure comportment, ‘traditional’ attire and commitment to ‘Indian’ family values, but are also liable to being judged ‘backward’ if their clothing and lack of education and paid employment are seen to be in conflict with fashion and open-mindedness. The focus on balance and compromise in middle-class Hyderabadis’ narratives echoes other work on postcolonial middle classes that has emphasised people’s efforts to adhere to local notions of respectable behaviour that are central to national identities while also attempting to align themselves with a ‘modern’ global consumer culture. In contrast to much of this literature, however, I challenge the notion that modernity and tradition, the local and the global are objects of desire in and of themselves and instead argue that they function as important reference points in discourses that legitimate the dominant position of men and those of upper class-caste status.
Supervisor: Gellner, David ; Still, Clarinda Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social anthropology ; Comparative and international education ; Gender ; Social mobility ; India ; middle class ; education ; caste