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Length: Each paper should be about 3 pages double-spaced, using Times 12-point or equivalent font with reasonable (1” or 1.25”) margins. 
Your goal in this assignment is not to summarize the readings—rather, reflect on them and the discussion we had about them.  Your essay should substantially address and cite ideas/material from at least two of the readings for the specified weeks, as well as at least one point that came up in the class discussion.  You may also write about what did not come up in discussion.  You will need to organize your thoughts into a coherent essay with an introductory paragraph that lays out your main idea.

Here are some questions you can use to help you get into “reflecting” mode.  These aren’t  questions you must answer—just possible prompts.
–how do these readings relate to each other?  To other readings we have had so far?
–what sources are the authors using to make their arguments?  Could these sources be used in other ways?
–what larger theoretical point do you see emerging from these readings, beyond their specifics?
–what questions do the readings/discussion leave you with?CHAPTER 1


On a warm afternoon in November 2009, I walk into a Barista coffee shop in Defence
Colony, an upscale neighborhood in south New Delhi. Copies of English-language
newspapers litter the tabletops. From the television affixed to the wall comes the
muted sound of NDTV: PROFIT, an English-language financial news channel.
Around me, college girls in tank tops brush highlighted strands of hair from their eyes
as they text furiously on iPhones. A couple flirts over cold coffee, she in a kurti and
skinny jeans, he in a button-down with a Ralph Lauren Polo logo. Conversations are
in English with the occasional dash of Hindi. “What bakwaas, I told him to meet here
at noon,” one of the college girls grumbles. When the waiter appears, I order a small
Caffe Americano for 45 rupees – three times the cost of a simple lunch (dal, chapati,
vegetable curry) at the dhaba, or makeshift food stall, on the main road nearby.

I am waiting to meet with Nikhil, a 25-year-old man who has worked for five years
at American-process call centers. Formerly, Nikhil was a customer service agent, track-
ing down defaulting debtors among customers in the United States. Now he works as
a trainer in the nearby suburb of Gurgaon, teaching customer service skills at a com-
pany that answers technical support calls from internet users in the US. Having inter-
viewed over two dozen working trainers since the start of my research, I am learning
that this career path, from service agent to trainer, is typical in the business process

“How to Sit,
How to Stand”:
Bodily Practice
and the New Urban
Middle Class

Meredith Lindsay McGuire


A Companion to the Anthropology of India, edited by Isabelle Clark-Decès
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd except for editorial material and organization © 2011 Isabelle Clark-Decès

Clark-Decès_c06.indd 117Clark-Decès_c06.indd 117 11/30/2010 6:16:06 PM11/30/2010 6:16:06 PM




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outsourcing (BPO) industry. So, too, is Nikhil’s temptation to go freelance. At our
first meeting a week ago, he spoke of a rumor that a prominent Indian restaurant
chain is looking to retrain its workforce. If Nikhil were free to bid on the contract, his
professional experience would make him a top contender for the job.

Obviously, an Indian restaurant chain has no need for the sort of Voice and Accent
workshops that Nikhil regularly teaches at the American-process call center. What
does recommend him is his expertise in “personality development and enhancement”
(PDE) training. Among call center trainers, PDE serves as an umbrella term for a
variety of kinesthetic pedagogies – teaching strategies that focus on bodily movement.
PDE trainers believe that changing the way the body moves also changApprehensions: On gaining recognition
as middle class in Madurai

Sara Dickey

In this article, I examine everyday ways in which residents of Madurai, Tamil Nadu work to
gain and maintain recognition as middle class. In the intersubjective production of identities,
people define not only what it takes to be a member of a specific local class category, but
also what it means to be treated as fully human. I explore the critical importance of visibility
and recognition in daily life, and the modes and meanings of the consumption through which
people strive to achieve them. Focusing on two key consumption practices—presenting
oneself in public according to local standards of ‘decency’ and marking class belonging
through one fetishised consumer good, the cell phone—I consider the relationships among
visual apprehension, counting as a social being and dignity.

Keywords: middle class, consumption, class anxiety, dignity, mobile phones, south India


When scholars study the impacts of class, we frequently look at the ‘big’
things: the dramatic, the monumental, the long-term. We examine life
chances, life histories and longitudinal data. The object of our work might
be class movements, famous strikes, changing consumption patterns, the
role of debt in impoverishment, the impact of educational attainment on
occupation or (in my own case) the role of marriage in reproducing class

Contributions to Indian Sociology 47, 2 (2013): 217–243
SAGE Publications Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore/Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0069966713482963

Sara Dickey is at the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Bowdoin College, Brunswick,
USA. Email: sdickey@bowdoin.edu

1 Small portions of this article have appeared in similar form in Dickey (2005, 2012). Here
I elaborate on the topics of visibility and recognisability raised in these earlier publications.


Contributions to Indian Sociology 47, 2 (2013): 217–243

218 / Sara Dickey

(Dickey 2010). Class is indeed played out, experienced and negotiated
in these ways. But class is also lived in and through highly mundane pro-
cesses. Examining the everyday ways in which class identity is negotiated
and enacted allows us to scrutinise the symbolic meanings that underlie
‘larger’ class systems. More significantly for my interests here, it helps us
to comprehend the meaning and experience of class in everyday lives.

In this article, I consider quotidian, often fleeting, interactions with
known and unknown others that can be crucial to people’s sense of well-
being. I focus, in particular, on the drive to be apprehended that shapes
those interactions. In Madurai, a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu,
people remark frequently on how the display of consumer goods affects the
treatment they receive by others, and how they work to present themselves
in ways that gain approbatiFrom ‘evil eye’ anxiety to the desirability
of envy: Status, consumption and the

politics of visibility in urban south India

Melanie Dean

Competing motivations characterise consumption practices in contemporary south India.
While status-conscious Tamils are desirous of displaying wealth so as to signal kauravam
(‘prestige’), such public displays risk eliciting tirust i (‘evil eye’). Based on field research in
urban Tamil Nadu, the article argues that this tension—between the desire to display wealth
and signal social status, and the fear that such displays will invite supernatural attack—is
being resolved through newfound practices of tirusti prophylaxis. Prophylactic amulets are
used to manage and divert the tirusti-bearing gazes of onlookers from things of value. The
newest amulets of the Tamil Nadu public sphere capitalise upon the eye-catching ability of
the normative tirusti prophylactic to directly index, rather than mask, the social status that
protective amulets are deployed to protect. Today, a range of expensive consumer goods
are utilised as prophylactics. Because the need to protect oneself from tirusti can itself be
a sign of status, such expensive amulets serve to simultaneously protect and project the
prestige of their deployers. Lower-status individuals, however, are policed in their acts of
tirusti prophylaxis. Here, a politics of visibility—with respect to caste, class, gender and
skin colour—conditions the ‘appropriateness’ of acts of tirusti prophylaxis.

Keywords: evil eye, consumption, class, symbolic capital, south India


The act of consumption is a fundamentally social one. The things that one
buys and the ways in which one displays or deploys them are an important
means of self-consciously conveying messages about one’s social status and

Contributions to Indian Sociology 47, 2 (2013): 185–216
SAGE Publications Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore/Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0069966713482999

Melanie Dean is at the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Email: melanieadean@gmail.com

at BRYN MAWR COLLEGE on June 15, 2015cis.sagepub.comDownloaded from


Contributions to Indian Sociology 47, 2 (2013): 185–216

186 / Melanie Dean

aspirations (Appadurai 1986; Bourdieu 1984, 1993; Veblen 1934[1899]),
and a powerful means of communicating one’s position in social space
(Appadurai 1986; Douglas and Isherwood 1996). Since the process of eco-
nomic liberalisation began in the early 1990s, the Indian middle class has
grown and increasingly been re-imagined as a ‘consumer class’ (Deshpande
2003; Fernandes 2000a; Varma 1998). Conspicuous consumption has be-
come the emblem of national progress in India, and for the middle class and
its aspirants, increased access to new commodities has emerged as a central
indicator of the benefits of economic liberalisation (Fernandes 2000b).

But even as increased economic growth and

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