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Social movements in India


The study of social movements has changed the disciplinary orientation of the social sciences
Review > in India. The present volume is a comprehensive introduction to the field, and to debates
India among political scientists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists. movements get designated mass move- Chakravarti becomes Chakravarthi (p.
ments on the predilections of individual 78), Atis Dasgupta becomes Arts Das-
By Manish K. Thakur discipline of political sociology. Shah diminishing scholarly interest in stu- researchers. gupta (p. 79), Henningham’s 1979
is candid in his admission that politi- dent movements are particularly apt: paper appears in volume 16 of IESHR

W hile Social Movements in India is


a by-product of the Indian Coun-
cil of Social Science Research’s survey
cal science has been a late entrant to
the field, as that it has concentrated
more on the ‘inner conflicts of power
‘since the mid-1980s, as student move-
ments are almost absent in the univer-
sity campuses, the interest of social sci-
Shah has pointedly brought out the
unevenness of content in the existing lit-
erature. Peasant movements, for exam-
whereas his 1981 reference is in volume
13 of the same journal (p. 82), Mandal
becomes Mandalb (p. 84), M.N. Karna
of the literature in political science, it is elites’ (p. 12) than on conflicts entists in the area is also waning’ (p. ple, have attracted much scholarly atten- becomes M.L. Karna (p.88 & p.179), S.K.
not confined to the works of political sci- between elites and masses. The 217). In addressing middle class move- tion whereas work on working class Chaube becomes S.C. Chaube (p.110),
entists. Within its scope are studies on author at times goes too far in his ments, Shah questions why nativist movements lags behind. The coverage ‘and political’ appears twice in the title
social movements since the establish- enthusiastic contextualisation of movements emerge and sustain them- of regions also varies –peasant move- against the editor’s own 1975 reference
ment of the British Raj. movement studies. For example, he selves in certain states of the Indian ments in Orissa, Gujarat, Karnataka, (p. 145), CPI becomes CIP (p.160), and
blames Indian scholars’ indifference Union and not others. and Madhya Pradesh have not been ade- finally prawn becomes pawn (p. 257).
Besides the introduction and ‘conclu- to various movements to explain the quately studied. Similarly, tribal move- On page 180 ‘modern powered indus-
sions and future research’, the volume near absence of social movements lit- Missing theory ments in the Northeastern states, tries …in the mid-1950s of the nine-
contains nine chapters focusing on erature in the first few decades after In his concluding note, Shah underlines Rajasthan and Orissa have received less teenth century’, the opening sentence of
peasant, tribal, Dalit, backward independence: ‘The Indian scholars the dearth of theoretical studies on scholarly attention. Movements of agri- Chapter 7, thoroughly confuses the
caste/class, women’s, industrial work- who approved of the agitations for social movements in India. Indian cultural labourers, fishermen and forest reader. Surely, the production team at
ing class, students’, middle class, and independence from foreign rule, did scholars’ attempts to theorise social workers have yet to be systematically Sage have got to be more careful. <
human rights and environmental move- not approve of agitations in the post- movements have, in fact, never moved studied by social scientists.
ments. The introduction traces the gen- independence period’ (p. 25). beyond typologies and classifications. - Shah, Ghanshyam, 2004. Social Move-
esis of social movement studies over the The typologies offered remain too prob- Given its extensive coverage of the ments in India: A Review of Literature (Sec-
past three decades in relation to the tra- The chapters on the Dalit, women’s and lematic to be theoretically useful. The field, the present volume offers a ond and Enlarged Edition). New Delhi:
jectories of social science disciplines in student movements are particularly definition of concepts, too, lacks rigour dependable point of entry for under- Sage Publications; Pp. 281, Rs. 550, ISBN
India. It also touches upon the prob- interesting. Quoting Gail Omvedt, Shah and precision. No wonder, as one wit- graduates and a resource for specialists 0-7619-9833-0 (hard cover).
lematic of ‘old’ and ‘new’ movements, concludes on the Dalit movements: ‘The nesses in the literature the inter- interested in reviewing critical debates
though very briefly, as ‘this monograph “post-Ambedkar Dalit movement” was changeable use of ‘movement’, ‘agita- without scurrying for disparate works Manish K. Thakur teaches Sociology at Goa
is a review of literature and not a ironically only that in the end – a move- tion’, ‘revolution’, ‘protest’, ‘social in the field. Besides being a valuable University. He has contributed research
research study and analysis of social ment of Dalits, challenging some of the movement’ and ‘political movement’. bibliographic guide to an unwieldy papers to various professional journals such
movements in India’ (p. 18). deepest aspects of oppression and Another grey area concerns method- field, its brevity of presentation and as the Sociological Bulletin, Journal of Social
exploitation, but failing to show the way ological issues of data collection and the lucidity of style make it an ideal text- and Economic Development, Journal of Rural
A late entrant to transformation’ (p. 131). Likewise, scale and level of observation and analy- book for graduate students. Development, and the Loyola Journal of
The author is quite right in asserting Shah invokes Epstein to characterise sis. With the growing popularity and Social Sciences. His areas of interest con-
that social movement studies crys- contemporary women’s movements in consolidation of the field, a formulaic However, one is surprised to find so verge on the field of political sociology.
tallised on the Indian academic scene India as ‘more an idea than a move- treatment of social movements is dis- many proof-reading errors in an other- thakurmkumar@rediffmail.com
with the emergence of the new sub- ment’ (p. 170). His comments on the cernable among the studies – certain wise competent review of the literature:

36 IIAS Newsletter | #35 | November 2004

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