Status, Specialization, and Gift Exchange: pholoi in Comparison to jajmani Relationships

Status, gift exchange, and specialization, discussed in the preceding sections, can hardly be treated in connection with one another in the Indian context without raising the specter of the “jajmani system.” Like “totemism” in general anthropological theory, the jajmani system is a case of the construction of a general type out of scattered empirical phenomena, one that has long been a topic of controversy in Indian anthropology and has proven itself relatively resistant to attempts at its deconstruction.[1] [2] In what follows, I will draw on selected ethnographic examples to describe the various types of relationships between dominant castes and their clients, the types of services and prestations provided, and the context of the transactions and services, comparing them to the situation in Gudapada. I will not summarize the genesis of the jajmani debate here.170 First, I will sketch the idea of the jajmani system as Dumont understands it.

  • [1] Pocock (1962) already expressed reservations about the use of the term and tried to restrictits application. However, the critiques by Fuller (1989) and Lerche (1993) aimed more fundamentally at deconstructing the doctrine as a whole.
  • [2] The course of the debate and its central arguments are summarized by Dumont (1980, 92-108), Fuller (1989), Lerche (1993), Parry (1979, 74 - 83), and Raheja (1988), among others.
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