Dissertation Abstracts

Inheriting A Trade: A Study Of Inter-generational Prostitution Within A Community In Forbesganj, Bihar

Author: Rana, Subir , 123.subir@gmail.com
Department: Centre for the Study of Social Systems
University: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Supervisor: Prof. A. Kumar
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Criminal Tribes , Nats , Inter-generational prostitutio , Bihar
Areas of Research: Law , Deviance and Social Control , Professional Groups


My study focuses on the Nat community which is an erstwhile so called ‘Criminal Tribe’, declared as a Denotified nomadic tribe (DNT) or Vimukta Jatis, after independence and located in Forbesganj, Bihar. Today the Nats are spread in more than fifteen different states of India and still follow a mobile lifestyle. Most of the male members of the Nat community are unemployed due to rampant illiteracy and acute poverty as well as the stigma of criminality and therefore subsist on human trafficking and pimping for their own female kith and kin. The Census Report of 1911 classifies the Nat community as the largest number of “convict prisoners” and beggars with respect to their population. Today, this community is facing mass unemployment, exploitation, stigma of criminality and a administrative neglect, besides undergoing range of other structural and symbolic violence.

My research analyzes the colonial ploy of labelling the Nats as ‘criminals’ and examines the causes of inter-generational prostitution among the Nats in Forbesganj. It traces the historicity of this community of erstwhile acrobats, jugglers, street entertainers or ‘tamasha walas’ and stuntmen or ‘bazigars’ as they are called and tries to investigate about their role during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. The ethnographic research also helped explicate the manner in which notions of ‘honour’, and ‘shame’ ‘work’, and ‘labour’ are conceptualized in the Nat community as well as contestations and negotiations of hierarchies and power relations in their everyday lives. In the current context, I explored the relationship between poverty, landlessness, illiteracy and prostitution and tried to analyse the notion of Sanskritization and purity and pollution. By interacting with the community during my fieldwork, I got an emic view of the phenomenological realities viz their lifeworld and their ‘habitus’ by investigating as to how the Nats make sense of the world they inhabit. In the contemporary times, the research also dwelt on the nature of structural and symbolic violence like globalization and the effects of neo-liberal policies on the women of the Nat community.

My research can be placed within the larger realm of ‘Polycentric and entangled histories’ and ‘circulatory regime’ that evolved under the British rule. It thus contests the uni-dimensional and uni-vocal linear flow of events, historical trajectories and colonial / official master narratives.

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