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Everyday life in contemporary rural India is characterized by an increased sense of mobility, inequality and uncertainty. Ordinary villagers often find themselves caught between the promises and failures of democracy and development. This ethnographic study of the village of Khanpur (in Uttar Pradesh, north India) is an attempt to grasp everyday life in rural India. Drawing on descriptions of village life, interspersed with theoretical analyses, the author examines how ordinary people construct their own sense of their lives and their futures in everyday activities: working on farms, attending college, searching for non-farm employment, celebrating religious rituals and dealing with local elections and democracy. The villagers confront growing economic and moral uncertainty; they creatively harmonize public discourse and local practice; and sometimes they resolve incoherence and unease through the use of irony. In so doing, they perform everyday village and caste ethics and re-create transient political, economic and moral communities at a time of massive social dislocation. Satendra Kumar in this lucid book shows, in no uncertain terms, that villages in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere have been and continue to be vibrant grounds for the production of culture, sociality, hope, politics and persons. He also addresses anthropology’s forfeiture of the village as a subject of study in an era of globalization.

Valley of Words Awardsatendra.kumar Satendra Kumar is a sociologist and a prolific writer. He regularly writes in Hindi and English.

Currently, he is a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) Shimla. After completing his PhD from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, he has been teaching at G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, University of Allahabad. He specialises in the sociology and anthropology of caste, class, development, political cultures, agrarian change, youth and future. His research investigates how marginalized groups understand and engage with democratic politics and the state in contemporary India. He has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork on these issues in eastern and western Uttar Pradesh. Recently, he has been writing biographies of criminal-entrepreneurs and young student leaders. He has written widely on rural-agrarian transformation in north India.

Beyond his ethnographic research, Satendra is also interested in combining social theory with history, literature and political-legal philosophy. He taught at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He has been awarded the British Academy Fellowship at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, UK. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, University of California, Berkeley, Bielefeld University, Germany, Australia-India Institute, Melbourne and Savitribai Phule Pune University. During his fellowship at the IIAS, he will be writing a monograph on Popular Democracy and Other Backward Classes in North India. He has presented many papers in national and international conferences and has lectured extensively in the country and abroad.

He is working on a novel which narrates a story of love-stricken couple in rural Uttar Pradesh: a story of the lost rural world which had both human and non-human. 

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Satendra Kumar is a sociologist and a prolific writer. Currently, he is a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) Shimla. After completing his PhD from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, he has been teaching at G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, University of Allahabad. He specialises in the sociology and anthropology of caste, class, development, political cultures, agrarian change, youth and future. His research investigates how marginalized groups understand and engage with democratic politics and the state in contemporary India. He has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork on these issues in eastern and western Uttar Pradesh. Recently, he has been writing biographies of criminal-entrepreneurs and young student leaders. He has written widely on rural-agrarian transformation in north India. Beyond his ethnographic research, Satendra is also interested in combining social theory with history, literature and political-legal philosophy. He taught at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He has been awarded the British Academy Fellowship at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, UK. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, University of California, Berkeley, Bielefeld University, Germany, Australia-India Institute, Melbourne and Savitribai Phule Pune University. During his fellowship at the IIAS, he will be writing a monograph on Popular Democracy and Other Backward Classes in North India. He has presented many papers in national and international conferences and has lectured extensively in the country and abroad.