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To fairly tell: social mobility, life histories, and the anthropologist

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This article focuses on social agents' own understandings of socio-economic mobility and social achievement, exploring the possibilities offered by the tool of family life history in the context of formerly Untouchable communities in western India, Maharashtra. While arguing in favour of family life histories as both resource and method in the Indian context, I reconsider the positivist functionalist stance dominant in studies of social mobility until the last decade. This stance raises issues of strategy and contingency, which are discussed in the particular setting of the mechanics industry in Kolhapur. Furthermore, exploring the relationship between determinism and contingency in life-paths raises important questions about how people construct their life stories in retrospect. Focusing on the case study of one family known over many years allows me to unravel the complex and subjective positionings at play in narrative research as it is mutually constituted by the story teller(s) and the anthropologist.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/26936/

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