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Shankar Bagh

Our Masters programme at CSSS in JNU was truly a learning experiences exposing us to the larger Social Sciences approaches focusing on Sociological paradigm. My MPhil work was on the Mahima Dharma in Odisha. I have tried to show how the subalterns and Dalits resist the hegemonic and oppressive dominant social order in Odisha. By situating in the pan-Indian framework, I argued that Mahima Dharma is a part of the larger anti-caste movement in India which has its roots in the Phule-Ambedker tradition of social protest informed by the emancipatory modernist project by Buddha. By using the religion of the oppressed framework, I have argued how the marginalized protested against colonialism and hierarchical social order by adopting the available strategy.

For my doctoral Thesis, I am working on the Toki-Parab festival in the Kalahandi region of Odisha. By tracing from the precolonial origin of the festival to its encounter with colonialism, this work tries to examine the present condition by situating Kalahandi region in the larger post-independent and neoliberal context. Along with the journey and transformation of the Toki-Parab festival, I am attempting to construct the social history of the region and tries to seek some answers to some of the pertinent issues like migration and settlement, politics of development, communalism, religious fundamentalism, poverty and economic backwardness. My major concern is how caste, tribe and capital interacted with the arrival of Brahmanism and Colonialism shaped the social structure of the region which was further reproduced. Further, this project is to understand how do people adopt, resist, adapt and respond to the changes both at the structural as well as Individual level.

Growing up as a child in a multi-caste and tribe village in Kalahandi, I have had the privilege of first-hand experience of the social structure, institutions and its operationalization. Like many of us, my encounter with caste during my childhood and present reveals the structure, process and everyday operation of the caste society. At the same time the State and its various apparatuses have been the source of both apprehensions and hopes. The Nehruvian Indian welfare State in spite of its terror did promise a better life to the people by providing basic healthcare, education, employment. Thanks to my little bit training in Sociology in the larger social science domain, entry into the Jawaharlal Nehru University and meeting with my teachers and friends, I could comprehend much of my previous encounters and experiences. My exposure to these literatures and academia made me to go deeper into the larger question of the larger issues at the structural level in relation to the self. Sadly though, in spite of many genuine engagements by various individuals and institutions, I could find a huge gap in the practice of Sociology, both in the teaching as well as research. The larger question which always bothers and reminds me about the ‘being relevance’ at the present juncture when the institutions and practices of learnings in general are being attacked and dismissed about its utility for the society. Further how to make meaningful interventions not only at the academia but looking beyond the boundaries of classroom to engage with the larger society. It seeks for bringing the theory and practice together with freshness in our imagination working for the liberation from the human sufferings and emancipation.  This project of ‘ The Social Quest’ is an attempt to engage and work in this direction.    

I am presently working as an Assistant Professor of Sociology in Sikkim University. My primary research concern is to understand how power operates at religious spheres and manifests at various spheres of social lives. Further how subaltern communities give meanings to their religious lives and express and represent at the public spheres. It intersects with communities and State. My broad research interest comes under Sociology of Religion, Village studies, Social Exclusion and Inclusion, Sociology of Development, Subaltern Studies, Caste and Tribe debates, Festival studies, Social History. I am also interested in Indigenous knowledge practices and its documentation.

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