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New middle-classes present themselves as the epitome of modernity and progress. Both in their role as social models and culture-brokers, they seem to promote a heightened consciousness of cultural difference and nationalism. Middle-Class Moralities examines how the new middle classes of India create identities, practices and politics of the everyday in a dialogue that involves other social categories and an imaginary West. Drawing upon ethnographic and interview material, this book studies family relations, leisure, food, housing and religious practices of these emerging and enterprising social classes. Defining the middle classes is a political and embodied process that people negotiate by making instrumental use of (or domesticating) the idea of the West. A closer and analytical look at the consumption-driven, status-obsessed middle classes reveals their deeper struggles that seek to engage such cultural concepts as dharma, purity, and auspiciousness.
The fieldwork for this study was conducted mainly in the city of Hyderabad among its upwardly mobile people who have identified themselves as “Hindus.” The Indian situation, argues the author, is comparable to that of the urban middle classes elsewhere, especially those of the traditionally hierarchical Asian societies. The dilemmas of these classes in a fast-globalizing India have seldom been given the detailed attention offered in these pages.