Just as one feels a kind of embarrassed, inexpressible gratitude towards a friend who organizes a baby shower, I don’t quite know how to thank Naveeda for inviting this small group of well wishers to hold my first born, Poverty and the Quest for Life. And the group of guests each of whom, including Naveeda herself, brought with them the gift of such attentive and generous reading. Scholastic gifts are probably best understood in a Maussian sense, as a potentially but not necessarily agonistic process of give and take, which might make one poorer or richer. Poorer if one responds poorly. There is a labor involved in receiving the thoughts of another. I hope I will be able to do justice to the labor of love and energy that our respondents put in, in receiving my text.
Let me begin with a teacher from whom I have received many gifts over the last decade and a half, William (Bill) Connolly, who along with Paola Marrati, initiated me into the writings of Gilles Deleuze, and who gave me a central concept in my lexicon that of agonistics. Is there a bestowing attitude other than agonistics or pedagogy through which we might picture intellectual relatedness? Lets call it a labor of the affirmative, when the affirmation is not simply praise but a transfiguration. Bill transfigures my book and welcomes it into a different picture of the present than the one I began from. When I was doing my fieldwork it was said that “we” (a global abstraction, as convincing and debatable as such abstractions are) live in the “post-9/11” era. We debated questions of religion and secularism. I had never heard of the term anthropocene. Now it feels like the zeitgeist and the notion of what constitutes a timely debate, has shifted slightly, or a lot. Bill himself would not think in such teleological terms. And it remains an open question whether it is good to think in “eras”, since it may be hard to predict how the world summons us to undertake a particular kind of work.
These uncertainties of times and eras notwithstanding I am deeply grateful for Bill’s opening affirmation that this book may be read productively as part of newer conversations on climate change, as well as questions of religion and secularism. Part of the untimeliness of this book, I hope, is that it traverses different notions of timeliness. Bill suggests two ways in which the book is situated in and contributes to conversations around the anthropocene. The first is through what he calls “nomadic ethnography”, which is a way of inhabiting the “planetary condition in which the study is set”. Some in current anthropology prescribe “multi-sited” ethnography or transnational movement, as the way to engage the kinesis of this world. Is it possible to travel, to become planetary, while staying in one place, in one set of villages, in an old-style “village study” ethnography? Bill generously affirms my attempt at stillness, which also enables a movement between different dimensions, or thresholds of life, such that to be in one place may also to be multi-sited.
As such, with some, not always conscious inspiration from Thousand Plateaus, and out of an initially unspecifiable ethnographic necessity, I found myself writing chapters or parts of chapters on seemingly utterly diverse themes, which might have been the topic of different dissertations, on popular religion, on forests, on water, on capitalist agricultural transformations, on bureaucracy, on colonial mapping practices, on animals, on ritual sacrifice, and more. To express even the most ordinary moments in Shahabad, one needed to inhabit these diverse forces and dimensions all at once. What interested me was not just a chaotic multiplicity but rather movements and relations between elements, but also separateness, and the ways in which different thresholds may express diverse relations to vitality, such that life, a life, may wax and wane, veer towards life and towards death, at the same time. In my book I call this a lunar form of enlightenment.
Naveeda reorients this thought further by noticing moments when the text “notices” the landscape, not as background but as co-constitutive of human subjectivity. There are lines in her stunning introduction that I can do no more than repeat, and to fold my hands at the thoughts that pass through us. She says “we are reminded perhaps for the first time of our watery constitutions that make us open to such rhythmic influences.” With this proposition she marks the five words that I was maybe happiest with in this book: “Ours are water bodies too”. How did we forget that? And what reminds us for the first time? As Naveeda says, in relation to the practice of ethnographic writing, such a mode of attentiveness is not exactly “reflexivity” but a “striving for the impersonal”. And maybe it is not an innovation, as she says, but simply what anthropologists do. Here is another line that I keep returning to in Naveeda’s introduction: “I find enticing the play of rhythm and animation that hints that ethnography may be the speech of one caught in such play and perhaps it has always been that way.” True, it has always been that way. What leads us to forget our condition?
Bill also hints at another, different thought that my book, maybe I shouldn’t call it “my” book anymore, as it slowly separates itself from me, might offer to our times, the time of late capitalism, the time of climate change, these times, differently conceived. However much these conceptions may vary, many would agree that there seems to be no clear overarching incentive to consumptive self-limitation. In other ontologies and times, some of which may still continue in these times, self-limitation was animated by the promise of an otherworldly reward or imposed by state fiat. So then, in the absence of such rewards or punishments, is there no spur to systematic self-limitation? How does human desire become attracted to frugality? This question recurs in a few of the chapters, and the answer, varied as it is, for instance, with Tejaji, or with Bansi, turns, as Bill suggests, on a “positive ethos of frugality”. It may be cruel to speak of frugality, of voluntary poverty, in a milieu of grinding, often desperate poverty, as Shahabad is. As food for thought, I’ll offer two signposts to suggest what a “positive ethos of frugality” might look like in such a milieu.
First, such an ethos hinges on a different conception of abundance. As I say at the outset of the book, “to be poor is not necessarily to be poor in life.” A book that also traveled with me throughout fieldwork was Thoreau’s Walden. Here is a line from Walden, from the author who is best remembered (and sometimes caricatured) for attempting a modern experiment in ascetic living. Rather than austerity and humility, Thoreau suggests the possibility of a different kind of abundance: “I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough…so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. Extra-vagance! It depends on how you are yarded.” (Thoreau 1960: 272). How are we yarded? What is our measure of the quality of life? Worded as such we can see that this is not a question only for poets or philosophers, but for anyone who ventures a measure, not just on minimum indicators, but also a conception of what constitutes a maximal, or better quality of life.
Abundance may be the feeling of “owning” a forest, even when one does own it as property, a feeling I discuss in the chapter titled “Who Ate up the Forests”. It may also be a feeling of plenitude brought on by the possession of a cellphone, or by a benign spirit possession or a creative reorganization of ritual sacrifice and ways of eating together, such as Bansi’s. It is not pre-given what frugality, or excess, might mean at a given time. And this would be the second aspect of such an ethos, which is that what constitutes frugality is the object of an investigation into the tectonic shifts in which we are implicated, such that a small change in behavior could enable a significant shift. For instance, the connections between social and dietary aspiration, the former rarity of wheat, the recent fall of millets (and its historical status as a “poor man’s grain”) and the related decline of the water table, and the suggestion, that restoring millet to our diets, on a large enough scale, could have a major impact on the water table, for me, constitutes a discovery in the genre of Thoreau and Gandhi. Frugality need not be seen as less but as a reorientation, we might even call it a conversion, or at least an examination that turns on the point of our genuine needs.
This brings me to the doubt Bill poses, between belief and spirituality, a distinction that may at first sight be quite contestable, but let me work with it for now. As Bill suggests, we may share a disposition, a spiritual orientation with someone from a very different belief system. In my own text the word belief was usually in quotes because in relation to the life worlds I was writing about, particularly to popular religious practice, the word belief is over-determined and determining. Popular religion (some assume) is about “belief” and faith, as distinct from (sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly), “higher” religious forms and speculative traditions. This need not be Eurocentrism. It can also be the assumption, for instance, that Upanishadic texts express a kind of speculative, theological reasoning, in a way that is not involved in worshiping a headless horseman at the base of a tree. As I show in several chapters, there is a lot more happening in popular religious life than mere expressions of faith, and even when faith is expressed, it has an internal relation to skepticism, as in the constant testing of spirit mediums, or in Bansi’s refusal to enter temples, even as he leads large groups on pilgrimages, or, differently, in the complex everyday genre of gyancharcha (knowledge-talk), or in the work involved in sustaining myth and ritual, as vital forms, and what it means to have a living relation to a particular corpus of myths, such as the oral epics, or the gote songs for the headless horseman.
But Bill is not talking about beliefs of this sort. He is talking about “onto-beliefs”, what he elsewhere calls an “article of faith”. Do I have onto-beliefs? How could you not, some might say. Do I know what my beliefs are? I say at the outset of the book that one of the tasks I set myself in Shahabad was to unearth my beliefs. What did I find? I hope (ardently hope) that the book will read like a journey of discoveries rather than of impositions. But we still do impose our selves. What does an onto-belief look like? We often don’t know until someone points it out. And something resembling such a gesture of unconcealment happens with Lisa.
Writing Besides Life, Writing Besides Death
Lisa expresses her appreciation, even her delight, for the range of moods that infuse this book. Is it proper for a scholarly book to make us smile, to laugh out loud? As I argue social science, even in its supposedly most value neutral forms, expresses and incites moods. In Deleuzian terms, concepts are accompanied by affects. My companions in thought and life did not express an unceasing gravitas. Gravity was one among the influences I felt. High seriousness may at times be a habit of thought and writing that eclipses important aspects of our ethnographic experience. We may eclipse whatever little light this world offers. Lisa and William Mazzarella both recognize the seriousness of “lighter” moments, as when (as Lisa points out), I conceptually differentiate Kalli’s “active” aggression from the excoriating, dishearteningly comic tirades of her nephew. But then Lisa approaches a doubt, which gradually turns into a criticism: does life (implicitly, explicitly) get smuggled in, as a “higher” principle than death? Do I pay inadequate attention to Shahabad as seen in light of the waning moon?
Before offering counterarguments, I should say that these are doubts that I myself arrived at, and continue to arrive at, expressed for instance in the conclusion of the book, where my daemon, the Yaksha who initially sent me to Shahabad asks me: Shahabad is an area of poverty. Shouldn’t you have used darker colors to paint this landscape? Here is the answer I gave the Yaksha, quoted from the conclusion:
…I began with first impressions of disaster, poverty, and exclusion. For some today, ordinary life in such a milieu is itself a disaster, and research, if it is to have a “use,” must find someone culpable for the damage. Maybe this was a peculiarity of Shahabad, but I found no scapegoats or monsters there whom I might blame – within the state, or commerce, or a particularly dominant social group. Instead, I found a more complex mixture of the tragic, the comic, and the everyday, and slow-moving catastrophes, some of which might be averted. As critically, I found that to be poor is not necessarily to be poor in life.
In wanting to present Shahabad as a diurnal flux rather than nothingness (and I sense that Lisa’s invocation of nothingness is not a sense of lack, it is a flux of a different sort, a sense of entrapment), did I obscure the waning moon? Here is my first response: the chapters on Kalli and Bansi are meant to be an account of a civil uprising, ascending life, although not in the mode of resistance or rebellion. This is meant as a countermovement to the previous four chapters, in which I describe the devastation of animal life and forests in Shahabad, and its impact on the livelihoods of the Sahariyas; and specific state and development projects that fail, sometimes despite genuinely good intentions; in the chapter on “Contracts, Bonds and Bonded Labor”, I agree with and supplement Jan Breman’s classic argument that the lives of bonded laborers are becoming economically worse, after the so-called abolition of bonded labor, as they become “wage-hunter gatherers” in unpredictable informal economies. In “The Coarse and the Fine”, I show how the water table has depleted to threatening proportions.
So my first response would be to say that I did try to sit under the waning moon and the afternoon sun, and to listen to other moods, in a minor key, in Shahabad. The “ascending” portraits of Kalli and Bansi, are counter posed to others, Lala Ram, economically the worst off person I met in Shahabad, who as I show, is tragically one of the few people not on the state’s Below Poverty Line list. Or the first four Sahariya who became literate and graduated from the local government school, and were all given government jobs as part of “tribal upliftment” efforts, and who all resigned within a couple of years, and one of them committed suicide. In this book I wanted to convey a sense of what it means to be poor in a rural setting (and I emphasize rural because urban poverty is a different phenomena), and to offer concepts that I hope might survive in other climates, even under other moons, and the harsh light of day. For instance, what is exploitation? In the terms of this book, following the lives of bonded laborers, it is a particular relation of force, without the possibility of any renegotiation of contracts.
Am I just being defensive? Is there another way to receive Lisa’s response, to take it as an invitation rather than a criticism? I can’t help but make one further clarification. Why didn’t I go to see Bansi, as Lisa asks? Was there something I couldn’t face? It is not just a passing concern she raises. It is an ethical, even a philosophical question because Nietzsche in his encouragement of strength is sometimes seen as repulsed by weakness. In my book I give various examples of moments when I felt compelled to offer what Cavell would call acknowledgement. In the case of Bansi, (and maybe I should have made this clearer) it was a kind of ritual that if you wanted to see him you had to send a message through one of his assistants. I sent two such messages and got no response, which had never been the case over the years before that. I knew how important self-presentation is to Bansi, as one who had to painstakingly and joyfully work his way up from the lowest to the highest status in his milieu. So I took it as his parting communication, that as someone he knew was writing the story or least a chapter on his life, we had said goodbye at the peak of his powers, and that now he didn’t want to see me. So it was my parting acknowledgement to him, not to insist or to just land up at his home, since I did know where to find him.
But clarifications aside, I want to spend a moment, in stillness, asking myself: what might Lisa mean? I know she did not “misunderstand” my book. She read it carefully and affectionately. I began to read her book. I was struck initially, by some of our shared concerns, as we wrote, both of us, accounts of communities that might be called Adivasi. In one of the opening sentences of her book, Lisa asks: “What ‘thereness’ do the dead share with the living?” Consider how proximate this is, to my own more prosaic formulation of such a concern, early on in my book: “how might we conceive of the dead and spirits and deities as participants among the living?” Lisa focuses on two moments among the Canadian Inuit, the tuberculosis epidemic (1940s-1960s) and a suicide epidemic (1980s to the present). In focusing on suicide prevention exercises, Lisa arrives at an unsettling insight: “it is not so clear that life always trumps the possibility of a life after death – and it may be that any hope one has lies beyond life itself.” (Stevenson 2014: 10). And a sentence later: “It became evident to me that presuming the value of life, staging it as the ultimate good, could be as dangerous as negating it.”
In what ways do these lines illuminate or darken my words? I could offer conceptual resistances. For instance, my conception of life, to whatever extent it is drawn from Deleuze does not hinge on a simple separation of life and death. As Deleuze says in Negotiations, “It’s organisms that die, not life.” (p.143). Within a certain Stoic conception, there may be instances where suicide can be a form of life-affirmation, as one might read Deleuze’s own suicide (Janning 2013). But must we affirm “life”? What about Freud’s death drive, as Lisa asks? There are moments in my book, I think, when something like life-force and the death-drive exist simultaneously, as with Kalli’s madness (“I am brave because I am mad), or in Holi (in “Erotics and Agonistics”), where I sense the shared energies between a riot and a festival. That said, led by Dionysus do I consistently, consecutively, at times unknowingly, choose the festive over the void? Or to ask the question differently, what would it be like, for me to accept rather than to resist Lisa’s thought?
There are moments, flickers (or anti-flickers) in my text that I recognize, that Lisa’s comment points towards. Bansi’s waning is such a moment, but there are others. At one point in the text, Dhojiaji’s son tells me, referring to Shahabad: “there is nothing here for someone like me”. As it happens, a few months later he committed suicide, after a marital dispute, a fact I mention in the book, although without naming him. Or I encounter Jorawar, one among the first four Sahariyas to graduate from high school, immediately after which he was given a locally high-ranking government job as a revenue officer. He resigned soon after, and has spent the last four decades informally assisting local government officials implement development programs. It is well known that Jorawar is drunk by 10am every day. As I say in the book, “his long-standing intimacy with Mitra (the care-giving state), had left him peculiarly hardened and vulnerable, and in time I no longer sought him out.” What if I had continued to seek him out? What if I had written a chapter on Jorawar or on Dhojiaji’s son, instead of (or alongside) pursuing Kalli or Bansi, as I did?
Has Lisa located what Wittgenstein would call “aspect blindness” within my way of seeing? It isn’t blindness exactly, because I do see these points of dusk. I am quoting moments from my own text, after all, which perhaps reveal more than I knew. It isn’t blindness. “In time I no longer sought him out.” Is this avoidance or is it a repulsion of sorts? I say a few times, I was determined to provide a different account of Shahabad, different from the activists, the journalists, and nearly every “educated” visitor, who saw only lack, nothing, bare life. Until now I have thought of this impulse in somewhat heroic terms. Like the protagonists in various cycles of myth, in my epic too, I went in search of life. But maybe there is something less heroic that is also at work here, a fear, readable through an image much favored by Lisa, ravens. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven may be read as a parable for how a little black spot, not the imp of the perverse, but a raven of melancholia, enters and insistently settles into the antechamber of the soul. At one point the poet gets up and follows the raven to an open door, where he sees the infinite darkness from where the raven came. And he turns away. Maybe it is too dangerous for him to follow the raven. And so he is afraid.
Then on second thoughts, maybe I shouldn’t make such heavy weather of it. Lisa is drawn to ravens. Maybe I am just a different kind of songbird. As I say in the book, to locate a tension, a difference, might also mean we can make music together, like between a string and a drum. I could ask Lisa too, what unwritten chapters might have emerged, what aspects of her milieu she might have emphasized differently, if she had inhabited Nunavut, with the conceptual genealogy and disposition with which I lived in Shahabad? Which brings me to William Mazzarella’s question: to what extent do we “choose” our optic? Is it even an “optic”?
Instincts and Concepts
Sometimes a philosopher may help us find words and concepts for feelings we had but didn’t quite know how to name. I entered academic writing through the anthropology of media, writing on Hindi cinema. Here, it was a source of some discomfort to me, why the task of analysis always seemed to be to somehow negate the object, to expose the “ideology” of cinema, whether this took the form of nation, religion, class or gender. This form of analysis seemed tone deaf to people’s affective investment in cinematic forms. Or differently, I wondered why accounts of inter-caste relations always had to play out some version of a master-slave, domination-resistance dialectic. It was only many years later, reading Deleuze that I realized that the common thread running through many of my discomforts, across disciplines and subfields, ranging from cultural studies to subaltern studies, was my antagonists shared inheritance of Hegelianism and negative dialectics, and that the counter-Hegelianism of Deleuze (and the genealogy he creates through Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson), offer a different set of possibilities.
So I didn’t “choose” Deleuze in any simple way. Rather certain philosophical texts claimed me and gave me a language in which to voice my existing discomforts with particular styles of analysis. I write about this in a recent essay (Singh 2014), so I won’t go into to the conflict between dialectics and non-dialectics here, except to respond to the urgent, if playfully staged question that William poses, in drawing a blank (literally a blank page!) while searching for a Deleuzian definition of “thresholds”. I could point to other pages in Difference and Repetition where Deleuze speaks of intensities. Or I could to pages in A Thousand Plateaus, where Deleuze and Guattari discuss strata and stratification. Living with these pages brought me to the idea of “thresholds” and maybe that is my own term. Rather than pointing to a better page, which would resolve the question of whether the concept is his, or mine, I want to ask what is to receive and inhabit a style of thought, beyond citations? Deleuze is only explicitly cited roughly five or six times in the entire book. But the philosophical route that Deleuze names (since a philosophical name refers as much to a person as to a route of thought, that for me leads as strongly, maybe more strongly, to Nietzsche), infuses every line, I daresay, sometimes more accurately than so-called “Deleuzians”, who I sometimes find disconcerting, inasmuch as they only seem to rearrange and repeat fragments of Deleuze’s texts.
And there is something to “choosing” an orientation here, not like we would choose this or that commodity, but as a discipline in a monastic sense. Maybe that makes it sound too exalted. A discipline could be as mundane as spending fifteen minutes a day (for months, for years) focusing on particular aphorisms, a style of engagement that Nietzsche, for instance, particularly encourages. It becomes a discipline when we start taking those words to heart. It isn’t like a choosing a pair of spectacles, as William says. In my essay (2014) that I referred to a moment ago, I describe this as being akin to finding one’s voice within a particular gharana (a school/style of singing in Indian classical music), or a particular orientation to life, akin to being a Stoic or an Epicurean or a Cynic in ancient Greece.
So if one thinks of oneself as part of a genealogy/clan, then are the conflicts between clans more or less predictable, “structurally” determined? Counting the instances of conflicts with negative dialecticians/dialectical arguments that populate my book (Chakrabarty, Hardiman, Agamben, Zizek, Badiou, would count as instances – there is a diversity, but also a unity, a relay between these conflicts), I will say that each instance has its own unpredictable specificities; it had to be earned and fought for. And at times the disputant, as with Chakrabarty and Agamben, offered fertile seeds in contrast to which I could grow my own formulations. And then there may be moments of affinity, of a different sort, that exceed conceptual disagreements. Maybe here we return to the difference Bill Connolly offers between creeds vs. spiritual affinities. Despite our different “creeds” (since William Mazzarella, like me, does claim to believe in, and remain loyal to my philosophical antagonists), there is a spiritual affinity that may exceed and cross over those differences. For instance, there is a palpable relief, a sense of being able to breathe freely with my words that William expresses in the first two sections of his comments, which I sense are very genuine.
As for the antagonism, or the dissolution of the antagonism that he proposes: while I don’t agree with William’s suggestion that the conflict with dialectics doesn’t exist or that it can be resolved by rereading Hegel differently (and for me, this is not merely a “theoretical” dispute, it makes a tremendous difference to how we view the world), there may be points where a dispute is transformed into something else altogether, as with William’s loyalty to Adorno and the idea of “dialectical vitalism”. Here my response will have to be a promissory note, and a desire to be educated further, to better understand how Adorno would reshape the philosophical map through which I find my bearings. As with Lisa, the difference with William may not be resolved, but I hope the tension, if interestingly threaded, may enhance rather than preclude the possibility of speaking together.
New and Old in Anthropology
Lastly, Swayam offers a striking thought, one I hadn’t explicitly considered as yet. How do we understand newness in our own analyses, without making a claim to novelty? We may seem to be returning to very “traditional” concepts, such as sovereignty, and I give it a very unoriginal definition, “power over life”, as Swayam says. We could equally have discussed this with respect to other old questions that populate this book: ethics, sacrifice, exchange relations, or even the idea of an old-style “village study”, where, again, I am not claiming any epochal newness or radical rupture such as postcoloniality or neoliberalism. Focusing on the concept of sovereignty, Swayam, considers the movement from Foucault to Agamben and back. Foucault had famously sought to rethink the problem of government by decentering sovereignty, “we need to cut off the king’s head, that hasn’t happened yet in political theory”, as he put it. Agamben, as many have argued, re-centered the sovereign’s head via Schmitt. My headless horseman, Swayam suggests, re-centers (as force and contract, violence and welfare) but also decenters, by arriving via Foucault, via Dumezil, at conceptual possibility through which we might understand the seeming fluctuations of a variety of institutional actors, ranging from lower level government officials, to NGOs, to policy diktats, to divine forces, as these embody different forms of Mitra Varuna.
Swayam asks: how does desire enter these relations of force and contract? This seemingly simple (very Deleuzian) question remains under-theorized in my book, and I can do no more than offer one or two instances to show how central this question might be. One way desire enters is through moods and emotions. For instance in the chapter titled “Mitra, the Care-giving State”, I analyze a question previously asked by Michael Herzfeld: why do the seemingly well-intentioned caregiving efforts of the state, end up generating so much bitterness? The answer I arrive at is not entirely dissimilar from Herzfeld’s idea of the state as a secular theodicy. It’s not only people in the field who have emotions and desires. Equally, theologically, I wanted to be alert to the unspoken desires and affects that accompany our analytical concepts. In this sense, I ask, why for instance did subaltern studies analysts place such a heavy and constant emphasis on rebellion? I wager that this has to do with an unexamined Christian/Abrahamic messianic impulse that runs deep within the intellectual left, what Walter Benjamin called “divine violence”, the promise of a redeemer who will undo the violence of force and contract.
I did not want to echo the unexamined desires of others, and tell a story of catastrophe and hope for redemption, as if that were the only way to be serious. Above all, I wanted to write an honest book. Is it possible to speak about honesty without a fixed point of truth? I didn’t want to engage in any kind of political posturing or to paint pictures of governmental, colonial or postcolonial, demons and villains against whom I affirmed my own implicit goodness. Whatever goodness I did find, in thinking about what constitutes a good life, may have involved a striving for power over life, for instance with Bansi and Kalli, former bonded laborers who for me embody the attainment of a kind of swaraj (self-rule). At what point, and how, does the logic of power over life, morph and move between the state, the family, and the self? I’m not sure if I have a good answer just yet to Swayam’s profound question.
I’m also not quite sure how to end this response. My teacher (if I may use this term without embarrassment) Veena Das ends her recent book Affliction with a dream, a passing away into sleep, into a kind of death, in the company of enduring friendships. I end my book by attempting a version of one of the most interesting genres of thought that I encountered in Indian philosophy, Yaksha Prasna, a dialogue with a daemon, that is to say with aspects of oneself. And maybe that is what a book finally is, a kind of public solitude, which hopefully, in some small ways might outlast and enrich our individual solitudes, and our ways of being with the world.
Bhrigupati Singh is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University and the author of the forthcoming book Poverty and the Quest for Life: Spiritual and Material Striving in Rural India (University of Chicago Press 2015).