Charming Images Of History: Kalbeliya Memories Of Itinerancy, Begging, And Snake Services
In the past twenty-five years, the Kalbeliyas of Jaipur, Rajasthan - a formerly itinerant caste-community best known as yogic snake-charmers - have increasingly found work as musicians and dancers in the tourism industry. A few Kalbeliya men in Jaipur continue to work as snake-charmers, however, albeit in significantly altered contexts. This thesis examines Kalbeliya memories of snake-charming, begging, and itinerancy, as well as tourism industry snake exhibition. According to my informants' representations of the past, Kalbeliya methods of begging variously utilize strategies of ritualization and entertainment, which are drawn from repertoires of skilled bodily practice. This repertoire of practice is also utilized in their presentation of various arguments regarding the caste-community. Examining what happens during their arguments, I attempt to demonstrate the processual nature of the Kalbeliya castecommunity. Finally, I look at the present-day exhibition of snakes to tourists at the City Palace in Jaipur, indicating its likeness to more prominent Kalbeliya methods of engaging the tourism industry. Although these men distance themselves from methods of snake-charming reliant on ritualized forms of begging, they nevertheless draw from a similar repertoire of practice. Characterizing skilled practice as bodily memory, I argue that these men enact in their body new memories of an ancient and essentialized "India," marketable in a tourism industry which seeks to provide encounters with the exotic. I propose that this re-memorialization of the body draws from what I call "conjoined repertoires" - that is, different repertoires of strategic interaction with distinct genealogies, and that come to be enmeshed in one another - and enacts in Kalbeliyas both new relations of power and the strategic means to negotiate and resist them.
dissertation or thesis