Research Interests

I am an anthropologist whose main area of interest is South Asia. My research mostly takes the form of anthropological fieldwork conducted in India, and the trajectory of my work has largely been determined by interests generated by previous projects. For example, my first field project, conducted in 1966-1967, was a study of popular Hinduism in Raipur District in central India. This led to an interest in urban Hinduism that played a role in shaping my next two projects. In 1973-1974, I undertook a year of research on the religious institutions of the Indian migrant community of Singapore, and, in 1978-1979, I did a year's fieldwork in Delhi dealing with modern sectarian movements in Hinduism.

In the mid-1980s, I shifted my attention to a religious community known as the Jains; this culminated in a year's work in 1990-1991 in the Jain community of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. As before, this generated new projects. Jainism finds most of its adherents among merchant castes, and because of my close contact with these groups, I developed an interest in the role of merchant communities in Indian society. This led to a return to Jaipur in 1996-1997 for a year of research on the social identities of some of the region's most prominent trading castes. I was in Jodhpur from January to June of 1998 doing collaborative research with two American colleagues on two temple complexes. This, however, was a brief detour. My main interest remained focused on business communities, and this gave rise to my current research project, which is a study of the gemstone industry of Jaipur.

Jaipur is famous as a center for the cutting and polishing of gemstones, especially emeralds, and the industry is an extremely interesting example of a business that is both deeply traditional and in some ways very modern. In the fall of 2005, I was in Jaipur for five months studying the evolution and functioning of the gemstone business, with special emphasis on the histories of family firms.