Hierarchy as Hope

28 November 2016, 12:30 - 14:00

CRASSH Meeting Room

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work in Progress Seminar Series.  All welcome but please email Michelle Maciejewska to book your place and to request readings.  A sandwich lunch and refreshments are provided.

Dr Anastasia Piliavsky

Hierarchy is India’s biggest scandal. It is embarrassing that the world’s largest democracy, with a constitution that guarantees liberty, justice and equality to individual citizens should also be the most elaborately hierarchical society on Earth. While critics deride hierarchy as an archaic and motionless order of subjugation, India's denizens see it as a source of hope: a vehicle for aspiration, upward mobility and positive change. What if we too could see in hierarchy a source of social flourishing? And what would it take for us - egalitarians - to see it that way? This essay, an introduction to my forthcoming book, Stray men: Hierarchy as hope in a society of thieves, reflects on the progressive, mobilising role of hierarchy, both in India and closer home.

I am a social anthropologist specialising in South Asia, and especially north Indian politics and crime.

Born and raised in Odessa (Ukraine, not Texas), I moved to the US, took a dual Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and religion from Boston University and later an MSc/DPhil in social anthropology from Oxford, where I was a Rhodes Scholar. I was then a Junior Research Fellow at King’s before coming to Girton, where I am now a Fellow and Director of Studies in social anthropology.