In the Time of Trees and Sorrows: Nature, Power, and Memory in Rajasthan
In the Time of Trees and Sorrows showcases peasants' memories of everyday life in North India under royal rule before Indian Independence and their musings on the contrast between the old days and the unprecedented shifts that a half century has wrought. It is an oral history of the former Kingdom of Sawar in the modern state of Rajasthan, India, as it was from the 1930s to the 1950s. Based on testimonies from the early 1990s, the book stands as a polyvocal account of the radical political and environmental changes the region and its people have faced in the twentieth century. Not just the story of modernity from the perspective of a rural village, these interviews and author commentaries narrate a relatively sudden transformation for this small community from subjection to a local despot and to a remote colonial power to citizenship in a modern postcolonial democracy. Unlike other recent studies of Rajasthan, whose former princes continue to fascinate particularly the Western imagination, the current study gives voice exclusively to former subjects who endured the double oppression of colonial and regional rulers. Gold and Gujar thus place subjective subaltern experiences of daily rural routines, manifestations of power relations, and sweeping changes to the environment (after the fall of kings) that turned lush forests into a barren landscape on equal footing with historical "fact" and archival sources. Nature as idea and concept, culturally laden as it is in Western thought, plays a central role in this ethnographic text. Ambiguous and complex, "nature" reflects the variegated responses Sawar informants had to their surroundings and to their "beggar" past (forced labour under the local king). The framing questions of this South Asian history are: what was it like in the time of kings? and what happened to the trees? Specialists of South Asian history, anthropology, subaltern studies, and the environment will welcome publication of this book.
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The Past of Nature and the Nature of the Past
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accounts Ajmer Ajmer district Ajmer-Merwara ajodhya animals bali bambul Banas Banas River begar Bhairu Bhangi bhoju blue bulls Brahmin British caste Chamar chapter collective colonial Court cows crier crops cultural darbar Devli Dhapu ecological English environmental farmers father fertilizer fields forest gajanand Ghatiyali Gokul Gokulpura Gold Govind Singh grain grazing grind Guha Gujar harvest heard herders Hindi horses India interviews Jahazpur jamuni jungle Kalyan Kalyan Mali Kanvar kesar king's kings labor land landscape leatherworkers lives Loda Mali maunds memory Minas Narayan narratives Nath nature oral history past persons planted pratibandh protect rain Rajasthan Raji Rajput Regar royal rule rulers Sawar share shoe shoe-beating social sorrow speak story sukh dev Sukh Devji term thakur tion told took trees Udaipur ugma Vajta Vansh Pradip Singh vilayati village voices wild pigs women wood