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Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism$
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Anne Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390595

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390595.001.0001

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Discrepant Ecologies in a North Indian Qasba

Discrepant Ecologies in a North Indian Qasba

Protected Trees, Degraded River

(p.185) 8 Discrepant Ecologies in a North Indian Qasba
Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism

Ann Grodzins Gold

Hong Kong University Press

Ethnographic fieldwork in the municipality of Jahazpur, a market town and sub-district headquarters in North India, reveals contrasting roles of religiosity and identity in environmental protection. Hilltop shrines, one Hindu and one Muslim, are surrounded by successfully sustained groves. Each shrine belongs to a distinct and demographically significant group with political clout. Vigilant devotees as much as fear of divine retribution effectively protect shrine environments from wood-hungry neighbors. The Nagdi River had offered both utility and beauty to the entire population, but its flow dwindled, choked on trash and sewage. Aware that an important part of shared environmental and cultural heritage was in dire peril, Jahazpur residents and local government made sporadic efforts to mobilize restoration, but it proved discouraging to sustain alignments across community and class. Recently, however, young shopkeepers collaborating across lines of difference have partially reversed the river's deterioration.  Comparing discrepant ecological pasts and present of Jahazpur's hilltops and river shows diverse and shifting configurations at the emotional and volatile intersection of religion, politics and urban environments.

Keywords:   Identity, India, qasba, Rajasthan, religiosity, rivers, sacred groves, small town

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