The Introduction lays out the central themes of the book. It argues that the Dhanka, like other tribal communities in India, must undertake a great deal of imaginative work to occupy the tribal role through which they are recognized as worthy and needy of affirmative action benefits. One of the ways in which the Dhanka perform this balancing act is by narrating tribal-ness or “adivasi-ness” in the past tense through the phrase “We were adivasis.” The assertion that “we were adivasis” allows the Dhanka to both index their adivasi-nessand distance themselves from the stigma of primitivity or militancy by placing this quality of tribal-ness in the past. Understanding this basic Dhanka claim illuminates why they undertake the particular kinds of identity-building efforts that they have embraced in recent years, particularly their annual collective weddings known as samuhikvivahasammelan, Dhanka men and women must embrace stigma and backwardness in order to avail themselves of the benefits of ST identity, which includes the ability to enact the marriage and family practices of other, non-tribal middle-class Hindus; thus, their practices of collective aspiration have deeply gendered effects. The Introduction also introduces the Shiv Nagar Basti, a slum area in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
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