As an ethnographer of villages, Pauline Kolenda has worked in north, central and south India. Fourteen of her papers, written between 1976 and 2001, are collected in this volume.
Part I is composed of four papers concerning Khalapur, in western Uttar Pradesh, where Kolenda did fieldwork first in 1954 and last in 1998. Two concern 'untouchable' Sweepers, one describing how Sweeper women experience the practice of mandatory levirate; the other describing the Sweeper men's risqué humor that seems to turn the system of purdah upside down. A third records changes in the discourse on caste in Khalapur over thirty years, and the last demonstrates the marked decline in child mortality in Khalapur over recent decades and seeks to explain that decline.
Part II is composed of four papers concerning villagers of Kanyakumari district, in Tamilnadu, where Kolenda did fieldwork first in 1967 and last in 1997. Three of the papers concern Smartha Brahmans-their loss of the elite status they had had when they served the Maharaja of Travancore, their unusual family structure related to their adoption of secular education and migration out for work, and their experiences of out-migration. The fourth paper discusses the circulation of land among villagers of various caste-communities in Kanyakumari.
Kolenda's ethnographic fieldwork in Rajasthan in the 1960's and 70's is an ingredient in the paper in Part III on joint families in Rajasthan that relies heavily on data from the Census of India 1961. Two comparative papers compose Part IV-one comparing the image of 'woman' in weddings in Khalapur and in Kanyakumari, and the other comparing brother-sister relations in north, central and south India. In Part V is a paper on Caste in India from the vantage of the mid-1980's. Finally, Part VI contains two papers on different aspects of inequality. One compares inequality in India and the USA. The other speaks of the too-easy scapegoating of 'untouchables' in a scholarly discourse.