Michael Youngblood

Cultivating Community

Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization

South Asian Studies Press 2016

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Cultivating Community: Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization by Michael Youngblood, a cultural anthropologist based in San Francisco, was published in...

Cultivating Community: Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization by Michael Youngblood, a cultural anthropologist based in San Francisco, was published in November, 2016 by the South Asian Studies Association Press. The book is a winner of the Joseph W. Elder Book Prize (conferred by the American Institute of Indian Studies), and has been very well received by reviewers. Cultivating Community is based on the author’s two and a half years of field research in 1996-1999 with the Shetkari Sanghatana, a massive and influential anti-statist movement in India’s Maharashtra state. The book explores the creation of political meaning and the construction of collective identity in a mass social movement. In it, the author address fundamental questions in making sense of mass movements anywhere: Where do movement ideologies come from and what makes them compelling? What motivates diverse groups of ordinary people to rise together in common cause? How can we make sense of individual participants in a movement when their participation sometimes appears irrational and against their own interests?

The book argues for a participant-centric view of the Shetkari Sanghatana, digging beneath the movement’s fantastical mythological idiom and the overarching demands that we hear articulated by leadership to see how the Sanghatana is experienced and constructed by individual participants on the ground. An important part of the analysis focuses on ways that participants and leaders together deploy a pool of shared but highly ambiguous spiritual and political symbols in an ongoing competition to define what the movement stands for, whose interests it represents, and what the future should look like. This is an anthropological ethnography that delves into history, political science, economics, cultural geography, folklore, and religion.

Mike Youngblood received his PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught at the School for International Training, the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley, the Masters in Social Design program at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. Mike’s interests in social innovation, collaborative change, design thinking, and ethnographic methodology are central to his work both inside and outside of academe. His work has received a number of recognitions, including the Sardar Patel Award for Best American Dissertation on Modern India, the Percy H. Buchannan Prize for Writing on Asian Affairs, the Robert Miller Prize for Innovation in Anthropological Research, and the Joseph W. Elder Book Prize. He has been a Fulbright fellow, a Watson fellow, and an American Institute of Indian Studies fellow.