The Debate on How Urban Middle-Class Identities Have Changed

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The Debate on How Urban Middle-Class Identities Have Changed

“Materialism is the new karma”. (Pavan K Varma, 2005)

Whilst numerical estimates of the Indian middle classes vary drastically, media images contribute to their portrayal as affluent consumers- participants in the IT boom in urban centres such as Hyderabad and those revelling in India’s status as a call centre “superpower”, particularly thought to symbolise a new urban middle-class. Varma’s quote encapsulates the astonishing effect mass culture is thought to have had upon Indian identity, especially those who occupy this middle ground of consumption. This spectrum ranges from the lower middle-class youth, such as the aforementioned call-centre workers whose parents often
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For instance a shift in the values of the Malayali middle-classes can be partially attributed to the implementation of colonial legislation instigating the abolition of polygamous practices such as the Marumakkathayam system of inheritance amongst Nayar communities, whilst increasing nationalist sentiment contributed to the diminishing importance of unique matrilineal forms in Kerala in favour of the patrilineal inheritance that prevailed as a middle class norm in the rest of India. (Arunima, 2003). Note that I have made no distinction between “Nayar castes” and “a Malayali middle class”, necessitating the clarification of two dimensions: reconciling class with the alternative hierarchical structure of caste; and related to this how the concept of a middle class has changed over time. From this I will discuss how shifting values in India have created an affirmatively dynamic middle class.
The Indian notion of caste is of something you are born into- I am considered a Nayar because my mother is whereas in comparison one notes the relative mutability of class, deriving more directly from economic and social standing, to become one of the most potent idioms of identity, rank and political power in India. (Dickey, 2000). Being at the apex of the caste hierarchy Brahmins also happen to occupy a disproportionate number of the new software entrepreneurs. However these patterns of employment reflect long-standing

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