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A Secret in the Oxford Sense: Thieves and the Rhetoric of Mystification in Western India

  • Anastasia Piliavsky (a1)

Common sense commodifies the secret, alienating the value of its content from its social context. But a secret perfectly kept dies in its circle of initiates. Few secrets, however, are dead on arrival, since their seduction lies precisely in their revelation. Most things said to be hidden are in fact nurtured through the processes of calculated concealment, allusion, and revelation, the secrets propagating themselves through circles of conspiracy, rumor, and gossip. As Tim Jenkins observed, “What is concealed, and the reasons for its concealment, serve to distract attention from the dynamic of the secret: what at first sight appears to be static and indeed dead, possessed by and known to only a few, kept in some dark place, in fact has a life and movement of its own; the secret propagates itself through a structure of secret and betrayal” (1999: 225–26).

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D. Gupta 1997. Rivalry and Brotherhood: Politics in the Life of Farmers in Northern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

M. Kasturi 2002. Embattled Identities: Rajput Lineages and the Colonial State in Nineteenth-Century North India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

D. Washbrook 1991. “To Each a Language of His Own”: Language, Culture, and Society in Colonial India. In P. J. Corfield , ed., Language, History and Class. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 179203.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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