RETHINKING RESOURCES: SERVICE NOMADISM ADJUSTED
This article is based on six years fieldwork with Kalbelia community living in the environs of Pushkar, a famous place of pilgrimage, tīrtha, for Hindus and a popular tourist destination, especially for foreigner backpacker travelers, situated at the edge of the Thar desert and at the foot at the outer fringes of the Aravalli mountain chain, at the centre of the western state of Rajasthan. It will be explained how Kalbelias’ traditional means of living describe a form of economic, social and cultural adaptation common to groups defined both as service nomads and as peripatetic peoples. The purpose of the present article is to show that both the definitions fit not only the past identity of Kalbelias as wandering snake charmers, but they can be still effective in describing the present of the caste and its new emerging working profile as folk dancers and musicians. It will be argued in fact that, even if in the past few years the meaning and the content of Kalbelia service nomadism have been going through a deep transformation which can be considered to be mainly a creative answer to a whole string of significant social changes occurring in Indian and Rajasthani society, Kalbelias’ new occupational profile entails new forms of spatial mobility. If spatial mobility is proving to be a meaningless economic strategy as far as snake charming and begging is concerned, it is in fact yet highly effective with regard to the new professional identity of the caste. The article will deal with the way Kalbelias have been able to translate their peripatetic identity into contemporary globalized world.