Brian Cannon

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Ph.D. Candidate

My dissertation, provisionally entitled “Keepers of Status, Then and Now: Alternative Histories of Caste in North India, c. 1829-1946 C.E.,” examines the divergent social trajectories of the Bhats and Charans, two specialist communities chartered with maintaining and reciting the lineage histories of their hereditary patrons.  The thesis considers Marwari, Hindi, and British colonial records to ask to what extent transitions in patronage, changing structures of gift-economies, and new legal regimes during the late colonial period played in this history of socio-economic mobility among these two communities.  In doing so, it asks more broadly about the ways in which claims to social status were contested and re-structured amidst shifting landscapes of patron-client relations.  Research for the project in India and the United Kingdom has been supported by grants from the Fulbright-Hays program, and the Metcalf Fellowship in Indian History from the American Institute of Indian Studies.       


M.A., University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Cornell University

Research Interests

Caste and social organization in modern north India; histories of land tenures in colonial and postcolonial northwest India; musical and literary performance traditions in arid-zone South Asia