Jahazpur is a small market town or qasba with a diverse population of more than 20,000 people located in Bhilwara District in the North Indian state of Rajasthan. With roots deep in history and legend, Shiptown (a literal translation of landlocked Jahazpur's name) today is a subdistrict headquarters and thus a regional hub for government services unavailable in villages. Rural and town lives have long intersected in Shiptown's market streets, which are crammed with shopping opportunities, many designed to allure village customers. Temples, mosques, and shrines attract Hindus and Muslims from nearby areas. In the town's densely settled center—still partially walled, with arched gateways intact—many neighborhoods remain segregated by hereditary birth group. By contrast, in some newer, more spacious residential areas outside the walls, persons of distinct communities and religions live as neighbors. Throughout Jahazpur municipality a peaceful pluralism normally prevails.
Ann Grodzins Gold lived in Santosh Nagar, the oldest of Shiptown's new settlements, for ten months, recording interviews and participating in festival, ritual, and social events—public and private, religious and secular. While engaged with contemporary scholarship, Shiptown is moored in the everyday lives of the town's residents, and each chapter has at its center a specific node of Jahazpur experience. Gold seeks to portray how neighborly relations are forged and endure across lines of difference; how ancient hierarchical social structures shift in major ways while never exactly disappearing; how in spite of pervasive conservative family values, gender roles are transforming rapidly and radically; how environmental deterioration affects not only public health but individual hearts, inspiring activism; and how commerce and morality keep uneasy company. She sustains a conviction that, even in the globalized present, local experiences are significant, and that anthropology—that most intimate and poetic of the social sciences—continues to foster productive conversations among human beings.
"Ann Grodzins Gold's prose is beautiful and often poignant, drawing the reader into public and domestic spaces, and oral histories and everyday conversations of Jahazpur. She lays bare the contingencies and daily decisions of fieldwork itself. Very few ethnographies are so honest."—Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger, Emory University
"Gold provides a rich, textured account of ethnographic practice, deeply situated in the peculiarities of Jahazpur. . . . Shiptown is a book filled with juicy vignettes, captivating narratives, and colourful conversations as Gold documents, analyses, and produces knowledge about life in Jahazpur. . . . Gold has been able to bring Jahazpur to life on the pages through lucid prose and a seamless flow of the text."—Economic & Political Weekly
"Gold effortlessly describes many facets of rural/urban life of Jahazpur which she aptly calls 'Shiptown.' . . . The book is full of ethnographic and methodological insights from an accomplished ethnographer."—Nidān:International Journal for indian Studies
"Shiptown is closely observed and beautifully written. Gold's lucid, engaging tone glides lightly over impressive scholarship."—Contributions to Indian Sociology