India remains a country mired in poverty, with two-thirds of its 1.3 billion people living on little more than a few dollars day. Just as telling, the country’s informal working population numbers nearly 500 million, or approximately eighty percent of the entire labor force. Despite these figures and the related structural disadvantages that imperil the lives of so many, the Indian elite maintain that the poor need only work harder and they, too, can become rich. The results of this ambitious ten-year ethnography at exclusive golf clubs in Bangalore shatter such self-serving illusions. In Narrow Fairways, Patrick Inglis combines participant observation, interviews, and archival research to show how social mobility among the poor lower-caste golf caddies who carry the golf sets of wealthy upper-caste members at these clubs is ultimately constrained and narrowed. The book highlights how elites secure and extend class and caste privileges, while also delivering a necessary rebuke to India’s present development strategy, which pays far too little attention to promoting quality health care, education, and other basic social services that would deliver real opportunities to the poor.
Patrick Inglis is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Grinnell College. He teaches and writes on labor, inequality, and global development. His first book centers on the lives of poor and lower- caste caddies who carry the golf sets of members at exclusive clubs in Bangalore, India. In addition to ongoing research on poverty alleviation at an English- language boarding school outside Bangalore, he is also developing a new project on the attitudes and dispositions of elites in Mexico City.