The Performance of Friendship in Contemporary India

In: Conceptualizing Friendship in Time and Place

In this article I try to establish the class, gendered and provincial nature of friendship practices and discourses of ordinary people, such as artisans and workers, as well as making a case for friendship as performative.

There is a real history that constitutes elite and non-elite classes in India and their relationships and values. One of these values is dharma or a reasoned intuition of ‘what is appropriate’; another is the idea of enactment or play. I look at my interactions with my informants and friends, as well as a variety of other data about them, to argue that their understanding of ‘friendship’ is striking, not in that it permits an individualistic freedom in relationships, but in its elastic assumption that roles are performances. Not only was I, in the field, enacting friendship for ulterior research motives, but my informants, too, were likewise ‘performing friendship.’ Performing friendship was all there was to do.