Letting Go: Resignation and Resistance Among Contemporary Slaveholders

Doctoral Dissertation


Since the 1960s more attention has been paid to how movements secure rights than to how the powerful lose control. Within the literature on social movements this lacuna manifests itself in an overemphasis on challengers, with less attention paid to those targeted by movements, or on tactical interactions between movements and their adversaries. Interviews with current and former perpetrators of bonded labor in India capture human rights violators as they are in the process of losing the control they had previously enjoyed thanks to their caste status and ownership of land. Their sudden loss of authority comes as a surprise and an offense. Rich qualitative data and surprisingly frank assessments from contemporary slaveholders in rural India illuminate the extent to which paternalism has pervaded social relations, leading perpetrators to believe that debt bondage was a mutually beneficial socio-economic relationship. When movement efforts combine with macro-economic forces to challenge this exploitative status quo, human rights violators must scramble to find new ideational and practical responses. This study finds general support for prior scholarship emphasizing the ways external resources, political contexts, and cognitive liberation concatenate in the movement process. Turning the lens onto the movement target?s experience unpacks a critical phase in which eroding authority is met sometimes by resignation, sometimes by resistance.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07172013-133832

Author Austin David Choi-Fitzpatrick
Advisor Daniel J. Myers
Contributor Daniel J. Myers, Committee Member
Contributor Kraig Beyerlein, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Rory McVeigh, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Christian Davenport, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2013-07-14

Submission Date 2013-07-17
  • United States of America

  • India

  • bonded labor

  • social change

  • sociology

  • human rights

  • political sociology

  • South Asia

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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