ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Village Restudies

An account of the inception, management and initial conclusions of a research project which "restudied" three villages, one each in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat is presented. These villages had been first studied in the 1950s by British anthropologists F G Bailey, Adrian C Mayer and David F Pocock. The new research was to focus on the sociological conditions of life in these villages today and compare the results of the new surveys with the data from the 1950s. The material presented here also points to some of the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncratic charms of "restudies."

Non-farm Diversification, Inequality and Mobility in Palanpur

Data from seven decades of survey in Palanpur provide insights into the changing nature of the village economy. Starting as a predominantly agrarian economy, Palanpur has seen non-farm employment emerge as a major driver of growth and distribution of income in the village economy, but accompanied by increasing inequality. There is evidence of greater mobility among the disadvantaged in Palanpur alongside falling inter-generational mobility. Preliminary analysis suggests that the nature of non-farm activities has become increasingly casual and informal, thereby more accessible to households at the bottom of the distribution, but still significantly influenced by access to networks and family ties, particularly for the more remunerative and stable non-farm jobs.

Agrarian Transformation and the New Rurality in Western Uttar Pradesh

Based on a multisite ethnographic restudy of villages in western Uttar Pradesh, a decade after the first study in 2004-05, the rise of rural non-farm economy, changing demographics, growing educational opportunities, and increasing mobility across castes and communities are mapped. Also, an analysis of how these changes redefine the nature and culture of rural life in the region is attempted.

Revisiting the Rural in 21st Century India

The Review of Rural Affairs this time focuses largely on "restudies" of villages that were studied by social anthropologists and economists in the 1950s. The papers are not simply about documenting the unfolding evolutionary process of development, but bring new perspectives of social science understanding to the study of rural society, and also reflect on the enterprise of anthropology and fieldwork. Jamgod in Madhya Pradesh, Sundarana in Gujarat, Bisipara in Odisha, and Palanpur and Khanpur in Uttar Pradesh were restudied, while one paper presents the results of a fresh study of villages in Nagaland.

F G Bailey's Bisipara Revisited

F G Bailey, the renowned British social anthropologist, conducted fieldwork in Bisipara in the highlands of Orissa in the 1950s to examine the ways in which the state, democracy and new forms of economy were changing the traditional organisation and apprehension of power and status. At the time, and following the Temple Entry Act, the former untouchables of the village attempted to gain entry to the Shiva temple. On that occasion, and as Bailey recounts, they were unsuccessful. A new fieldwork conducted in 2013 in the same location presents an update of the continuing drama surrounding the Shiva temple, against a backdrop of the changing polity and economy of the village, and as a manifestation of contested postcolonial identity politics.

Land, Labour and Power

Based on the restudy in 2012-14 of Jamgod in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, which was first studied by Adrian C Mayer in the 1950s, an overview of changes in landownership and use, and the relations of labour and production are presented. Locating the analysis at the intersection of land and labour, the aim is to explore how local power structures and personal aspirations have transformed.

Globalisations, Mobility and Agency

Feminist researchers integrate macrostructural processes with everyday micropolitics by locating women's lives at the centre of the research process. Data from this research demonstrate that changing attitudes towards women's education, "good" jobs, and productive work lives help women establish a social position from which they use their agency to successfully negotiate when and whom they will marry, continue to work after marriage, voice opinions against dowry, and navigate their position within and outside the household. Without investigating how gender norms have changed over time and what working in globalised workplaces means to women, it would be easy to miss the change in women's lives and repeat the familiar refrain of exploitation of women in the global South.

Studying Women and the Women's Movement in India

This paper is an autobiographical account that draws on the author's research over close to six decades on India as a feminist anthropologist interested in agrarian south India. The feminist lens to her includes looking at all of the issues that concern social scientists, workers in the humanities and in the legal and health professions, as well as political activists, making use of methods already developed (by women as well as men) but now including a crucial women's approach. In addition, as opposed to the male approach which has been dominant until fairly recently (despite the pressure early on from B R Ambedkar), a wide range of feminist approaches has come to include, since independence, the effects of caste and class on women's lives. The paper attempts to provide an account of the author's work especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and her current engagements with movements for sustainable agriculture.

Real Life Methods

This paper argues that an emancipatory impulse is critical and central to feminist method--one which effectively counters a widespread fetishisation of social science research where little attention is paid to the relationships of production of research findings and conclusions. Just as the women's movement and its political critique has affected discourses that are not specifically about gender or sexual distinctions, the emancipatory impulse of feminist methods can also be deployed in enquiries that are not focused entirely on gendered accounts of social phenomena. The aim of this study is not to essentialise certain methods as "feminist" but rather to suggest that methods used by a researcher who is a feminist, in enquiries into phenomenon that throw up questions of hierarchies other than gender, would not remain uninfluenced by her feminist politics. This claim is bolstered by the author's experiences as a feminist researcher studying the segregation of Muslims in Delhi.

Stories We Tell

One of the central methodological insights of feminist science studies has been refuting the binary worlds of nature and culture. Over the last three decades, feminist science studies has developed a vibrant epistemological, and methodological apparatus for studying the natural world as a naturecultural world. Bringing together (inter)disciplinary methodologies, philosophies, practices, assumptions, methods and languages of women's studies and the natural sciences, we see the emergence of new modes of knowledge production. This paper explores the epistemological challenges of studying gender in the natural and physical sciences and the methodological tools the field has developed to study the human and non-human, life and non-life.

The Erotics of Risk

This paper invites contemporary Indian feminism to take a leap outside of its faith--via a humanities turn, using sexualities as a tool--to find a path in academic praxis that resists the structures of moral policing and panics consuming our current political climate. Sexualities offer off-roading alternatives to developmental formations of gendered modernity that confine themselves to the tested, the programmatic and the ethical. The humanities as a method, through sexualities, can propel gender studies to an irrational wanton terrain away from the logics of rights, power and punishment via an engagement with praxis, form and situation into sharp materialist-hedonist possibilities of language, pleasure, profanation, the precarious and the tragic.

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