Understanding the Rural

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3DP2034

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 1

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Partha Saha

Email of course coordinator: <>


Course Objectives/Description:

The aim of this course is to theoretically equip the student to grapple with the complexities of contemporary Indian rural life worlds and to practically engage with it in terms of ongoing transformations. In pursuing this aim, the course critically revisits the established binaries such as rural/urban, tradition/modern, developed/underdeveloped etc. in the domain of the social sciences. The course explores fundamental questions like how far would these binaries be useful to understand contemporary rural life; or do we need new interpretative and analytic frameworks. It will combine in the course the strengths of established disciplines like Sociology, Anthropology, Economics and History, as also dip into interdisciplinary domains like Development Studies, Women’s Studies etc. It however intends to go beyond some of the uncritical assumptions in these disciplines to look at the rural and the village. In this course, students will get an opportunity to look at the different layers of rural society, its institutions, practices, various constellations of power and forces in the village, village resources and everyday social issues in a nuanced manner. The course is also envisioned to provide a background to Rural Immersion I (Jan-Feb). The learnings from this course and the experience of rural immersion contribute to the formulation of the Action Research proposal.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Cticially engage with basic concepts with respect to rural economy, society, polity and culture
  2. Understand the experience of the rural in the context of extant developmental paradigms and practices
  3. Have an in-depth understanding of processes and practices of ‘rural development’
  4. Immerse in and engage with communities in rural and forest societies
  5. Co-research with community their life-worlds, issues and 'problems' of deprivation, discrimination, inequality and marginalization etc.
  6. Critically examine rural welfare programmes and legislations beyond the binaries of rural/urban, tradition/modern.
  7. Reimagine rural development programmes in an innovative way and put them to practice

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit I: Conceptual Categories of Rural Society: The first unit critically engages with the concept used in ‘the construction and understandings of the rural including Village; Community; Institution; Farmer and Peasantry; Adivasi and Tribal; Social Structure; Governance; Caste and Class; Social change and transformation; and Culture.

Unit II: Indian Villages: History, Transformation and Contemporaneity: Taking a genealogical view of Indian villages, the second unit specifically looks at how its conception has evolved and the role of Colonialism as the dividing marker for pre and post colonial understandings.

Unit III: Social and Political Institutions: The third unit looks at institutions that anchor the rural life world with special focus on Family; Marriage; Caste; Religion; Education; Economy; Polity; and Self-Help Groups

Unit IV: Contemporary Issues of Rural India: The fourth unit looks at socio-cultural and politico-economic challenges and struggle of the rural life. The issues covered include Poverty; Discrimination: Different Manifestations; Deprivation and Destitution; Domestic Violence; Farmers’ Suicides; Displacements; Ecological Degradation and Environmental Issues; Health Problems

Unit V: Rural Welfare Programmes and Legislations: The final unit looks at governmental intervention directed towards challenges and struggles discussed in the previous unit. These include Mahathma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA); Panchayat before and after 73rd amendment; National Rural Health Mission; National Rural Livelihood Mission; Rural India and the 10th, 11th and 12th Five Year Plans; Green Revolution and the Agrarian Society

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Critical Review: Concept and Theories of the Rural {30%}
  • Reflective Piece: Develop Theoretical Framework to Study Immersion Village {30%)
  • Presentation: My Immersion Site through the lens of the Rural {40%}

Reading List:

  • Fine, Gary Alan. 2010. “The Sociology of the Local: Action and its Publics”. Sociological Theory,
  • 28: 4, December, Pp. 355-376
  • Cruickshank A Jorn. 2009. “A play for rurality – Modernization versus local autonomy” Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 25, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 98-107
  • Karanth, G K. 1996. ‘Caste in Contemporary Rural India’. In Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar, ed. M. N. Srinivas. New Delhi: Penguin
  • Phillips, Martin. “Habermas, Rural Studies and Critical Social Theory”. In Writing the Rural: Five Cultural Geographies by Paul Cloke, Marcus Doel, David Matless, Nigel Thrift and Martin Phillips. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.
  • Silverman, S. 1987. The Concept of Peasant and the concept of Culture. In Social Anthropology of Peasantry, ed. J. Mencher. Pp. 7-31. Bombay: Somaiya Publications.
  • Srivastava, Kumar Vinay. 2008. “Concept of ‘Tribe’ in the Draft National Tribal Policy”.
  • Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLIII, No. 50.
  • Xaxa, Virginius. 2005. “The Politics of Language, Religion and Identity”. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XL, No. 13.
  • Srinivas, M N. 1976. The Remembered Village. Berkeley: The University of California Press
  • Contributions to Indian Sociology, January 1978, 12 (1); this is a special issue on M N Srinivas’ work, The Remembered Village.
  • Beteille, A. 1980. “The Indian Village: Past and Present” in Peasants in History: Essays in Honour of Daniel Thorner edited by E. J. Hobsbaum. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Epstein, T Scarlett, A P Suryanarayana and T Thimmegowda. 1998. Village Voices: Forty Years of Rural Transformation in South India. New Delhi: Sage Publications
  • Diane P. Mines, P Diane and Nicolas Yazgi. 2010. Eds. Village Matters: Relocating Villages in the Contemporary Anthropology of India. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Banerjee, Kumar Asis. 2013. “Sustainable Poverty Reduction: Credit for the Poor”. In Development and Sustainability: India in a Global Perspective. Eds. Sarmila Banerjee and Anjan Chakrabarti. New Delhi: Springer India
  • Mishra, Srijit. 2006. “Farmer Suicides in Maharashtra”. EPW, 41 (), April, PP. 1538-
  • Mohanty, B B. 2005. ‘“We are Like the Living Dead”: Farmer Suicides in Maharashtra, Western India’. Journal of Peasant Studies, 32 (2): 243-76, April.
  • Rosenfeld, Jake. 2010. “‘The Meaning of Poverty’ and Contemporary Quantitative Poverty Research”. The British Journal of Sociology. Pp. 103-110
  • Shucksmith, MarK. 2012. “Class, Power and Inequality in Rural Areas: Beyond Social Exclusion”. Sociologia Ruralis. Vol. 52, No. 4, October Pp. 377-397.
  • Byres, T. J. 1972. “The Dialectics of India’s Green Revolution”. South Asian Review. 5(2): 99-106
  • Sarkhel, Prasenjit. 2013. “Employment Guarantee and Natural Vulnerability: A Study of MGNREGA in Indian Sundarbans” In Development and Sustainability: India in a Global Perspective. Eds. Sarmila Banerjee and Anjan Chakrabarti. New Delhi: Springer India
  • Zhang, Shulan. 2010. “Conceptualizing the Environmentalism in India: Between Social Justice and Deep Ecology”. In Eco-socialism as Politics: Rebuilding the Basis of Our Modern Civilisation. Ed. Q Huan.


  • Desai, A R. 1969. Rural Sociolgy in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Jodhka, S. Surinder. (ed.). 2012. Village Society NewDelhi:OrientBlackswan Scott, John. 2006. Sociology: The Key Concepts.Oxon:Routledge.
  • Alexander, K C. Ed. 2000. Rural Development Studies in the Eighties. New Delhi: ICSSR and Manak Publication Pvt. Ltd.
  • Beteille, A. 1996. Caste, Class and Power: Changing Patterns of Stratification in Tanjore Village.Delhi: Oxford University Press
  • Breman, J. Ed. 1997. The Villages in Asia Revisited. Delhi: Oxford University Press
  • Galesky, Boguslaw. 1972. Basic Concepts of Rural Sociology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Jodhka, S S. 1998. ‘From “Book-View” to “Field-View”: Social Anthropological Constructions of the Indian Village’. Oxford Development Studies 26 (3): 311-32
  • Lynch, Kenneth. 2005. Rural-Urban Interaction in the Developing World. London: Routledge