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 the complexity of contemporary Indian rural life worlds and to practically engage in it. In pursuing this aim, the course is primarily foregrounded in the notion to critically revisit the established binaries such as rural/urban, tradition/modern etc in the domain of social sciences and exploring a very fundamental question that is, how far these binaries would be useful to understand the contemporary rural life. It will be combined the strengths of sociology, anthropology, economics and history nevertheless, it intends to go beyond the uncritical assumptions constructed and dominated in these disciplines to look at the rural. So that the students will get an opportunity to look at the different layers of rural society, its institutions, practices, various constellations of power and forces, resources and social issues in a nuanced and idiosyncratic manner. The course is also envisioned to provide a background to Immersion I, which is to culminate in formulating an action research.

Course Outcomes:

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

  1. To familiarize and understand the basic concepts with respect to rural society such as village, community, institutions, peasant, farmer, caste etc
  2. To look at the social issues such as poverty, deprivation, agrarian crisis, destitution, various kinds of discrimination etc from a non-conventional perspective
  3. To examine and critically approach the rural welfare programmes and legislations
  4. To revisit the binary construction of rural and urban and examine how far it is useful in understanding the existing rural society of India
  5. To engage with the tradition/modern debate with respect to rural society
  6. To provide an overview and critical examination of the previous studies on rural and situate them in the larger context of social science research in India
  7. To equip the students to identify the peculiar features of Indian rural society and facilitate them to build new frameworks to perceive and work with rural society

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit I: Basic Conceptual Categories referring to Rural Society

  • Village
  • Community
  • Institution
  • Farmer and Peasantry
  • Adivasi and Tribal
  • Social Structure
  • Governance
  • Caste and Class
  • Social change and transformation
  • Culture

Unit II: Indian Villages: History, Transformation and Contemporaneity

Unit III: Social and Political Institutions

  • Family
  • Marriage
  • Caste
  • Religion
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Polity
  • Self-Help Groups

Unit IV: Contemporary Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Cultural

  • 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

  • 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:

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. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan 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