Is there a 'Green Revolution' of the landless? Decentring technology, recognising intersectionality, and pluralising ontology in rural South India
(University of Sussex)
Saurabh Arora (University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
This paper revisits agrarian transformation since the 1970s in a green revolution region in south India through the standpoint of landless workers. Using life-histories we explore how workers traverse changing ecologies including depleting groundwater, rainfall patterns and eroding village commons.
Paper long abstract:
This paper examines contrasting yet overlapping ontologies underpinning three sets of narratives of the green revolution since the 1970s in south India. The first dominant set of narratives is underpinned by modern technology including electric pump-sets for groundwater extraction, hybrid varieties (of rice), synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. This technological materiality is reinforced by income-based conceptualisations of poverty and yield-based measurements of growth. Landless workers sometimes enter these narratives, as beneficiaries of rising wages and demand for labour on farms and in the expanding non-farm economy. The second set of narratives is critical of the green revolution's human and environmental impacts. Bodies and practices of the landless enter these narratives as victims of pesticide poisoning and de-skilling, and of caste based discrimination.
Using new life-histories of elderly men and women in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, we offer a third set of narratives. These narratives illustrate how landless workers shaped the green revolution transformations, and how they relate/adapt to changing ecologies including depleting groundwater, variable rainfall patterns and eroding village commons. Employing the concept of intersectionality to analyse gender alongside class and caste, we focus on life-histories of the land-deprived Dalits as well as of men and women from landowning castes who lost ownership or access to their lands. These narratives do not simply challenge the dominant techno-centric histories of the Green Revolution, they are also crucial for moving beyond policies and wider political discourses engaging with the agrarian crisis in India, which continue to be centred on landowning farmers.
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