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Informal Agricultural Work, Habitus, and Practices in an Indian Context Wendy Olsen and Daniel Neff The University of Manchester The support of the Economic.

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Presentation on theme: "Informal Agricultural Work, Habitus, and Practices in an Indian Context Wendy Olsen and Daniel Neff The University of Manchester The support of the Economic."— Presentation transcript:

1 Informal Agricultural Work, Habitus, and Practices in an Indian Context Wendy Olsen and Daniel Neff The University of Manchester The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is gratefully acknowledged. The work was part of the programme of the ESRC Global Poverty Research Group.

2 A Pluralist Study The field research was grounded in a pluralist approach Methodological pluralist – recognised the importance of QUAL in Q 2 Theoretical pluralist – recognised the explanatory power of each theory of tenancy and of labour markets (JDS, JEM)

3 Introduction Context of agrarian crisis, suicides, downward social mobility of farmers. Neoclassical theory dominants in economics and IFIs but the Transformational Model of Social Action offers a critique of that theory and an encompassing explanatory model.

4 Structural Relations Agency Reproductive Action Transformative Action Changed Structures Have New Effects on Agency Causal Mechanisms Are Shaped by the Structural SItuation Time Source: Adapted from Bhaskar, The Possibility of Naturalism, 1998 (orig 1979), also found extracted in Archer, et al., eds., 1998.

5 Methodology of Study A mixed-methods study Questionnaires 1994/5, 2006 Interviews 1995, 2006/7 Transcripts analysed in NVIVO Case-study method for qualitative analysis Focusing on evidence of strategies and strategic thinking

6 Findings Choice should be reframed in terms of first- order, second-order and third-order (ethical) strategies Constraint operates through causal mechanisms which are not deterministic Case studies illustrate the dynamics in local context, role of spiritual action, oppression, empowerment, deliberation...

7 Case 1 and Case 2 Case 1: Landless Workers Gopal and Girija and Their Two Children. »(extracts from interviews). »They do unpaid work, but unwillingly. »Only thus do they get the ‘boon’ of renting land. Case 2: The Landless Workers Mangamma and Keshava.

8 Case 1 Illustrates Table 2: A Few Components of Workers’ Discourse NVIVO CODES Landlords threaten, punish, refuse or permit grazing rights, and reward the loyal and docile Landlords demand and expect normal behaviour; expect the ‘usual’; they dominate and control wet lands Workers feel anger, express resistance, show unwillingness –Avoid a particular rude employer Some workers are resigned to accept the need to do kuulie –Habit of doing the unpaid work tasks (panulu at the landlord’s house or fields) Gender division of work is normal for the working-class couple Her work is often unpaid, to enable HIM to get paid farm work.

9 Case 2 Mangamma: Some times if son goes to his house his wife asks him to cut coconuts from the tree and he obliges. We do not clean his house and wash dishes. JR: Why do they do this work? Mangamma: Out of obligation and some kind of fear we accept the work and sometimes they give us money and the same money we use it for household purpose. JR: You said some times you do work for him our of fear. Please explain what kind of fear do you have? Mangamma: If we refuse to do work he may not give out his land for koruku for us. We are doing cultivation in his land and sharing half and half harvest. So we do the work.

10 Choice or Constraint? The choices of the habitus... are accomplished without consciousness or constraint, by virtue of the dispositions. Bourdieu, 1991: 51. Is Bourdieu right that the habitus keeps the status quo of power inequality going? Partly right.

11 Case 3 and Case 4 CASE 3: The Workers With Land, Sita and Chandran. They fought a court battle to keep the assigned land. They struggle regularly to ensure decent treatment and upliftment of dalit people like themselves. CASE 4: Rathnamma and all the worker women so far have cows providing symbolic cultural capital, reflecting social capital,and avoiding conflic over resources while empowering selves.

12 Constraint In this paper we examine local attempts to achieve human dignity in labour market transactions, notably workers’ negotiations around their verbal tenancy contracts. Workers’ agency is strategically aimed at personal and household dignity, rising social status, and evading face-to-face conflict. Examples illustrate.

13 Case 5 and ‘Babu’ Case 5: A Farmer Uma Devi Who Is Ambivalent About Farming, Manages Cows, and Manages a Self-Help Group. Uma Devi has high social prestige deriving in part from owning cows, just as labourers do. But much more so due to the household owning land as ryots. ‘Anna’, a man known affectionately as Elder Brother to everyone, makes his kuulie wage deals and tenancy arrangements in as friendly, kind and calm a way as possible. With money and land, kindness is possible. Structural exploitation of others is still going on though.

14 General Conclusions 40 case studies formed the basis of a grounded theory of workers’ agency in the villages (AJSS) The five case studies show in detail that a habitus for resistance and struggle does exist in the villages. Avoidance of conflict, manipulative strategies, strategic planning for bargaining were observed. Deep constraints due to resource inequality were also observed.

15 The policy implications include : a) more profound land reform than mere land registration; b) not sure that employment guarantee influences demand for labour sufficiently c) institutional impact of equal wages in employment guarantee is to create iconic memories of gender equality of wages – and public wage disputes d) the resource impact of the Employment Guarantee Scheme works is polarising, and should be made more equal through innovative and strategic policy management. These findings arise from non-value-neutral analysis of local data. Values + research  Findings (JEM 2007)


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