Publication Type: Journal article / chapter
Countries: India
Authors: Richard Axelby
Funders: ERC

This chapter begins by explaining that in the decades after Independence, the study of rural life became the backbone for new sociological understandings of a rapidly changing India. A network of scholars was established that, taking the village as their unit of analysis, set out to conduct field-studies in all areas of the country. The arrival of these ‘village studies’ anthropologists in rural India focused attention on the ways in which customary forms of caste, family, politics, and religious beliefs were being reshaped by economic change, electoral democracy, and state-led development efforts. Many of their initial findings were circulated in The Economic Weekly and were subsequently brought together in collections such as Srinivas’ India’s Villages (1955) and McKim Marriott’s Village India (1955). Some that were later published as full ethnographic monographs gained classic status: works by Frederick Bailey, Kathleen Gough and M.N. Srinivas continue to be widely read (and restudied) today. The era of the ethnographic ‘village study’ – lasting roughly from the late 1940s to early 1970s – remains a touchstone for those charting changes in the social life, lifestyles and beliefs of rural India.