Conference Panels

ANTHROPOLOGY IN DEVELOPMENT PRACTICE: THE SOUTH ASIAN EXPERIENCE

Convenor: Soumendra Mohan Patnaik, Anthropology, University of Delhi
E-mail: smp_du@yahoo.com

Development practices in South Asian region have a chequered history through their journey from colonialism, emergence of new states, rising sub-nationalisms, ethnic conflicts, and discursive development discourses in the increasingly globalised world. The questions of the efficacy of development policies and programmes, differential commitment of nation-states to the United Nations proclamations on the development of the excluded and the marginalized, the role of civil society organizations and international donors all point towards new challenges faced by the stakeholders in the field.

South Asia as a cultural zone reflects a distinctiveness underlying all diversities. The trajectories of national and regional histories elucidate the community experience with development as a package from the State in a top-down manner. The adoption of a rights-based approach to development, gradual withdrawal of the state as one of the major players in the development sector and active involvement of INGOs and other civil society institutions improvising innovative methods for development intervention have created new forces generating a new kind of development politics. It has, however, also created a space for meaningful dialogue across the disciplines of economics, sociology, anthropology, governance and public policy pointing towards a paradigm shift in development theory and practice.

The proposed panel seeks to debate the unifying trends and fragmentary moments in regional and national locales, within a cultural zone of South Asia pertaining to development practices both in their historical and contemporary contexts. The roles of political economy, ethnicity, language, gender, social capital and local aspirations have been debated in specific situations calling for elucidation and interpretation of empirical and more grounded experiences with special reference to accountability, institutionalization and sustainability.

  • SESSION 1     Room: 162 ARTS     Fri 8/7/2011     Time: 13.30-15.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Anthropology in Participatory Forestry Program: Experiences from India and Nepal
      • R.J. Fisher, University of Sydney; Sirisha Indukuri, TERI New Delhi; Brian Furze, Latrobe University
    • Paper 2: Environmental Impact Assessments and the Indian 'Nuclear State'
      • Raminder Kaur, University of Sussex
    • Paper 3: Connection, Friction and Vibrancy: Vernacular Democracy, Circumfluent Economy and Globalization in Odisha, India
      • Akio Tanabe, Kyoto University
    • Paper 4: Breaking the Backbone of Farmers': The Influence of the MGNREGA on Labourer - Farmer Relations in Andhra Pradesh, India
      • Tanya Jakimo, CSIRO
  • SESSION 2     Room: 162 ARTS     Fri 8/7/2011     Time: 15.30-17.30     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Watershed development in India: A critical engagement with anthropological theory
      • Indrakshi Tandon, State University of New York
    • Paper 2: Accountabilty From Below: The Experience of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) in India
      • Salim Lakha, University of Melbourne
    • Paper 3: Medical Tourism in India: Economic Development and the Global Healthcare Industry
      • Kristen Smith, University of Melbourne
    • Paper 4: Managing Reproductive Health: Exploring the Contours of Private and Public Health Care System in Meghalaya
      • Dr Roumi Deb, Professor and Assistant Director, Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University

SESSION 1

Chair: Soumendra Mohan Patnaik

Paper 1: Anthropology in Participatory Forestry Program: Experiences from India and Nepal

Fisher, R.J, University of Sydney; Indukuri, Sirisha, TERI New Delhi; Brian Furze, Latrobe University

Programs focused on participatory forest management depend on effective local institutional arrangements for decision making, either endogenous or externally sponsored. Frequently such programs involve setting up new local organisations, but these are often set up without sufficient institution-building in the absence of /anthropological/sociological understanding. This paper argues that anthropological thinking has a great deal to contribute to projects and programs concerned with participatory forest management in terms of supporting (and, where necessary, developing) local institutions. The paper is based on experiences from work in community forestry in Nepal and Joint Forest Management in Haryana. It explores anthropological contributions to understanding local institutions and their interaction with external agencies, including NGOs and government. It also discusses different modalities for anthropological/ sociological engagement in development programs involving natural resource management. While long term ethnographic research is one modality, anthropologists can also contribute on a shorter time scale by applying insights from anthropological literature. The paper also discusses issues related to the participation of anthropologists in multi-disciplinary teams.

Paper 2: Environmental Impact Assessments and the Indian 'Nuclear State'

Raminder Kaur, University of Sussex

Since the 1990s, in particular, citizens have been embracing rights discourse with reference to a safe environment, health and livelihoods with regards to the nuclear industries. These growing demands of rights and entitlement are articulated across the population as a natural extension of representative democracy and in a global post-Cold War context where environmental activism and a less opaque attitude towards the environmental impact of nuclear industries have come to fruition. The democratic Indian state too has had to respond to these phenomena. Public hearings along with the public circulation of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had been made mandatory for large-scale development projects by the EIA Notification in 1994 which is under the umbrella of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. The EIA Notification lists 'Nuclear Power and related projects such as Heavy Water Plants, nuclear fuel complex, Rare Earths' amongst many other industries as requiring environmental clearance from central government. With a focus on south India, I examine to what extent mandatory consultations with public have altered the conduct of the state for large-scale developments, particularly as it applies to the nuclear industries.

Paper 3: Connection, Friction and Vibrancy: Vernacular Democracy, Circumfluent Economy and Globalization in Odisha, India

Akio Tanabe, Kyoto University

This paper deals with the question of development and sustainability in the South Asian context with special reference to Odisha, India. We see a new dynamism today where an increasing number of people participate and interact in democratic politics and market economy. This change cannot be understood simply as a logical consequence of the workings of the modern state and market. Attention should be paid to the socio-historical trajectory that influence and sustain the South Asian developmental path. There is currently an emergence of "vernacular democracy", which involves the creative mediation of practices, discourses and values accumulated in the vernacular life world with the new vocabularies, ideas and institutions of modern democracy. There is also an emergence of "circumfluent economy", that is, a circulatory and increasingly affluent flow of human resources, money, information and commodities between the rural and the urban. To illustrate how vernacular democracy and circumfluent economy are connected with the current globalization process, the paper takes up the example of Odisha's richly biodiverse hill, Niyamagiri. There are crosscutting interactions between diverse sections involving the tribals, NGOs, people's movement organizations, government bodies, political parties, media and the global corporate Vedanta. In this process, a hybrid and heterogeneous public sphere is emerging where diverse elements belonging to the global and local, urban and rural, elite and subaltern, the socio-economic and the politico-economic interact are giving rise to new connections, friction and vibrancy.

Paper 4: Breaking the Backbone of Farmers': The Influence of the MGNREGA on Labourer - Farmer Relations in Andhra Pradesh, India

Tanya Jakimo, CSIRO

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) provides each agrarian household in India 100 days of employment per year. Although it has proved immensely popular (particularly amongst labourers), not everyone is happy. Farmers say that the act has raised wages, and made labourers accustomed to 'easy' work. Labourers no longer come when call, nor exhibit the same respect for farmers. In 68 interviews conducted in 2010 in Andhra Pradesh, these observations were repeated by labourers, marginal to large landholders, and government officials. A neo-institutional analysis (Campbell 2004) of ethnographic material reveals, however, that labour norms have been undergoing gradual 'evolutionary' change, marked more by continuity than revolutionary transformations. These narratives thereby reflect not so much the actual impact of the scheme in operation since 2006, than the way the state has become an arena for the contestation over labour norms.

This paper relates different narratives about the MGNREGA to reveal how different social categories 'see the state' (Corbridge et al 2005). Taking an approach similar to Gupta's (1995) work on corruption, I argue that narratives of development interventions reflect and produce locally situated construction(s) of the state. Through these constructions, ideas about the 'correct' norms governing agricultural labour, and the role of the state as an arbiter of those norms, are contested by both labourers and farmers. Labourers/farmers seek to transform/maintain the status quo in agricultural labour institutions by projecting the limited/negative impacts of the MGNREGA scheme in rural Andhra Pradesh.

SESSION 2

Chair: Akio Tanabe

Paper 1: Watershed development in India: A critical engagement with anthropological theory

Indrakshi Tandon, State University of New York

Over the last decade, environmental issues have become key political debates on the regional, national, and global level, however strategies of sustainable resource use created on an international level often have unforeseen consequences on the local level. This paper examines current development discourse surrounding the planning and implementation of watershed projects in tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh, India. Located in India s central belt, Madhya Pradesh (MP) is its third poorest state. Forty-one out of MP's fifty districts are water deficient, although there are a staggering number of water-based projects either completed or ongoing or in the planning stage, all claiming to improve and create sustainable water use. My argument situates itself against this background, focusing on two major issues consonant with the use of water. Firstly, the  unintended consequences that emerge from the complex network of intersecting agencies stakeholders (international bodies, NGOs, state, community, caste), specifically looking at the institutional politics of NGOs and how they engage with anthropological theory. Secondly, water collection and management, if not control, has historically been identified with women as part of their daily work in almost all rural areas of India, thus the gendered implications of shifting control over management of water commons forms an important focus. Through examining the meaning of water as both a material resource and powerful symbol for both local communities and global organizations, this paper moves between analysis of state water policies, global development projects, and the local meaning or social life of water.

Paper 2: Accountabilty From Below: The Experience of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) in India

Salim Lakha, University of Melbourne

Accountability, governance and participation are concepts that are commonly encountered in development theory and practice. These concepts have been both enthusiastically embraced and critically scrutinized by academics and development practitioners. Some anthropologists and sociologists view the application of accountability measures at the organizational level as giving rise to an audit culture connected with neo-liberal managerial practices. Consequently attempts to apply these measures from above have generated widespread suspicion amongst those subjected to them. In contrast, this paper will examine attempts to promote social audit and accountability at the grassroots level through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India. Under MGNREGA, which is one of the most extensive rights based social protection programs in the world, social auditing is mandatory. The paper will consider the different social and political contexts within which social auditing has been practiced under MGNREGA. It raises the question: Can accountability from below be viable and effective? The paper is based upon preliminary research which suggests both the potential benefits and limits of social auditing and accountability from below.

Paper 3: Medical Tourism in India: Economic Development and the Global Healthcare Industry

Kristen Smith, University of Melbourne

Despite claims from international organisations, industry and governments alike that medical tourism facilitates economic development in Third World countries, very little is known regarding the medical tourism industry's real impact in countries such as India. This paper draws on a multi-sited ethnography of five private hospitals offering medical tourism services in Mumbai, India, arguing that the study of medical tourism offers a microcosmic view of the larger exploitative practices occurring within and between nations across the world, where healthcare services are swiftly becoming little more than another global frontier for consumption and domination. This paper goes on to suggest that further study on medical tourism can offer rich insights into the ways in which national and international regulations can guard against predatory practices and promote social justice values in the international delivery of health and healthcare services.

Paper 4: Managing Reproductive Health: Exploring the Contours of Private and Public Health Care System in Meghalaya

Dr Roumi Deb, Professor and Assistant Director, Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University

The paper explores the cultural framework of managing the reproductive health by a matrilineal community – the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya in North East India. In terms of its access on the various health aspects related to women and children in the community and to different health care practices available in Public and Private Sector.

The paper takes in to account the antenatal health care services (ANC), health status of local women, availability of alternative reproductive technologies to understand the utilization of health services for safe motherhood and the various socio-economic and cultural factors influencing the acceptance of antenatal care in this community. The study reveals the extent of awareness their attitude and practices of family planning method among ever-married Khasi women aged 15-49 years from all the seven blocks of East Khasi Hills. In the present paper, an attempt has been made to understand the childhood immunization coverage, the location impact on the likelihood of immunization and the awareness and perception of the women regarding the immunization of their children through Focus Group Discussion (FGD).

The paper also argues the difference in the system of descent which is matrilineal; and the gender perspective that promotes gender equality in policies and practices as well as women’s participation in decision making about their sexual and reproductive life. The community overall reflects a different kind of gender asymmetry not found in the rest of India. The state policy on reproductive health and associated health care facilities has also been critiqued using a comparative framework in South Asia.