A SOAS project starting on 1st of September this year will revisit a seminal research project about rural life in India, which took place in the 1950’s.

Headed by Dr. Edward Simpson, a senior lecturer in anthropology at the university and his co-investigator Professor Patricia Jeffery, a sociological professor at the University of Edinburgh, the project will focus on how three villages in Gujarat, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh have evolved since the 1950’s and assess the impact of the open economic policy of the 1990’s on these villages in 21st Century India.

F.G. Bailey, Adrian C. Mayer and David F. Pocock undertook the original research studies in the beginning of the 1950’s.  According to Dr. Simpson, this is the first time a comparative restudy project is being carried out in anthropology of other anthropologists’ works.

Each of the three states has experienced rapid and profound changes. Economically, Gujarat is regarded as the powerhouse of India but still vast number of villagers live in poverty.  Orissa is experiencing political issues with land rights of the Adivasis (the first arrivals) whose ancient forest land and traditions are under threat from global mining companies.  Finally MP’s industrialization has made economic disparities across the state even more obvious.

The extensive research project is likely to produce important data and highlight real issues being experienced by villages across the post-colonial landscape of modern India.

For Gandhi, Indian villages were the cradles that gave birth to the real India and were the soul of the nation.  He believed that villages would, after the independence provide the resources (both physical and spiritual) for India to stand on her own two feet.

I will be posting updates as and when they are made available from SOAS.