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Includes bibliographical references.
Rural’ and ‘urban’ are the foremost categories through which social life has been visualised and engaged with in modern and contemporary times. The idea of the ‘rural’ or the ‘village’ has been of particular significance in India. British colonisers represented India to the world as a land of ‘village republics’. This representation was so influential that even the nationalist leaders accepted it uncritically. Gandhi advocated ‘a return to the village’ as the only genuine way to gaining swaraj, or self-rule. Nehru and Ambedkar too saw the village as the site of India’s traditional life; however, to them it was also a signifier of India’s economic backwardness and social ills. These notions have shaped social science scholarship, popular politics and public policy. The idea of such a demographic transition continues to be a core element of state policy and an important indicator of positive social change and economic growth/ modernisation. However, the ‘rural’ in India persists; nearly two-thirds of India’s population still lives in rural settlements. A Handbook of Rural India, brings together 36 research papers written by some of the leading social scientists, from the early 1950s to the present. It provides a historical perspective on the subject of the ‘rural’ and covers a wide range of topics that have been critical to the imaginings and empirics of village life in contemporary India.