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Title: Being hungry, becoming free : marginality, identity and livelihoods in rural Western Orissa
Author: Sengupta, Sohini
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is a description of lives from a remote area of India. It is based in a village and its neighbourhood, in a place called Borasambar in western Orissa. Here, in the not so distant past there existed a network of interconnected kingdoms, stretching outwards from the valleys of the Mahanadi River into the dense forests of Central India. People who live in these rural, erstwhile forest areas suffered great poverty and deprivation after a brief period of agrarian expansion and prosperity in the late nineteenth century and before state welfare expenditure arrived to provide a new perspective towards poverty. This thesis looks at the structural roots of poverty and tries to trace historically, its changing definitions, manifestations and consequences. The attempt is to understand the phenomenon from the accounts, memories and representations of village people, as they increasingly describe wellbeing through the physical and metaphoric distance from their forest dwelling pasts. Transcending the objective-subjective divide in poverty research, this thesis aims to analyze poverty, as a social and economic reality that needs to be understood in terms of the meanings it has to the people concerned and as an effect of objective mechanisms and structural conditions. Drawing insight from Bourdieu's social theory of practice and symbolic power, this thesis demonstrates how cultural discourses of poverty are social and historical knowledge sustained by the continuous making and remaking of the relations of dominance and dependence in the local society, while experienced poverty emerges through the effects of broader processes within which the local society has taken shape and remains embedded. The main contribution of this thesis is towards a historical-anthropology that provides understanding of processes and mechanisms through which power and agency constitute social memories and perpetuate subordination in long-term conditions of poverty. Based on detailed ethnographic fieldwork of a village and archival research guided by recollections and family stories, this thesis traces changing patterns of living conditions of rural people through the social trajectories of a forest dwelling group, the Binjhals, beginning with the political and economic changes associated with the establishment of British colonial rule in the late nineteenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral