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Title: Faces of the forest : children's work in Uttaranchal, India
Author: Dyson, J. P.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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This dissertation draws on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork to explore the working lives of children in a single village in an interior part of the Indian Himalayas, and with particular reference to children’s forest use practices: herding, collecting dry leaves, and gathering lichen. The dissertation describes the rhythms, geography, and nature of children’s contributions to the household economy, and illustrates children’s key role in providing supplementary labour at particularly busy periods within the agro-pastoral regime. This account is situated with a discussion of small-scale transhumance in higher areas of Chamoli District and a regional literature on forest use and nature/society relations in Uttaranchal. The analysis of children’s practices enhances our understanding of forest work in north India by highlighting the importance of children as forest users, the forest as a cultural and social space, and caste and gender as factors shaping people’s experience of ‘nature.’ The dissertation also contributes to broader literatures on child labour, children’s agency, and contemporary spaces of childhood through an analysis of children’s efforts to negotiate their work. Although children’s capacity to pursue their own goals was limited, particularly among Scheduled Castes and girls, they often found ways to imbue their work with meaning, manage their work in time and space, and resist structures of dominance in work settings. The dissertation illustrates these points through showing how children juggled school, field and household work, combined their herding work with leisure activity, constructed ‘identities of competence’ through their leaf and lichen collection, and engaged in self-consciously ‘naughty’ or ‘dirty’ practices in forest spaces located at a distance from the village. In seeking to combine their work with other goals, children diminished the drudgery of their tasks, established respect, and carved out spaces of fun (maza), even while their practices often served to reproduce structures of gender and caste. The rise of schooling in Bemni and the increasing integration of the village within the regional economy were rapidly changing these opportunities to negotiate work practices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available