ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Covering the Dynamics of a Changing World

The author, a sociologist engaged in anthropological fieldwork in the study of labour came to India as a PhD student, became a regular reader of the Economic Weekly, later the Economic & Political Weekly and graduated to contribute articles to the journal and become a friend of Krishna Raj. Here, he muses on what the journal has meant to him and to its readers down the decades.

As an aspiring young PhD student who happened to be sent to India some 15 years after it got independence, I came to sample and understand the rich diversity of the South Asian subcontinent first through the pages of the Economic Weekly. Confronted with accounts pertaining to other parts of the country, I have anxiously endeavoured to avoid undue generalisation of my local-level findings beyond the sites of investigation. The weekly issues which I browsed or more often carefully read also helped me to remain what I started out to be: a willing adept of interdisciplinarity in the social sciences. The journal’s contents, reborn as the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), nicely fit my own profile: a sociologist engaged in anthropological fieldwork who in the study of labour, from the beginning attempted to keep abreast with the literature on this topic in economics, political and policy sciences, cultural studies and history. On the cutting edge of all these disciplines much has been published in the EPW that has turned out to be of striking relevance in the context of my own ongoing field research. In this short and invited appraisal it will not be possible to do justice to what 50 volumes contain. But when one takes stock of this meritorious series of annals an important feature to bring out would be how the changed fabric of society and economy, state and people has found reflection in the way these dynamics were reported during this traverse of half-a-century from a postcolonial third world country to one wrapped up in frenzied globalisation.

On my arrival in the early 1960s, India was still firmly embedded in an agrarian-rural way of life. It had the character of a peasant society and village studies were much in demand because they were supposed to shed light on the livelihood of the large majority of the population. It was also the commission which brought me to the countryside of south Gujarat. While I was busy making sense of the outcome of my localised research on changing relationships between dominating farmers and landless labourers, a highly charged agrarian mode-of-production debate raged in the columns of the EPW whether capitalism had made inroads in a rural landscape ridden with relics of feudalism. On my return 10 years later I found again that my new research project on seasonal migration aptly coincided with increased attention paid to the theme of labour mobility in the journal’s articles. While from the more remote hinterland a large number of work gangs invaded my fieldwork villages at the peak of the agricultural cycle, a sizeable segment of the landless and land-poor households would move off after the monsoon, often to destinations on the periphery of Mumbai.

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