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The Underbelly of the Indian Boom: Adivasis and Dalits


In recent decades India has experienced exceptionally high economic growth rates, becoming one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. Yet, the redistribution of the fruits of economic growth – the trickle down effects of growth – have been negligible for vast swathes of India’s population, most of who live in the countryside. The demographics of the poor are starkly socially marked. Economists tell us that India’s dalit and adivasi communities, who account for almost 25% of the country’s population and were historically seen as ‘untouchable’ and ‘savage’, suffer from disproportionate levels of poverty, remaining worse off than other groups almost everywhere across the country. But econometric analysis is unable to tell us how and why this is the case. This project uses an innovative anthropological approach to understand the processes by which poverty is reproduced through agrarian relations and the shift from farm-based social and economic hierarchies towards new forms of power and exploitation off the farm which lead to the persistence of dalit and adivasi marginalisation across India. Informed by recent statistical research and policy shifts at the national and state levels, this project will craft a more critical and powerful alternative to poverty measurements by ethnographically exploring the relationship between political and economic transformations in rural-based dalit and adivasi lives, and the transformations taking place at the macro level. It thus establishes a new methodological field which structures ethnography in the framework of political economic theory and brings this combination to the centre of understandings of poverty. It will provide the first historically situated ethnographic studies which are comparative, not only in their regional distribution, but also in their underlying theoretical and methodological bases.

Convocatoria de propuestas

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Régimen de financiación

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant


Houghton street 1
WC2A 2AE London
Reino Unido

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London Inner London — West Westminster
Tipo de actividad
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Investigador principal
Alpa Shah (Dr.)
Contacto administrativo
David Coombe (Mr.)
Aportación de la UE
€ 1 282 213,02

Beneficiarios (3)