Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Fieldwork - From Sociology to Socio-Le-Joy

Dr Sriram Devanathan accepted our invitation to lecture on “Fieldwork - From Sociology to Socio-le-joy”. This event took place on the 19th of April 2022 from 4 pm to 5 pm, the audience constituted the students from 2MSOC and 4MSOC. Sir started by putting out questions for the audience, drawing a pyramid with different subjects at different levels. He put social sciences at the base of the pyramid, and at the top of it was Mathematical Science. Having drawn this on the board, he asked us about what we considered the most complex subject. It was concluded that social sciences had to be the most complex subject. Dr Sriram justified this answer by pointing out that there are no essential laws in social sciences. It happens so because social sciences are too complex to follow laws. He classified the main components of the fieldwork: Needs Assessment, Choice of lenses for the study, Analysis, Solution Development and Assessment

This framework of fieldwork would help in a holistic implementation of the solutions that researchers land. Dr Sriram gave examples of two villages; in one Village where vocational training in Fabric Painting was being provided to the Village women. After two batches, the funders of this project wanted to know how these graduated batches used these learned skills. It was later found out that there was no job market for the same available. With this, Dr Sriram put across a question: people have been talking about development; why is inequity still there?

For this, he reasoned out possible factors. One big reason would be the lack of holistic implementation. He claimed that for solution development, we require holistic development. For this, he gave an example from his experience, he and his team had given a group of SHG women training for the same, but there was still no progress. It was later understood that because of patriarchy, men did not let these women use their opportunities as they used to make them feel threatened.

Dr Sriram listed three vignettes from his experiences of fieldwork-

1. Harirampura, Rajasthan

2. Attapady, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu

3. Joona Kathiwada, Madhya Pradesh

The Village Harirampura, as Dr Sriram described, belonged to a caste Meena. This Village had no bathrooms or toilets and no running water until 2018. This essentially meant that in the eyes of the government, this Village did not exist. This Village had one government school, which had classes up to 8th grade, and this building had two rooms to it.

The message that was learned from this particular Village was that even though researchers wanted to bring development for these villagers, the development always happened among themselves. They would not accept anything that the team had brought for them, instead, they would show immense hospitality towards the team of researchers. This team created smokeless “chulhas” for the villagers.

The Village Attapady, at the borders of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, had three tribes living it- Irula, Maduga, and Kurumba tribes. A tragic story attached to the women of this Village was first narrated. The women were impregnated and abandoned by the men from Tamil Nadu. Hence these women were essentially excommunicated from their society. The men beat up women at home, and the forest officials did not care much about it. The women of the Village narrated these incidents to the team that had arrived almost hopelessly, as they had witnessed a lot of teams coming but ending up making no change.

The last Village that Dr Sriram talked to us about was Joona Kathiwada, located in Madhya Pradesh. This Village was four hours from Vadodara. There were only 330 residents until 2015. This Village was nestled at the foothills of a hill range with a beautiful Jharna at about 45 minutes to one hour walk. There was one Anganwadi, and this Village was essentially agriculture-based. It was noticed that no one from the Village had been able to escape the trap of poverty. Dr Sriram also pointed out that the depiction of the same Village by the Nobel Laureate Abhijit Bannerjee contradicts many aspects of what he experienced during his visit. He also noted some excellent artistry inside the homes in these villages. These villages also had signs of a healthy nature and environment. The villagers executed a “Live and let live” mentality.

Dr Sriram ended the lecture with a quote from Tagore:
“I slept and dreamt that life was a joy,
I awoke and saw that life was service,
I acted and behold, service was joy.”


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