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Paysans de l’Inde du Sud

Frédéric Landy

Choice and constraint

South Indian peasants

Frédéric Landy

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2Farmers in the Thirld World are frequently caricatured as being either irrational peasants or, alternatively, capable of maximising their profits as well as any Western businessman (T.W. Schultz). It would appear that natural or socio-economic constraints, while limiting broad individual liberties, nonetheless leave a certain possibility of choice which explains the diversity of peasant logics. This has been identified in this anthropological geographical study which focused on one irrigated and one non-irrigated village in South Karnataka.

3The irrigated zone owes its wealth to a canal which has allowed the spectacular growth of sugarcane cultivation and the multiplication of jaggery crushers. Therefore today, the region is characterized by in-migration, both seasonal and permanent. On the contrary, the "dry" region has remained largely dominated by ragi (finger-millet); high-yield varieties, fertilisers, coconut gardens and sericulture are not enough to prevent emigration towards cities. Both regions have witnessed rapid change over the last 50 years. Farmers have adopted and even adapted to (in some cases refused) innovations proposed to them by the Government, and have discovered other innovations by themselves, maintaining certain traditional values at the same time.

4At the village level, the maintenance of a cohesive community identity has not prevented the formation of religious and agrarian hierarchies. Moreover economic diversification is lacking in the two regions. In this environment farmer behaviours are studied by focusing upon family demography, cropping patterns, credit availability and market accessibility... as well as religious belief and dowry constraints. To construct a typology of production Systems cannot be done simply on the basis of the size of the holdings. It must take into account the "subjective capital" - the personality (taste, fears, desires) of the farmer that derives only in part from social class and the regional environment. It is essential to Interpret individual behaviour not only as a fonction of social determinants but also in terms of survival instincts and the will for power.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 1994

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