Explain why sociologists in India, during the nineteen fifties felt the need to study the Indian village.

Village studies boomed during the 1950’s and 1960’s rejuvenating the discipline of social anthropology. There are significant reasons and consequences of this phenomenon.

During the 1950’s, most of the countries are being decolonalised. The formation of new states influenced the research priorities in social sciences. In the newly formed ‘third world countries’, most of the population are depending on agriculture. So, the governments in those countries had to concentrate on transforming the backward and stagnant agrarian economies along with industrialization. To transform agrarian economies, it’s important to study the agrarian relations. Thus the concept of ‘peasantry’ was discovered giving a fresh lease of life to Social Anthropology.

In Asia, the foundation of peasant economies lies in the village communities. Hence, it became a trend in western academy to study village communities. Many western and Indian scholars started studying social, economic and cultural aspects of rural people. With time, social anthropologists also focused on special aspects of social structure such as kinship, stratification.

Though there are scriptures and books about Indian rural life in ancient and medieval times, it was British administrators that constructed the image of Indian villages, but in a wrong way. Colonial administrators defined Indian villages as ‘little republics’. That means villages of India are termed as self-sufficient units totally isolated from the rest of the country. Village studies in India helped to change the stereotyped view imposed by British administrators. Field-view of village life revealed that villages are not passive in state politics and well integrated into the mainstream economy and society.

Reconstruction of the villages was needed after Independence of India because of the decadence of villages during British rule. To recover the soul of villages, sociologists and social anthropologists studied social and cultural life of Indian villages extensively. Though they focused on social and cultural aspects of rural India, political and economic life was also understood through these studies.

Till the 1950’s, book-view of India was dominant, which was developed by Indologists and Orientalists. Social Anthropologists started studying villages by ‘Field-view’ using participant observation method. They stay in the field for a certain period and become a part of the community to understand it clearly. These studies contested many assumptions of Indology such as the idealized model of varna system. Field-view exposed the rigid caste system prevalent in rural India.

Though the social anthropologists are the ones that started studying village studies, scholars from other disciplines such as political science, history, economics are also found it relevant to their disciplines and started researching villages.

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