ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“Back to the ancestors”? Changing farming practices in India in times of multiple crises


THIVET DELPHINE - French Institute of Pondicherry, Department of Social Sciences, Pondicherry, India


33 – Transmitting know-how in a shifting world – the case of contemporary India


 Since the early 1990s, India is ongoing a steady decline of agriculture (Bhalla and Singh 2009). The opening up of its agrarian economy to international private corporations and world-market influence and the gradual removing of state subsidies to agriculture have resulted in an accelerated transformation of the agricultural sector. Since then, new significant narratives of “agrarian crisis”, “farmers suicides”, “debt distress” have infused public life and the media (Jodhka 2012). In response to these multiple crises (economic, social, environmental, climate, etc.), several farmers, whether individually or collectively, organise themselves all over India against the grain of the Green Revolution movement so as to find more sustainable paths: reintroducing “traditional” varieties of seeds (paddy, millets, etc.), “indigenous” cattle or/and natural fertilizers and pesticides. This paper examines these changing farming practices towards sustainable agriculture and natural farming. It aims to develop understanding of the complex hybridization between modern and traditional technical knowledge and practices in such alternatives to conventional agriculture. It also analyses the politics of “traditionalization”, that is, how different actors take part in the process of reinventing, narrating, transforming and diffusing “tradition” in Indian agriculture. It does this ethnographically, by basing itself upon several fieldworks in Bengal, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.