Postcolonial Developments

Agriculture in the Making of Modern India

Postcolonial Developments

Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 15 b&w photographs, 3 tables, 3 maps, 4 figures Published: July 1998

Author: Akhil Gupta

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

This definitive study brings together recent critiques of development and work in postcolonial studies to explore what the postcolonial condition has meant to rural people in the Third World. Focusing on local-level agricultural practices in India since the “green revolution” of the 1960s, Akhil Gupta challenges the dichotomy of “developed” and “underdeveloped,” as well as the notion of a monolithic postcolonial condition. In so doing, he advances discussions of modernity in the Third World and offers a new model for future ethnographic scholarship.
Based on fieldwork done in the village of Alipur in rural north India from the early 1980s through the 1990s, Postcolonial Developments examines development itself as a post–World War II sociopolitical ideological formation, critiques related policies, and explores the various uses of the concept of the “indigenous” in several discursive contexts. Gupta begins with an analysis of the connections and conflicts between the world food economy, transnational capital, and technological innovations in wheat production. He then examines narratives of village politics in Alipur to show how certain discourses influenced governmental policies on the green revolution. Drawing links between village life, national trends, and global forces, Gupta concludes with a discussion of the implications of environmentalism as exemplified by the Rio Earth Summit and an examination of how global environmental treaties may detrimentally affect the lives of subaltern peoples.
With a series of subtle observations on rural politics, nationalism, gender, modernization, and difference, this innovative study capitalizes on many different disciplines: anthropology, sociology, comparative politics, cultural geography, ecology, political science, agricultural economics, and history.


“[A] significant study . . . .[A] substantive and pace-setting anthropological study of peasants and agriculture in modern India, a country and culture caught in multiple ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds.” — R. S. Khare, Sociocultural Anthropology

“[A] work of the most rigorous scholarship . . . . Gupta has compiled a work that bespeaks tremendous effort in the field and in the archives, combined with great care and meticulousness in converting this massive research into a cogent and coherent narrative.” — Kaushik Sunder Rajan , Interventions

“[An] important debut. . . . Working his way skillfully into the 1990s and relying mainly on field research conducted in the 1980s, Gupta weaves a seamless fabric of narrative and analysis that presents the postcolonial condition as a patchwork garment both made and worn by the farmers and agricultural laborers of North India. . . . Gupta contributes a sustained and powerful study that will be necessary reading, and invaluable material, for those building a critique of the romanticism and essentialism that have deeply flawed postcolonial criticism. . . . [Postcolonial Developments] should definitely stir quite a bit of interest and debate. . . .” — K. Sivaramakrishnan , American Ethnologist

“Akhil Gupta has been at the forefront of recent efforts to provide a more contextual and ethnographic account of agrarian change and the Indian state. . . . [He] has produced an important, engaging and . . . admirably detailed contribution to the knowledge of the politics and experience of development. Postcolonial Developments is recommended to development and political geographers interested in postcolonial studies and political change in the south.” — Craig Jeffrey , Progress in Human Geography

“This is a very promising volume. . . . Gupta has a remarkable ability to weave diverse topics, theoretical issues, and field research into a readable form. . . . The deft manner in which the ideology of development is tied to western self-representations of modernity is especially instructive. Gupta also shines in delineating the ways in which agricultural ‘development’ has been used, misused, and reused by Indian politicians, international development agencies, and farmers’ groups. . . . Gupta is a challenging, insightful scholar. One hopes this volume will reach a wide readership, one larger than most books on South Asia get.” — Lynn Zastoupil, Agricultural History

“A truly unusual and provocative first book, written with grace, verve, and clarity. Akhil Gupta places rural life in India in the context of a sharp and informed view of India’s larger political economy.” — Arjun Appadurai, University of Chicago

“This is a work of prodigious, exacting anthropological scholarship, which represents the best in combining traditional practices of ethnography with new theoretical influences.” — George E. Marcus, Rice University

"Many have despaired of the possibility of studying the vast forces and conditions of the contemporary world—globalization, postcoloniality, late capitalism—through ethnographic methods that continue to focus on the specific and the ‘local.’ Akhil Gupta has provided us with a brilliant example of how this can be done. In the process he has rewritten the very categories of the global and the local, and has done so within a prose of extraordinary lucidity and power." — Sherry Ortner, Columbia University


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