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The Country and the City in Mid-20th Century Ethnographies of Village India


Ethnographic representations of the country and the city in India have changed drastically in the last hundred years. Pre-Independence ethnographies of India focused primarily on the village as a self contained and self-sustaining unit, and connections to the outside world were left largely unexamined. With Indian Independence in 1947, the village became a site of rapid change, and the city began to figure as the source of that transformation. Urban-rural interactions became key to understanding the social, economic, and political transformations ethnographers were attempting to explain. In the tradition of Raymond Williams' The Country and the City (1973), this paper explores the emerging relationship between urban and rural India as witnessed through mid-20th century ethnographic representations of village India. In engaging these ethnographies both as sources of empirical evidence and particular forms of knowledge production, this paper gives historical context to conceptualizations of rural and urban India that continue to inform contemporary approaches to issues such as urbanization and rural development.

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