Monday, 3 August 2020

Singleness and Sanghathan

This paper poses a problem; a problem that the work on/of transformation is faced with in the specific context of singleness among rural adivasi women in Rayagada district of South Odisha. This work is a part of an ongoing action research which is an attempt towards foregrounding the 'lived experience' of being single and being woman by attending to the condition of 'singleness' among rural adivasi women and exploring alongside questions and collaborative collective processes of transformative praxis. This work began in 2013 in one village named Emaliguda in the district and is currently in the process of further expansion to other villages in and around the area. The work so far has generated some insights and understandings around the condition of singleness among adivasi women and in the process, has helped mobilize a single women’s collective called Eka Nari Sanghathan (Single Women’s Collective). 

The problem that has opened up with this action research work, which is an attempt to work on the question of subject, social and political transformation (the three axes of transformation that stand in mutual constitutivity), is how to bring these three axes in dialogue with each other. In other words, if these three axes of transformation are mutually constitutive, then how does this mutuality and constitutivity translate into praxis? What does it do to the question of praxis? How does one account for their simultaneity (transformations in subject, social and political taking place in tandem with each other)? And how does it respond to the question of the (im)possibility of transformed futures? What is it to work and think deconstructively; what is it to engage with the problem(s) at hand is what seems to me as of now “my heightened sense of necessary absurdity”; and this paper is an attempt at exploring deconstructively, the above mentioned questions. The exploration however, takes me to psychoanalysis. 

The Story Retold

Narrating stories, not just of pain and suffering but also of collective struggle and learning, joy and companionship—stories that have been ‘created’ and are still in the making—as the single women in Rayagada work to transform the future… looking back at a five-year journey of (gendered) relationships, collective actioning and co-learning.

Postdevelopment in Practice

This chapter introduces ‘action research’ undertaken in the Rayagada district of Odisha, India. The work began with the identification of the experience of ‘singleness’ among Kondh adivasi (indigenous tribes) women farmers in a village named Emaliguda. The dialectic of oppression and resistance resulting from the condition of singleness led to the emergence of a collective called Eka Nari Sanghathan (Single Women’s Collective) in 2013. Attending to single women’s lives marked by experiences of pain, violence and otherness (by the violence of hetero-patriarchy, of primitive accumulation and capitalist development) and to the adivasi life-worlds sustaining noncapitalist class processes in a largely capitalist world, this contingent-emergent collective engages in enacting a possible postcapitalist-feminist future, a future beyond dictated developmental agendas. This chapter explores connections between the rem(a)inders of resisting and negotiated gendered processes and subjectivities (‘singleness’) and noncapitalist economic processes and subjectivities (‘world of the third’) in order to work towards a possible postcapitalist-feminist praxis. Embedded in postdevelopmental thinking and praxis, this chapter largely examines how questions of economic transformation and gender work come to co-exist in the adivasi context.

Collective agriculture: Towards a postcapitalist-feminist future

Since 2017, women in the Sanghathan have been leasing agricultural land in order to engage in collective farming on a common piece of land. Apart from collective production and distribution of food crops, the attempt at ENS is also to engage in ecologically sensitive farming methods and techniques. This involves moving away from cultivation of high yielding seed varieties bought from the market (which have gained immense popularity, thanks to capitalist interventions of NGOs in the area) to sowing folk seed varieties that used to be part of traditional agriculture practice. Moreover, natural fertilizers and plant based pesticides are being used by ENS instead of chemical fertilizers (that are generally used by the farmers now) to ensure healthy food and ecologically sensitive agriculture and enable an ethical relationship between human and more-than-human forms- driven by care of the fellow being, soil, water, microorganisms that live in the soil, birds and insects snakes and frogs, crabs and fish, and everything else constituting the complex ecosystem, which helps nurture and sustain every other life form within it.

This year apart from rice cultivation we are also venturing into the production of finger millets and black gram on upland, where mostly cash crops like cotton and eucalyptus are being grown. Going against the tide and foregoing cash income incentives of cash crops, ENS has chosen to produce food crops for social and ecological well-being of humans and more-than-human others.