Disobeying the principle of self-selection: The curious case of a tribe that rejects cash-for-work

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 21st March 2016

Abstract: From village-based research in central Chhattisgarh, this paper examines why India’s denotified Pardhi tribe may reject cash-for-work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). I argue that iterative cultural and nutritional factors influence NREGA non-participation by the Pardhi, notwithstanding their marginal social standing as a tribe. Productive activity perceived to be arduous or involving high-energy expenditure, albeit monetarily attractive, can be rejected in contexts where communities aim to preserve ‘body-capital’. Furthermore, what is considered ‘unskilled’ manual labour under NREGA may be unappealing from cultural foreignness or its dependence on unfamiliar body techniques. The tribes’ acute orientation in the present, and their puzzlingly sub-optimal food purchase and storage behaviour could reflect their deprivation and social marginalisation, as well as their economic and cultural history as a nomadic community. The persistent burden of a deviant reputation the tribe carries may further contribute to public programme rejection.

Bio: Devanshi Chanchani is a social anthropologist having 10 years’ experience in development studies research and consultancy, with specialism in the fields of reproductive health and child nutrition. She is currently a Research Associate at the University of East Anglia, UK, and the Principal Investigator on a study which examines from a comparative perspective, implementation of India’s Integrated Child Development Services programme across the states of Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Her doctoral research in Development Studies from the same university is titled ‘Social Inequalities, Reproductive Health, and Child Development: a Chhattisgarh village study’, and unpacks the economic, cultural and gender-based determinants of reproductive health and child nutrition. Prior to doctoral studies, Devanshi was a core-team member of the grant-making ICICI Centre for Child Health and Nutrition..