| Faculty of Philosophy, Religion, Society, and World Relations, Research

New research project on women in rural development programmes in India

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting a new research project by Dr Maria Framke at the Department of History at the University of Erfurt with around 335,000 euros until July 2024. It is entitled "Hidden Histories: Women in Rural Development Programmes in India, c. 1920-1966" and is dedicated to contributions of Indian women to rural development programmes. It follows the demand to include gender as a category of analysis in the history of development.

The aim of the project is to examine the role of women in the design and implementation of governmental and non-governmental rural development projects in India in the key areas of health, education and livelihoods, and in this way to reimagine the processes of development and citizenship.

This analysis promises both new insights into the international linkages between North America, Europe and South Asia and the associated repercussions on Indian nation-building. While research to date has focused on male actors, the project shifts the focus to elite women and their work with subaltern contemporaries in rural areas.

Although large-scale state investments have mostly pushed for the modernisation of the industrial sector, rural areas, as centres of agricultural production responsible for food security, have had a separate importance in Indian development projects. As the project will show, rural areas have been an important site for 'gendering' development. A number of development programmes aimed at improving maternal and child health, developing cottage industries and literacy were explicitly targeted at rural women. The project explores whether these development programmes, influenced by the ideas of contemporary social feminism, followed or broke the conventional dual model that separated areas of work by gender. Did women's participation in development work lead to equal citizenship? In order to explore the complexity of influences and interactions that underpinned the development work of Indian women actors, the project combines a biographical approach with an institutional history approach, including an analysis of the associated networks. Moreover, the temporal framework, which encompasses both the late colonial and early postcolonial periods, allows for the identification of unexplored continuities and ruptures.

Based on extensive preliminary work, the project starts from the well-founded working hypothesis that the clash of elite conceptions and rural realities provides insights into the negotiation of development programmes, as it brings to light central controversies and lines of conflict. In sum, the project analyses how women conceptualised 'development' and uses the contestations that arose in the implementation of these initiatives as a starting point to generate new insights into the historical genesis and facets of citizenship in the world's largest democracy.

Cooperation partners are ETH Zürich, the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) and the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU Dehli).

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin im Forschungsprojekt „Hidden histories: Frauen in ländlichen Entwicklungsprogrammen in Indien, c. 1920–1966“
(Historisches Seminar)
Lehrgebäude 4 / Raum 114
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