The production of rurality : social and spatial transformations in the Tamil countryside 1915-65
Author(s)Rao Cavale, Karthik.
Social and spatial transformations in the Tamil countryside 1915-65
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
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This dissertation advances a critique of the "planetary urbanization" thesis inspired by Henri Lefebvre's writings on capitalist urbanization. Theoretically, it argues that Lefebvrian scholars tend to conflate two distinct meanings of urbanization: a) urbanization understood simply as the territorial expansion of certain kinds of built environment associated with commodity production; and b) urbanization as the reproduction of capitalist modes of production of space on an expanded, planetary scale. Empirically, the dissertation constructs a social history of Tamil Nadu (India) between 1915 and 1965, and seeks to explain how 'rural' spaces were reproduced during a period marked by greater market penetration into the countryside, democratization and regime change, and the reorganization of community relations at multiple scales. The argument is developed in three inter-related but self-contained chapters.The second chapter focuses on how 'village communities' came to be imagined in political and academic discourse, through the economic writings of Gilbert Slater and N. G. Ranga. Whereas 19th century writers believed that the modern exchange economy posed an existential threat to village communities governed by 'custom', I show that Slater and Ranga inaugurated an empiricist approach that rendered village communities compatible with generalized commodity production. Focusing on the history of rural roads, the third chapter examines how the conceptual distinction between 'productive' and 'unproductive' infrastructure reproduced under-investment in the countryside. Despite a significant democratization of local and provincial governments from the 1920s onwards, I demonstrate that the fiscal arrangements of colonial rule reproduced barriers against treating resources devoted to 'rural' infrastructure as capital investment, as opposed to a mere expenditure of revenue.In the final chapter, I demonstrate the resilience of non-capitalist moorings in actually existing village communities, and their importance in enabling the social mobility of excluded communities. This chapter constructs a detailed case study of a group of villages in southern Tamil Nadu, where land owned by upper caste landlords was transferred to lower caste tenants in the mid-20th century. It is through these contestations surrounding land rights that village communities were reproduced well into the 20th century in southern India.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, September, 2020Cataloged from student-submitted PDF of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 264-288).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.