In this blog-post I want to suggest that an interpretive research project based on farmers’ suicides in India would look different from a CCA project even though it draws on interpretive tradition. A short literature review of the articles on farmers’ suicides revealed to me that the aim of an interpretive project could focus on the ‘meanings’ of suicides (e.g. Münster, 2015; Kaushal, 2015; Shah, 2012). These articles also ground the meanings of suicides in a critical framework, where they offer a critique of statistical representations of the data by the Indian state, various forms of public discourse such as literary works, documentaries, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and singular cases where individuals from high paying jobs work for improving the situation of the farmers. Kaushal (2015) alludes to solidarity with the marginalized populations when she suggests that however distant the responses from middle class public discourses are from the realities of the farming households and however non-radical they may be, there is a room to think that at the same time, there is a ‘possibility for response that shows a learning from other lifeworlds’ (p.12). in this sense, I believe she is alluding to solidarity between the middle class publics with the marginalized/subaltern populations. For those ‘outside’ the lifeworld of agrarian life, she proposes alternative forms of political action, dialogue, and activism, such as seen in the book about the widowed women in the farming households in Punjab by Padhi (2012) and P. Sainath’s reportage. Münster (2015) on the other hand, critiques the representations of farmer suicides through statistics that reduces their meaning to enumeration by state records, as well as the scandalization of suicides in media representations. He speaks from his experience of conducting ethnographic work in the Wayanad district in Kerala. He suggests that even ethnography gives a representation of suicides, because the narrative of the doer himself is off-limits. Shah’s piece (2012) interprets the suicides through the framework of affect.
These works are interpretive as well as critical but they differ from CCA on the basis that CCA is a theory and a methodology of social change, not just critique. There are resonances between CCA and the approaches that Kaushal and Münster propose of course, for example, solidarity, dialogue, and ethnography for more authentic understanding are the common points. Consequently, CCA and both the authors mentioned above critique assuming an epistemologically superior stand on the part of the researcher. But CCA goes beyond critiquing, and requires actually involving in dialogue, and then taking it beyond the academic discourse and getting involved in campaigning if necessary or impacting policy frameworks. While Kaushal proposes the same, a CCA project would not end at only proposing. It pushes beyond, to actually doing.
Kaushal, A. (2015). Confronting Farmer Suicides in India. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 0304375415581258.
Münster, D. N. (2014). Farmers’ Suicides as Public Death: Politics, Agency and Statistics in a Suicide-Prone District (South India). Modern Asian Studies, 1-26.
Padhi, R. (2012). Those Who Did Not Die: Impact of the Agrarian Crisis on Women in Punjab. SAGE Publications India.
Shah, E. (2012). ‘A life wasted making dust’: affective histories of dearth, death, debt and farmers' suicides in India. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 39(5), 1159-1179.