Life or debt: An oral history approach to understanding the role of debt in farmer lives and livelihoods in Telangana, India.

Authors: Vaishnavi Tripuraneni*,
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: oral histories, debt, agrarian livelihoods, political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Studies of debt are normally grounded in quantitative approaches. In my political ecology study of farmer livelihoods and debt in South India, I use a mixed methods approach, with a focus on life and debt histories. Mixed methods, i.e., a use of qualitative and quantitative methods in tandem, are a key feature of political ecology studies (Zimmerer 2015). Life histories have long been used in disciplines such as sociology and anthropology (Adriansen, 2012; Cole & Knowles, 2001). They are a very useful tool to gain insights into how the patterns in different life stories are related to broader social, political, and environmental contexts (Adriansen, 2012; Cole & Knowles, 2001; George & Stratford, 2005), and gain significant insights into the lived realities of the poor and poverty dynamics (Kothari & Hulme, 2004). Drawing from this life history research tradition, I have conducted life and debt histories of farmers to explore the conditions under which they are in different levels of debt, adopt capital-intensive agriculture techniques, and what their livelihood strategies and challenges look like. These life and debt histories, along with semi-structured interviews, and a quantitative farmer household survey, as well as rainfall data, uncover the specific conditions, and life events that lead farmers to make the choices that they do, that cause different debt and livelihood outcomes.

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