Winter School on "Changing Grounds: Dynamics of Culture and Livelihood"

Event Time: 
09:00 AM to 05:00 PM
Event Venue: 
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi


This winter school (11-15 February 2019) invites students to reflect on the interaction between culture and livelihoods in processes of change. When considering change, often either the economic dimension or the cultural dimension is foregrounded, the other side neglected. In the life-worlds of specific communities and individuals, however, these dimensions necessarily converge and cannot be separated. The forms and materiality of subsistence are always enmeshed in symbolic processes and part of cultural ways of seeing the world and defining one’s identity. The recent reformulation of the concept of “resource” exactly aims at bridging this artificial divide between economy and culture (Bartelheim, Hardenberg, et al. 2015). Any resource is constructed by a given group of people according to what it values and a specific resource helps generating the means, products and relationships that are considered vital for its continued existence.

The winter school considers different forms of livelihoods. However, particular attention will be paid to crops such as rice, millet or wheat. We are especially interested in processes of competition between crops that drive the processes of change under discussion. For instance, despite the fact that millet has a high nutritious value and grows on dry soils in many places it has been marginalized by rice. In other instances cash crops or cheaper products from global markets put local grains under pressure. Juxtaposed in this way are not only crops but often life-styles. Certain crops are regarded as high status and “modern”, while other crops are considered to the inferior and “primitive”. Millet in particular has this fate in some regions as it is associated with allegedly harmful practice of shifting cultivation and “backward” Adivasi communities. Modes of livelihood thus always inform and are the basis of processes of identification and differentiation, of identity and alterity.

While we will also discuss the dynamics between culture and livelihoods with regard to other communities and contexts, we will especially focus on Indian Adivasi groups. With reference to these groups in particular we will ask, why people choose to abandon certain crops or other forms of livelihood and adopt another. Why is the cultivation of valuable crops abandoned and which factors play a role in this process? As usually cultivation is closely embedded in worldviews and related practices, how does such a change correspond to the ritual and religious dimensions of life? How do relationships between groups, but also with the state change accordingly? What are other relevant actors in this process?

The teachers of the winter school will present different theoretical frameworks — mainly from anthropology and sociology, but also from archeobotany — and will engage the students with specific case studies from different parts of India, for instance from the Nilgiris, Odisha and Rajasthan.


Dr. Peter Berger, University of Groningen (the Netherlands)
Prof. René Cappers, University of Groningen (the Netherlands)
Prof. Roland Hardenberg, Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany)
Prof. Frank Heidemann, Ludwig Maximillian University Munich (Germany)
Dr. Richa Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Dr. Sarbeswar Sahoo, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

Who Can Apply?

The winter school is meant for students who have completed their MA/M.Mphil degrees in the humanities or social sciences (or will do so in the near future), who have an interest in these topics and think about engaging in PhD research in this field in the future.

How to Apply?

Please send us a copy of your CV and a one page write up/research proposal on what your research is about or what you planning to work on in future PhD research. Please clearly state your research question in the proposal. Please send the documents to: When is the Last Date? The Last Date for sending your application is 15 December 2018.

Organising Institutions:

Indian Institute of Technology Delhi University of Groningen, the Netherlands Frobenius Institute, Goethe University of Frankfurt

Participation Fees:

The Winter School is free for Indian Students and for students from Partnering Institutions (University of Munich; University of Frankfurt and University of Groningen). Non-Indian students from non-partnering institutions are required to pay 200 Euros for the Winter School. This does not include their flight and accommodation. We will provide food during the day time (Lunch, Tea and Snack).


Dr Sarbeswar Sahoo
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Hauz Khas, New Delhi, 110016