The home and the world: Everyday interactions between "learners" and "teachers" in the Shakti Valley, India

Pritha Gopalan, University of Pennsylvania


This ethnographic study was conducted in four villages in the Shakti Valley of Koraput, India. It focuses on the patterns of learning of households and communities within the villages as they came in contact with influences from the outside world. Informants term the world outside the "pant-shirt" world, and describe it as an oppressive environment which dictates the norms of culture and society within households and communities. These dictates were responded to with fear and subservience in the past, and are now met with ambivalence as people weigh the good and bad aspects of being incorporated wholesale in the pant-shirt world and set up their areas of resistance and acceptance accordingly. The pant-shirt world had itself expanded over time from including just agents of the British Raj to agents of industry, government, voluntary organizations, religious groups and the residents of the nearby industrial towns. Four major realms of interaction between villagers and pant shirt people were identified; Household, Village/Community, Economic and Political realms. A major finding of the study is that villagers were more ambivalent to pant-shirt agents entering their households and communities to change established modes of healthcare, gender and caste relations and other such community practices, but more accepting of their authority in the realms of work and polity, where money and/or power could be gained. The study concludes that the approach of the pant-shirt agent is the key to understanding the patterns of acceptance and rejection seen in the sites. Since the household is a realm of security and privacy, agents need to be seen as kin or community members in order to be effectively heard within private and meaningful spaces. Thus, to change the traditional household practices of health, saving, and child raising, the agent has to understand their meaning to the households in question and broach the topic in a context of mutual understanding and trust, rather than in a modernistic equation of unequal power.

Subject Area

Social structure|Ethnic studies|Cultural anthropology|Adult education|South Asian Studies

Recommended Citation

Gopalan, Pritha, "The home and the world: Everyday interactions between "learners" and "teachers" in the Shakti Valley, India" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727228.