Orientation Programme in Kesla
The orientation programme for the course takes place in the rural campus of PRADAN, in Kesla, Madhya Pradesh. During the orientation program students are given both on campus training on the approach of the course through discussions, activities, film screenings and so on. Students are also exposed to PRADANs work on the field and encouraged to engage with communities through introductory village visits, hand-held group engagements with SHGs like the Narmada Mahila Sangh who also partake in training the students in collaborative discussions. The orientation program aims to give the student a taste of the journey that lies ahead, is challenging but also a rewarding experience before the course begins.
Students are expected to go through three immersion in different semesters, the last being the longest. The three immersion sum to a total of 10 months during which students are expected to live in and around their village, deepen their questions and design appropriate actions for their researches.
Rationale of Immersions
We have created the context, structure, rationale, objective of the three village immersions in the course as follows:
- The focus of Immersion I (Jan-Feb, 2nd semester) is primarily on the ‘self’; this two-month Immersion divided into Village Stay (in a rural household, for 1 month) and Village Study (for 1 month) is about setting the compass of the inner self, in the direction of becoming a development practitioner. It is about being in touch with one’s inner conviction, conviction to work in the rural, with the rural poor, and among poor women. However, Immersion I is not just about the self but also about extending oneself towards community/groups and learning to relate with them.
- The focus of Immersion II (June-July, 2nd semester) is on the Community and on Group Processes. Immersion II is about setting up a relation with the rural community/group; it is about finding community/group voice; but also about extending oneself (and community) towards a shared action research agenda – an action research agenda emerging out of the needs of the community. The AUD-PRADAN collaboration arrived at the understanding that Immersion II is to have a double/dual role. The two roles/purposes are however are closely interrelated. On the one hand, Immersion II is a course that would take the student to a sound understanding of groups and community contexts, as also an appreciation of how groups work (or not work; when it does not work), how groups are forged. On the other hand, Immersion II is also about a deepening of one’s nascent Action Research question. However, the deepening of the Action Research question is not something one does alone. It is not done in the ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ mode. One is expected to do it in the ‘we’/‘us’ mode. The idea is to deepen the Action Research project in collaboration with the community/group one is working with. In this new imagination of research ‘poor rural women’ are not our objects of knowledge, but our co-researchers. They are not just ‘native tribal informants’ but ‘co-producers of knowledge’. The ‘gendered subaltern’ thus becomes a colleague in research and action. The local SHGs see possibilities of transformative social action based on our research findings.
- The focus of Immersion III (Jan-April, 4th semester) is on Action Research; it is about setting up a relation with the action research question, about conducting action research (i.e. about extending the research findings towards action and institutional change) and moving towards a reflection on action.
Design of Immersion
- Experience, engage, and relate to with intensely and in a psychoanalytically sensitive manner with adivasi life worlds (as also dalit contexts)
- Co-research rigorously with the ‘community’, questions, issues, problems relevant to the community (including attention to psycho-biographs of hope, despair and desire)
- Arrive at an action research problematic collaboratively with the community
- Develop a framework of action-ing the co-researched finding(s), and finally
- Research in a theoretically rigorous manner the action-ing process.
This MPhil programme takes ‘transformation’ (or ‘transformative social action’) as its object of enquiry – transformation along the mutually constitutive axes of class, caste, gender, ethnicity, poverty, violence, governance, livelihoods, education and health and so on.