About the program
The MPhil programme is the first programme of its kind and attempts to introduce each year into the development sector a cohort of developmental professionals imbued with alternative visions of development and innovative grassroots level action plans borne out of (i) a critical engagement with theories of development, (ii) rural immersion, (iii) practice-based learning, (iv) self-reflection and (v) engaged scholarship. Building on PRADAN’s existing work in the rural  this programme, housed in an University, is thus an attempt to offer to the country at large a cohort of professionals who do not just ‘study’ the rural but bring change to the rural and become themselves harbingers of social transformation.

The MPhil programme in Development Practice places the question of (rural) transformation – including transformation of human subjects – at the core of its enquiry, research and practice. The overarching objective is to critically engage with and reflect on existing developmental discourse and practice, usher in psychological-psychoanalytic sensitivity in our work with communities and rethink and rework the associated developmental sectoral practices and practices of self, social and political transformation in the rural and forest communities.

The programme in Development Practice however has two broader/larger goals:

(i)         (a) to institutionalize in a University setting the professionalizing of rural development practice (where developmental practice is seen as a socially meaningful and legitimate arena of work)

(b) to de-institutionalize the existing imagination of the University through its partnership with a grassroots level developmental sector agent of change (here PRADAN) and take it to the rural sector, make its University-level work relevant to the needs of the rural poor and

(ii)        to build ‘capacities’ in terms of developing and increasing the pool of quality human resource in the developmental sector.

 Agenda and Pedagogy of the Programme
The Advisory Board suggested that the MPhil programme needs to be built around four components – perspective, reflection, experience and development sector specific skills – in a balanced mix. In our deliberations over the last two years, the MPhil programme in Development Practice seems to be evolving around a five-fold agenda:

(a) Develop a critical-analytical-reflective relation with the mainstream discourse of development (not to criticize or discard, but to re-form). Courses like Philosophy of Development Practice, Understanding the Rural, Equality Discrimination Marginalization in Rural Contexts, Philosophy of Justice, Discourses on Well-Being, Politics Resistance Transformation in the Rural, Gender and Development etc. are making an attempt to generate such a sensibility, without which we shall remain passive implementers of given (western) models of development.

(b) Engender a kind of self-transformation; engender perhaps a ‘non-coercive reorganization of desire’. We try to do this in courses like Experiencing the Self: Relating with Others, Listening Learning Communicating, Immersion I (Village Stay), without which development would remain quantitative, top-down, Statist and would have no ‘human or relational context’. This is also important because bottom-up or grassroots level developmental work is not just about knowing or about getting the numbers right but has much to do with feeling-states; developmental practice/action without feeling is most often a liability to both the sector and the community. Immersion I is crucial to a reaching of this feeling-state in terms of one’s nascent identification with the (suffering of the) rural poor; the fact that students actually live in the household of a villager, which in other words, is the living of the life of the rural poor for a month in the second semester. This gives the student a sense of what it is to live in destitution/marginalization, as also to remain torn between hope and despair.

(c) Learning to relate with Groups and learning to work in Community Contexts. We try to do this in L-Groups and in ImmersionII, as also in courses like Participatory Rural Appraisal and Grassroots Engagement Methodology; the Theatre Workshop (Theatre of the Oppressed) conducted at Kesla would have also contributed; where we see community not as something given but as an ever-emergent being-in-common (we have in mind Jean-Luc Nancy’s book on the question of community: Inoperative Community). Much of Higher Education in India focuses on individual excellence. There is hardly any training in working in groups and learning through group processes. The MPhil in Development Practice is a training to also relate to groups (in rural contexts) and to the rural in terms of groups and not in terms of just individuals. This in addition to strengthening the inner resolve of the student (about to emerge as a development practitioner), sets to tune and balance the inner compass of the self between ‘self-perspective/standpoint’ and ‘group-perspective/standpoint’.


(d) Develop a framework for Action Research. We try to give shape to the action research proposal of each student through Dissertation Seminars and Research Methodology courses.

(e) Learning to Impact Institutions (family, rural community, Self Help Groups, State, panchayats, gram sabhas etc.). We shall try to do this through a community specific action research agenda in Immersion III. The impact of this action agenda shall be deepened over the years because we plan to  continue to work in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal.

We see the CDP as a space where this five-fold agenda will take shape in their mutual constitutivity and not just as add-ons. CDP shall be the space where scholars specializing on developmental questions (both theoretical and practical, both discursive and experiential), on group processes (and group dynamics), on psychologies of the self – both suffering and re-creative, on action research, and rural grassroots work shall come together to give shape to the field/discipline through exchange, discussion and collaborative research/action.

 Duration of the course
2 years

How to Apply?

Interested candidates can apply online when the call is announced through the university website. Candidates are expected to submit a writing sample (an action research proposal which will be evaluated) along with completed application form.

Selection Process

The Selection Process will include: Essay-type test: As a part of the application procedure, a set of text(s) will be uploaded on the website. Applicants will be asked to respond to questions from these text(s). Candidates will be short-listed on the basis of scores obtained on the abovementioned tests. The shortlisted candidates will undergo: · Two rounds of Group Discussion (GD) followed by an Individual Interview.

Credits: 64

Course Outline


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.

Rural Immersion
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.