Social Sciences
Traditional health systems in India
Traditional health systems in India

The activities of the Social Sciences Department are conducted with an Indian and South Asian regional perspective. They are undertaken through scientific programmes submitted to Agencies (ANR, EU-PCRD…) and Foundations. The research programmes are conducted in cooperation with Indian partners. They are of a multidisciplinary nature, combining notably, demography, anthropology, history, economics, law and geography.

The Department, since its creation in 1988, has built a frame of reference in terms of study of demography, urban dynamics, anthropology of health (traditional medicines, mental health and public health) and economics (labour and indebtedness). Most of these subjects have been enriched through new programmes and collaborations related to judicial practices, food and nutrition, or environmental issues. The current programmes are organised around four axes (see below) with the objective to document and to analyse contemporary dynamics. Hence, beyond thematic organisation, transversal topics are tackled such as :

  • Processes of inclusion and exclusion
  • Circulations, transformations and resistance of social orders
  • Generation and contestation of knowledge and expertise
  • Governance of risks
  • Representations of selves and others
  • The creation of archives and audiovisual materials

The Department is involved in research training. It welcomes PhD candidates and Master-level trainees. It also co-organises an annual intensive training in methodologies used in Social Sciences research, called «Social Sciences Winter School».

Axis 1. Health, Food and Societies

Two programmes are developed in this axis. Some of the projects that come within the purview of these programmes have already been completed, nevertheless, some upcoming projects will still come under the general research orientations of this axis.

- The programme "MeSH – Medicine Environment Societies Health (South Asia)" examines healthcare traditions and practices, giving particular attention to their social and political dynamics, to epistemological and ontological transformations in practice. The general objective is to understand how contemporary therapeutic spaces and resources have been identified, formed, mobilised, used and legitimated.

- The programme "Food and Nutrition in Indian Contexts" analyses the changes of food patterns in contemporary South India. Food being largely dependent on resources provided by the milieu and the way of life, this programme investigates the complexity of factors -historical, political and economic, socio-cultural, environmental and agricultural, psychological and ideological- which drives food preference and habits, and their impact on health. A special focus is steered to the food patrimony and its relevance in contemporary India in terms of health and environment.

Axis 2. Urban, Rural and Environmental Changes

Within the broader rubric of sustainability, research in this axis examines the formidable transformations that accompanied the process of economic liberalization begun some twenty years ago and the influence of globalisation.

- Projects on urbanization gather statistical and qualitative data related to the dynamics of urban growth of Indian megalopolises, secondary metropolises and small and medium-sized towns: Subaltern Urbanization in India. Multidisciplinary studies of localities like the Chance2Sustain and the "Migration and transnational Islam" project question the transfer of land ownership, network dynamics, circulations and how the local is regulated and rearticulated to the global.

- Projects on agriculture and rural development, focusing on milk production, India Milk (REPASTOL), agrarian transition, etc.

- Changes in water uses, institutions and policies are studied with interdisciplinary approaches. The programme on "Past water systems and landscapes" explores the ways in which people and society coped with hydroclimatic constraints, disturbances, hazards, and insecurity and the impact of climate anomalies on societal development in medieval times. The programme on "Water and Territories" focuses on the water and land nexus. It analyses the way that water and land issues are dealt and made visible by some artefacts and agents. It studies how those concerned deal with the tensions between development and preservation.

Axis 3. Household Vulnerabilities, Labour and Socioeconomic Dynamics

The axis “Household Vulnerabilities, Labour, and Socioeconomic Dynamics”, divided in two research programmes, aims to analyse how structural changes in contemporary rural India reshape labour organization, social hierarchies and household livelihoods. /p>

The first programme: "Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics", coordinated by Dr. Isabelle Guérin, focus on financial practices (i.e. indebtedness, consumption, savings, etc.) and bonded labour in South India. More precisely, this program seeks to understand the evolution of the financial practices, embedded in a complex system of social, labour and politic relationships.

The second programme: "LAbour, sKills, Social networks and Mobilities in India (LAKSMI)", coordinated by Dr. Christophe Jalil Nordman, aims at understanding the linkages between household and individuals’ labour, skills, social networks and social and spatial mobilities. This includes the investigation of various forces at play, spanning from the role of social structure (norms and institutions), the development and use of social networks, to the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills.

Axis 4. Law, Customs and Social Structures

There is a long-standing tradition of multidisciplinary interest and production in the field of legal issues and customs in the IFP, across its different departments and projects. The Department of Social Sciences decided to consolidate the interest and expertise, combined with the arrival of new projects, by developing in 2009 an axis on legal anthropology with socio-historical approaches as well as contemporary comparative perspectives on several subjects: Processes and procedures of caste panchayats and their articulation with State law; Conflict management in Tamil agrarian society ; Law in societies wholly or partly Muslim, Transformation and continuity of agrarian power structures.


Contact: Dr. Hélène Guétat-Bernard, Head of Department