MWS OPUS Workshop

Agricultural Market Transformation: Past, Present, Future

with Barbara Harriss-White

24 March 2023, The Claridges, New Delhi

This is the first in the MWS OPUS series of workshops with distinguished scholars, where participants will read and critically engage with a selection of texts from the opus of respective scholars. This workshop with MWS’s Distinguished Research Fellow Barbara Harriss-White will examine a selection of her vast body of literature from field economics that is accessible to non-economists to understand transformations in agricultural commodity markets over the last half a century. The workshop will explore, develop and critique the idea that field and analytical approaches developed for the pre- and early-liberalization period are enduringly relevant in the current era. The workshop participants will think with a set of texts around the following broad themes: (i) methodologies of long-term case studies, (ii) economic roles of post-harvest markets, (iii) markets and class relations, (iv) state regulation and market-driven politics, and (v) forms of social authority in the economy.  

Barbara Harriss-White has been engaged in fieldwork across four (now six) districts of India since 1972: North Arcot (now Vellore and Tiruvannamalai) and Coimbatore (now Coimbatore and Tiruppur) in Tamil Nadu and Birbhum and Bardhaman in West Bengal. This long-term research has involved compiling business histories for hundreds of urban and rural wholesale and retail traders, brokers and financers, transporters and processors in towns, villages and periodic markets; interviews with market workers and officials involved in regulating markets; and collecting and analysing prices and official documents. It has generated  an extensive opus of 40 authored and edited/co-edited books and reports, over 270 scholarly papers and chapters, and over 100 working papers. Some of the books published on this research include Transitional Trade and Rural Development: Nature and Role of Agricultural Trade in a South Indian District (1981), Agricultural Change and the Mercantile State: A Study of Public Policy in Tamil Nadu (1985), A Political Economy of Agricultural Markets in South India: Masters of the Countryside (1996), Rural Commercial Capital: Agricultural Markets In West Bengal (2008), Agricultural Markets from Theory to Practice: Field Experience in Developing Countries (ed. 1998),India Working: Essays on Economy and Society (2003) and Middle India and Urban–Rural Development: Four Decades of Change (ed. 2016).

Barbara Harriss-White is Emeritus Professor and Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford University; Visiting Professor, Jawarharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 

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