Venkat Ramanujam Ramani
My Ph.D. research project, entitled Shifting human-nature interactions in the Maikal Hills of Madhya Pradesh, India, explores rural transformation in a community of forest-dwelling Baiga and Gond Adivasi communities in Central India. I combine an historical investigation with an ethnographic exploration of social and ecological change using a critical cultural theory approach drawing from Sherry Ortner and Pierre Bourdieu. I conducted extended fieldwork in the Baiga Chak region of Dindori District, Madhya Pradesh, to investigate (i) livelihood shifts towards agricultural intensification, wage employment, and migration, (ii) changing environmental attitudes, and self-perceptions among men and women of different generations, and (iii) religious values and practices in transition. In the process, my PhD thesis sheds light on the impact of social protection legislation, especially the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005, and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The thesis is currently under examination (as of May 2021).
Doctoral Advisory Committee
- Sharachchandra Lele, Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy and Governance, ATREE (Chair/ Ph.D. supervisor)
- Amita Baviskar, Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology & Anthropology, Ashoka University, Sonepat, India
- Ankila Hiremath, Fellow and Co-convenor, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, ATREE
My research interests lie at the intersection of political economy, critical agrarian studies, forest governance, and environmental history. Building on my doctoral research findings, I am currently examining Adivasi migration from Dindori District and its implications for an evolving environmental consciousness in the Maikal Hills.
In a previous avatar as a development worker, I worked with the central Nicobarese community in their post-tsunami reconstruction effort in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. My association with the central Nicobarese metamorphosed into a research engagement examining the socio-cultural impact of humanitarian intervention in the Nancowry archipelago.
Still earlier, I worked with forest-dwelling communities to regenerate the forest and pastoral commons in the Aravali Hills of southern Rajasthan in the capacity of Project Officer, Foundation for Ecological Security, Spearhead Team Udaipur.
- M.Phil. in Environment, Society, and Development, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (2010)
- M.A. in Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (2004)
- B.A. (Hons.) Economics, St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, India (2002)
- 2020: Deepak Damor Small Grant for Research in Critical Rural and Agarian Studies for study entitled 'Impact of MGNREGA on the rainfed Adivasi highland region of the Maikal Hills, Madhya Pradesh'
- 2019: DeFries-Bajpai Foundation Small Grant for study entitled 'Adivasi migration from the Maikal Hills of Madhya Pradesh: Motivations and changing environmental consciousness'
Talks and conference papers
- 2019: Innovation in a time of precarity: Indigenous livelihoods in transition in a central Indian forest. Presented at the Journal of Peasant Studies 2019 Summer Writeshop-Workshop in Critical Agrarian Studies and Scholar-Activism, College of Humanities and Development Studies, China Agricultural University, Beijing
- 2019: Agrarian change, forest rights, and an Adivasi-environment relationship in transition in the Maikal Hills, eastern Madhya Pradesh. Guest lecture at the Department of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonepat, Haryana
- 2019: Forest of ambivalence: Rights minus governance in the Maikal Hills of eastern Madhya Pradesh. Presented at "Entangled Natures: Conference on Human Ecology," Ambedkar University, Delhi
- 2018: Adivasis in transition? A journey through the Baiga Chak, eastern Madhya Pradesh. Talk given to a class of graduate students in public policy at FLAME University, Pune, India
- 2018: Changing Adivasi-commons relationship in Baiga Chak, eastern Madhya Pradesh. Presented at "Whither rural commons? State Policy, Natural Resources, and Rural India," Sixth Conference of the Network of Rural and Agrarian Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India
- 2018: Recasting a ruin: Adivasi-led 'restoration' and religious identities in transition in a central Indian forest. Presented at conference on "Relevance of Archaeology for 21st century India," National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru, India
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2017) Forest Rights in Baiga Chak, Madhya Pradesh, Economic and Political Weekly, 52 (25 & 26), pp. 47-50 [pdf]
- Thorat, O., Ronita Mukherjee, R. Venkat Ramanujam, Vikram Aditya, and M. Soubadra Devy (2016) Patterns of herbivory on Macaranga peltata, a pioneer species in the mid-elevation forests of the Western Ghats, Current Science, 111 (5), pp. 790-92 [pdf]
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2015) NTFP decline in the Maikal Hills: What are its implications? Protected Area Update (No. 114), Vol. 21, No. 2. [pdf]
- Lele, S., R. Venkat Ramanujam, J. Rai (2015) Co-operative procurement and marketing of tendu leaves in Madhya Pradesh: Image and reality. Environment and Development Discussion Paper No. 3. Bengaluru: Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.[pdf]
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat, Simron Jit Singh & Arild Vatn (2012) 'From the ashes into the fire: Institutional change in the post-tsunami Nicobar Islands.' Society and Natural Resources, 25 (11), pp. 1152-1166.[pdf]
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2010), Gifts without dignity? Gift-giving, reciprocity, and the tsunami response in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Unpublished M.Phil. thesis. Cambridge: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.[pdf]
- Singh, S. J. & R. Venkat Ramanujam (2010), ‘Exploring ecological “unequal” exchange using land and labour appropriation: Trade in the Nicobar Islands, 1880-2000’. In: Hornborg, A. & A.K. Jorgenson (eds.) Global Trade and Environmental Justice: New Approaches to Political Ecology, New York: Nova Publishers.
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2004), Opportunity cost of forest conservation in Kenya . Unpublished Master’s thesis. Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2019) Subordinated pasts, subordinated present? Review of Zehmisch, P., 'Mini-India: The politics of migration and subalternity in the Andaman Islands', Economic and Political Weekly, 54 (24), pp. 27-29. [pdf]
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2011) Local/regional/global resonances. Review of Kumar, D., Vinita Damodaran, and Rohan D'Souza, (Eds.) 'The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia.' The Book Review, 35 (8-9).
- Ramanujam, R. Venkat (2010) Moral imperatives of the development paradigm. Review of Pandian, A. 'Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India.'The Book Review, 34 (12), pp. 3-4.