The future of the rural world? Indian villages, 1950-2015

Key information

10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery
Exhibition Rooms
Event type

About this event

The villages of India have played a surprisingly important role in the way many of the world’s key thinkers, including Karl Marx, have conceived of human origins, history and progress.

In this spirit, the exhibition showcases examples from the long-term study of three Indian villages, as a way to think more broadly about the possible futures of the rural world.

When these villages were first studied in the 1950s, India was recently independent and a spirit of optimism reigned in the country. The countryside was seen as a ‘vast rural slum’ in need of development. The Indian countryside became site of intense Cold War activity as the USSR and USA competed for markets and influence. Studying the same villages again today has allowed us to see, in unrivalled detail, the changes which have occurred during a unique period of India’s post-colonial history.

Once upon a time, the rural world was thought of as the cradle of the nation, a place of earthy wisdom and the antidote to unsustainable and destructive modernisation.  But our relationships with pastoral and agricultural landscapes have changed.  Has the village become the waiting room for the labour markets of the city?  Does the village and the rural world still hold the key to the survival of our planet?

By looking to the past, we are encouraged to look to the future.  Who lives in villages today? What are the materials of life – mud, cement, plastic?  Are villages’ places of peace or conflict? What language and theories can we use to rethink cities, villages and our relationships to them? And perhaps most significantly, what can we learn from the Indian village?  Are there lessons here which will better prepare us for our future world?


Try the quiz about the exhibition

Film from the exhibition

Loading the player...

The Civility of Indifference

Loading the player...

Sundarana (2014)

Sample Images