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Progressive laws, Regressive practice? Gender, land and productivity in India

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr AM Price.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A and drinks reception. All are welcome to attend.

Since Independence, India’s inheritance laws have moved towards substantial gender equality. But how far has equality permeated practice? Although women are major contributors as farmers, how many own agricultural land? And in what capacity do they own it – as daughters or elderly widows? Equally, how do female owners perform in terms of farm productivity relative to male owners? These questions have been little addressed in the Indian context, especially due to data scarcity. This presentation, based on two recent papers, provides answers. Using a unique longitudinal dataset, the research assesses inter-gender (male-female) gaps in land ownership through multiple indicators, over 2009–2014, across nine states. It also analyses intra-gender gaps between women, examining if the legal strengthening of daughters’ rights has overcome the historically embedded legitimacy of widows’ claims. Finally, it compares female and male owners in terms of their land use and productivity.

Agarwal’s interdisciplinary research covers diverse topics, including property and land rights, technological change, environmental governance, bargaining and gender relations, law, and poverty, analysed from a political economy and gender perspective. Her 13 books include the prize-winning, A Field of One’s Own (Cambridge University Press, 1994); Gender and Green Governance (Oxford University Press, 2010); and Gender Challenges (OUP, 2016), a three-volume compendium of her selected papers. She has garnered many awards, including a Padma Shri in 2008 from India’s President; the Leontief Prize 2010 ‘for advancing the frontiers of economic thought’; the Louis Malassis International Scientist Prize 2017; and the International Balzan Prize 2017. She is now writing a book on Group farming in Asia and Europe.

This talk is part of the Centre for History and Economics series.

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