Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Ahona Palchoudhuri

PhD Candidate in Anthropology
Summer Fellow 2018
Open Graduate Fellow in Musicology and Ethnomusicology

Title: The Making and Receiving of Rain: Labor, Tempo and the Ordinary Life of Climate-Change

What kind of anthropological object is rain? In drought-prone rural West Bengal, life is lived in anticipation of the monsoons. Rain is thus not simply a disenchanted pattern of meteorological data, but also intensely longed for and transformed through embodied and affective relations to particular ecologies of experience. Ahona’s project investigates the seasonal lives of three neighboring communities of “earth-workers” – paddy-cultivators, potters, and musicians – in south-west Bankura, each of whom claim that their form of labor has a direct influence on the timely arrival of rain. 

Through ethnographic research, she investigates the tempos of seasonal labor and modalities of transformation adopted by these communities, focusing on the joint technologies of 1) an indigenous strain of winter paddy, 2) an annual rain-making ritual, and 3) a monsoonal form of classical music. At a time of increasing agricultural distress in rural Bengal, she explores the modes of attunement, and shared ontological frameworks deployed by these technologies as everyday interventions in climate. While social scientists often study rain from within instances of natural disaster and climate crises, Ahona’s project focuses on the physical and metaphysical contexts within which rain is made and received, and the forms of life that it animates in relation to the earth.

Ahona received the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2020-2021) to conduct fieldwork for this project.