25 June, 2021

Inside The Unfree State

A feminist economist holds forth on ecology, agriculture, family, state

Photograph by Sanjay Rawat
Inside The Unfree State

Few academic writers are as prolific as Bina Agarwal. In her latest off­ering, she brings together already published papers comprising three decades of research and writing. A somewhat formidable task, for how do you select, classify, compile? Agarwal deals with it thematically, choosing to put her papers together around a cluster of issues of her concern.

In doing so—and because the introductions to each volume map the author’s trajectory and academic-political leaning on each issue—the volumes come to acquire a sort of chronology, starting somewhere in the ’70s, when Agarwal was still a student researcher, to her position today as a leading feminist economist.

The first volume focuses on agriculture, techn­ology and food security—issues that were curr­ent in the ’70s when agriculture contributed 45 per cent of India’s GDP and over 75 per cent of its employment. Here, Agarwal traces her own contribution to the discussion about technology in agriculture—then, principally tractors—which posed important...

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