Social Reproduction

Lodhi Garden

Walking in the Lodhi Gardens, what captured my eye was the flocking instinct of black birds. They were all sitting gathered on a wire in a row with each one of them facing the same direction. Every few minutes they would fly away and sit again on the same wire. I have no idea as to what prompted the flying. There was no clearly defined leader yet they all seemed to follow something. A similar behaviour can be observed among swifts, pigeons and parrots. While crows and falcons that gather around dump sites do so in a hierarchy.

We have an equivalent of this behavior among nomadic tribes, zoom cultivators and hunter gatherers as I learnt during my recent trip to Mizoram. We are the only animals who are capable of collective actions that go beyond just gathering together. For that to happen we need to maintain the uniformity of language and communication over time and space. We, in its modern day equivalent, do it through conferences and meetings of professionals and on chats and facebook, etc.

The need to communicate is to stay connected. Just as we need each other to biologically reproduce, we need each other to socially reproduce so we can communicate with each other and relate to experiences. Spoken language alone is not enough. Social reproduction allows us to create civilizations, Taj Mahal, Sanchi Stupa, Jantar Mantar, etc. that can only happen when societies feel connected and are able to go beyond everyday existence to create something magnificent.

Interestingly my field work in Delhi slums showed that the migrants into the city too follow this behaviour. Those that come into the city in search of labour do not settle randomly. They settle near people of their ‘own type.’ The single male migrants live as paying guests with people from their own village, region, who eat the same food and speak the same language. So often, in spite of them being slums, one finds unique constructions of these huts.


Environmental anthropologist by training, been in the field for over 20 years, Gialome (pseudonym) is mainly concerned with the impacts of infrastructure and technology projects on local communities.

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