Crafts producers and intermediation by government, NGOs and private businesses in rural Rajasthan, India

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Peter A. Castro


Crafts producers, Intermediation, Government, NGOs, Private businesses, Rajasthan, India, Rural economy

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology


This ethnography of development compares the impact of government, private and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on the livelihoods of male weavers and women embroiderers in rural Rajasthan, India. In recent years NGOs have emerged as key agents in development discourse and practice. Among their supposed main virtues, NGOs are seen as providing services in a more efficient and equitable manner than either the public or private sectors. Rather than analyzing NGOs in isolation, this study contrasts their activities with those of state agents and with private traders. In addition, the study examines the NGOs within their particular social context, history, and politics. By studying organizational collaborators and competitors on the ground, the research provides a more nuanced understanding of the actors' roles, as well as their impacts on, and their relevance for, poor people. This ethnography provides both emic and etic perspectives, as it is based on participant observation, structured interviews, informal discussions, and a detailed survey of 329 households in four villages of Rajasthan. There is a great diversity among the grassroots NGOs studied here owing to their specific context, history, and trajectory. My research indicates that the positive impacts of NGOs on crafts producers cannot be denied; however, the scale of their impact, the income gains for craft producers, and empowerment claims are often overstated. There is much contradiction and inconsistency between the goals of the NGOs and the goals of their employees. While one of the goals of NGOs is to protect artisans from elites who harness the bulk of power and benefits, this research suggests that the influence of NGOs actually leads, instead, to the growth of a new elite group among the poor. NGOs often malign private entrepreneurs as exploitative but the reality is much more complex, and in fact non-subsidized private entrepreneurs often provide more income to a wider population of craft producers than do the subsidized NGOs.


ISBN 9780549041733


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