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Understanding Domestic Space in Kewat Community

Ethnography

Individual Project- MDes Social Design, Ambedkar University Delhi

March 2014

Kewat Community in the Village

The Study

As a part of training in ethnographic research, Rural studies exposes a student to a completely strange setting. This research was conducted to understand the social dynamics in the households of the Kewat community of village Shivni in Madhya Pradesh, India. The research methodology involved ethnography and qualitative interviews to understand how the physical boundaries in a household translate into social and sometimes power dynamics within the family. A study of spatial arrangements and segregation in the houses was also carried out to understand the same.

Method

The villagers predominantly belonged to three communities that are positioned at different levels on the social ladder. Gaining permission from the households to conduct the study was part of the process. The study spanned over a period of one week in which participant observation was carried out from 8-9 am in the morning to 6 pm in the evening. Three households located next to each other were part of this study. Qualitative unstructured interviews helped understand the actions of the family members. 

Findings

Most houses in the village have similar elements in their architecture. The size varies, but the way they are used are similar across the community. The design of boundaries of the house, usually visibly coated with lime, impose the notions of private and semi-private parts in the households. These boundaries are not only physical but also form intangible boundaries that set the stage for gendered roles of the members of the family.  

ANGAN

VERANDAH

Sometimes the boundaries take on a dimensional form outside the houses. The Otha in the image marks the entrance of the house whereas Tipti is for social gathering or for performing household chores like drying spices in sun. The Tipti is used by women during the daytime while men are at work. After sunset, men occupy the space to relax or sometimes to sleep at night during summers.

TIPTI

OTHA

The Kewat community holds a complicated system of inheritance. In a household, one can find up to three generations living together. In such cases, the division of the house, amongst the sons, often results in the actual division of the house and properties owned by the families. Therefore it is not uncommon to find unusual lines made by the families to divide the space within the house. But the family also shares common spaces in Verandah and Angan (a concept similar to patio) which is used by women during the day and men during the evenings after they return from work.

LINE DRAWN TO DEMARCATE SPACE

WOMEN SPENDING TIME IN THE ANGAN DURING DAY

ELDER MEN SPENDING TIME IN THE VERANDAH

However, this type of segregation does not stop at lines drawn on the floor. Here is an example of how the belongings are strictly segregated as well. A cot used to block entry into a room to ensure privacy and simple everyday objects like toys and spices are stored in locked cupboards. 

A COT USED TO DEMARCATE SPACE

OBJECTS OF EVERYDAY USE LOCKED UP IN A CUPBOARD

The detailed report of research, which was the deliverable of the project, also had a focus on the role of women in the households. This project was formal training in Ethnography. The instructors would give critiques and advice after the briefing, every evening after visit to the village. This helped in streamlining the research. 

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