From a 10-day migration visit across Gujarat with 3 Rabari Dhangars (a nomadic community group that travels together)


The HERDING project is an ethnographic study funded by the British Academy’s Sustainable Development Research Program.


By focusing on one of the most socially, politically, and economically marginalized groups in India: pastoralist women, it contributes to a global

pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’ as was made when the Sustainable Development Goals were launched in 2015.

While the study revolved around pastoralist women in four communities in Gujarat, Maharashtra,

and Himachal Pradesh, my engagement primarily lay in working with the Jat and Rabari women in Gujarat, in collaboration with Sahajeevan in

Bhuj, Kutch.




How do pastoralist women in India live, perceive and mobilize aspects of their

religio-cultural heritage to lay claim to sustaining livelihoods of dignity within and outside mobile pastoralism?


Research &

Field Assistant,  

Gujarat Region


Sushma Iyengar,

Archana Choksi


Ethnographic Research


6 Months


As a Research & Field Assistant for the Gujarat Region, my scope of work included:


1. Engaging in exploring the wider field of pastoralism, thus contributing to an understanding of the transforming socio-cultural identities and the impact of religion in different geographies and pastoral ecosystems. 


2. Collaborating and working closely with the facilitating organizations of Gujarat.


3.  Designing and documenting dialogues with the facilitating organizations, community of women pastoralists, individual women, the community as a whole, and all allied, associated and interest groups, individuals as well as institutions. 


4.  Undertaking, assisting, and organizing secondary research and generating primary as well as secondary data, as required for the research.


5.  Assisting in writing and developing the textual, visual, and oral documentation of the research.  

From my first 7-day visit stay with Naani and Sheru's family in Dhragavaandh, Kutch

From interviews and meetings with community heads and decision-makers.

From a 10-day migration visit across Gujarat with 3 Rabari Dhangars (a nomadic community group that travels together)

From an independent study to understand the relationship between pastoral communities and urban markets,

particularly in exploring the shifts in visual culture


Due to copyright restrictions, I am unable to share more details.

However, if you wish to know more about this project, please reach out at

IMG_8855 (3).JPG

To these wonderful women, who let me be a part of their lives



I followed the lives of pastoralist women in their every day, in their households and on their routes, as they traversed across the dessert, marching alongside their herd. 

I listened as they churned butter, as they prayed, and as they walked the paths that led to their empowerment and some to their discrimination. 

I walked because I wanted to experience the labor entailed in this journey of theirs, also because I hadn't walked such long distances, not seen these villages, not been part of such groups of women, hadn't slept in these husked houses. I hadn't eaten from a chulha, nor tasted what chai made from camel milk tastes like. I hadn't known what trauma looked like, nor love in these spaces.

I walked, for I wanted to know this life. I wanted to learn from this living; I wanted to live it in some ways. I wanted the women to know that I want to learn with them, and at the same time being quite aware of my positionality and power, located as a researcher from Mumbai. However, to clarify,

I didn't want to know because of my

un-knowingness of this experience, which might be like an orientalist, intrusive eye ready to devour the unknown' experience. My position was anything but that.

I treaded these paths in my urge to form a relationship with these women,  I wanted to understand the value of feminist research in the nature of intimacy of a relationship with other women, with women from Kutch, whom I shared an ancestry with, a language with, yet

nothing with.

I wanted to understand the question of empowerment, of gender, of faith, through relationally understanding the lives of women in this context, and perhaps also asking myself the question of who am I in this study, who's voices am I recording, what meaning am I inscribing into these voices and what are the spaces that will then hold these voices?

I walked to learn to un-learn and learn what it meant to be a 3-year-old, a 20-year-old, a 40-year-old, and a 60-year-old pastoral

woman in India.