SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Natarajan, Nithya (2019) Changing Dynamics of Tobacco Production and Exchange in South India: Towards a Socio-Ecological Analysis. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

Text - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (5MB) | Preview


This thesis explores the declining production and exchange of tobacco in South India through a theoretical lens that is attendant to the changing dynamics of socio-ecological factors. The thesis builds on a broader literature of research which has highlighted the uneven and complex process of agrarian change that is underway across Tamil Nadu, and India more broadly, to focus on how this process can be understood through changing dynamics of ecology, articulated with shifting social and political factors. In order to do so, the thesis combines recent approaches from Green Marxism with critical agrarian literature on India’s agrarian transition, to develop a theoretical lens that asks how social and ecological factors are articulated in shaping change. The thesis draws on fieldwork undertaken in 2014-2015, comprising semi-structured interviews with 68 tobacco farmers and traders, two focus groups with labourers, observation, informal encounters with rural actors, and further interviews with relevant people from government and non-governmental organisations. Through analysis, the thesis highlights how tobacco’s success is linked to shifting regimes of appropriating nature, and how this is in turn shaping its decline in the current era, as water and soil wealth become more expensive to appropriate. The thesis ultimately suggests that analyses of agrarian change must be more attendant to the ways in which agrarian production draws on the wealth of nature, the specific processes and labour relations required to do so in different geographies, how these are reshaped by political economy factors, and how nature is in turn affected through such processes. The concluding chapter draws together insights from the thesis to suggest paths ahead for future research in this vein.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Alessandra Mezzadri
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2020 13:57

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item