Land & Livelihood Studies (M.A.)


"Oh, horse, what difference does it make to you if you are stolen by a thief? You do not get much to eat here; you will not get much to eat there. No matter who becomes the next master, we will remain slaves. We must look after our own interests." - Translation from Fakir Mohan Senapati's Six Acres and a Third

A Lambani herder


Access to land is a key determinant for livelihood security, and it is becoming highly contested in rural and urban areas. Increasingly, livelihoods based directly from land are becoming precarious; and land for the basic necessity of housing is also becoming unaffordable. In the last two decades we have witnessed changes in the pattern of investments and the nature of industrialization, growth of the service sector, rapid urbanization, agrarian distress, and rather polarized environmental debates. These changes have added a new dimension to the set of relationships that have previously determined ownership of land, work based on land including labour, the environmental quality of land, and food security. The increasing commodification of land is contributing to widening inequalities in rural and urban communities. Moreover “livelihoods” are also being fetishized in many State and non-State interventions, where people are viewed only as beneficiaries, and not as real actors with their own sense of agency.

Given that the overarching economic processes are mediating access to land and livelihoods in many different ways today, it has become imperative to study the issues of land and livelihood in a trans-disciplinary manner, and reorient the way in which we approach questions about who gains access and who controls access to land and how, and the changing meaning, value, and nature of land and land based livelihoods. We imagine that design thinking when integrated with theoretical engagement and context-specific fieldwork will nurture a new generation of thinkers and makers to innovate interventions, critique existing policies, design archives and interfaces that can constructively address the land and livelihood needs of a democratic society.

Key Values:

We believe the following values form the basis for an approach that will equip a new generation of practitioners with a sensitive disposition to rethink the contentious issues surrounding land and livelihoods in our country, in order to design interventions that will provide diverse groups of people with a sense of agency:

  • Reflexivity: As interventionists who seek to grapple with land and livelihood issues in our society we believe it is of utmost importance to cultivate a disposition of reflexivity – we too are part of the “problem” and we can never take ourselves out of the equation.
  • Endurance: Patience and endurance are key to staying with a problem, and gradually deepending understandings. Oftentimes understanding complex social issues happens only over time and in layers.
  • Adaptability: To be creative and design interventions that are equitable and timeless, we should be able to sensitively question received categories, navigate the messiness of the world outside and within ourselves, and change our views and positions.
  • Sustainability: To develop practices, methods, approaches, and platforms that are enduring and integrate the values of equity, respect, and justice, to include humans, environment, flora, and fauna.

Course Structure

  1. Studios: provide intense learning experiences and enable discourse through making and thinking. It will be a core practice space where students will draw from their learning and critical thought from individual M.A. seminar-studios here for a more enriched understanding and experience. It is envisioned as a space for experimenting, synthesizing knowledge and practices through immersive engagement, intuition, contextual learning, design processes and creative methodologies.
  2. Seminar-Studios - To fully explore different learning potentials offered by the humanities and design, this school offers Seminar-Studio as a core learning and investigating space, where text-based scholarship and research practices will be mobilized and reoriented toward an active and experiental engagement with contemporary concerns.
  3. Workshops provide a platform for debate and emergence, through a dialogue between material making and critical thinking. This 2-week engagement in each semester allows students to formulate independent responses to ideas and processes, material and immaterial.
  4. Summer Practice (Practice), with an organization, a center or a lab at Srishti or a self-initiated project, is an integral part of learning, and demonstrating students' abilities to integrate and synthesize in a field, context or environment. Students will engage in a practice during the summer after their first year of the M.A. that will lead to developing their focus area for capstone or dissertation.
  5. 'Interlude' (Practice) - This is a space in which the student will persue a practical engagement related to their field of study that is creative, reflective and extensive. Students will work collaboratively to conceptualize an experiment, symposium or exhibition, and public engagement or demonstration. The work done in the studios may be extended into this mode or may intersect with Interim Semester (odd semsters only)
  6. Seminar is a space for investigating a particular idea, topic, praxis, etc. by discussion and /or dialogue, and may also involve crits, pin-ups, presentations, etc. of either works-in-progress or completed works for feedback.
  7. Dissertation or Capstone Project in the final semester is the synthesis and demonstration of capabilities to see the world in new ways, and study human cultures through its creative practices.

Learning Approach:

Program learning components include:

  • A trans-disciplinary approach to master the theoretical and conceptual knowledge of the history of institutional arrangements (i.e. forms of ownership and access) and management of land resources, and questions and approaches of livelihood security. 
  • Field based immersion to complement the theoretical approaches and provide students an in-depth understanding of diverse, dynamic, and complex realities on the ground
  • Studio based learning and making to explore theories, policies, and problems through shared reflections, innovative problem solving, and making, in an open, mutually respectful art & design learning space.
  • Opportunity to cross-register for electives in other related M. Des, M. Cr A. and M.A. programs, in order to enhance one's learning experiences and widen one's professional applicability to include a design approach.

Capability Sets:

On successful completion of the course, graduates will have the following capabilities:

Researcher/ Scholar
- Engage and practice critical inquiry that looks at the relationship between land and livelihood, contextualize research, integrate theories, and develop original methods and disseminate findings through innovative scholarly formats.
- Provide new ways of looking at old problems and thereby inform ground -based practices in development agencies and private firms that engage with land and livelihood issues.

Campaigner/ Activist / Critique in a variety of media (text, internet, radio, television, film, theatre, street theatre)
- Deconstruct existing policies, and understand its long-term impact on communities.
- Advocate communication and outreach to influence policies and public engagement.
- Mobilize and develop relationships with diverse stakeholders through grassroots-level intervention and fieldwork.

Sustainability Designer
- Create a platform that integrates critical thinking, art and design to provide novel solutions to problems of environmental degradation and livelihood insecurity.
- Design policy; evaluate its impact for long-term sustainability.

Curator/ Archivist
- Archive lost practices, methods, and ways of lives, languages, and cultural nuances of communities.
- Curate artifacts, experiences, and memories of communities affected by environment, migration, and livelihood insecurity; and present information through innovative story-telling platforms.


Graduates with the above capability sets have opportunities such as:

  • Employment in research and development organizations, policy-related think tanks, non-profits, corporate social responsibility, social enterprises, and art, craft and design firms and organizations.
  • Practitioners in innovative and participatory platforms that identify community practices and methods to be adopted into social enterprises that empower marginalized communities and enable financial security within a sustainable environment.
  • Independent design practitioners, consultants that advise on livelihood issues.
  • Critical thinkers and practitioners in academia and policy design.


For further information, kindly email Muthatha Ramanathan at

Disciplinary Intersections

The M.A. in Land and Livelihood Studies will draw from various disciplines and provide a vibrant platform for students to engage with the above-mentioned issues in a design environment.

Aesthetics and Critical Studies
Critical Geography
Political Science
Cultural Studies
Ecology and Environment
Policy Studies & Environmental Law
Urban Studies & Design
Research - Art & Design

Research and Collaboration

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