Joan Mencher is an anthropologist best known for her extensive field research in southern India. She earned her BA in physics and math from Smith College in 1950 and then went on to Columbia University to study anthropology. She received her PhD in 1958.
Mencher began her field research in India in 1958. She received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research on child rearing and family life in the south Indian state of Kerala. This was the first trip of many Mencher would take to India over the next 50 years. Her primary areas of research include agricultural development, land ownership, rural housing, gender roles, and family planning. Most of Mencher's research took place in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, two south Indian states. She also spent some time in the state of West Bengal. She often conducted multiple research projects at once, taking the opportunity to interview her informants on a variety of topics in one session. This resulted in a very comprehensive look at rural Indian life over the course of several decades. Mencher has published her findings in numerous books and articles.
In addition to her active research pursuits, Mencher taught at several universities. She taught anthropology at Hofstra College from 1960-1961, at Cornell University from 1964-1965, and at Columbia, her alma mater, from 1967-1968. Her longest teaching position was at CUNY where she taught at both Lehman College and the Graduate Center. Her tenure there was from 1967-2004.
In the early 2000s Mencher founded The Second Chance Foundation, a non-profit that works to support rural grass-roots organizations that work with poor and small farmers in India and the United States on issues of sustainable agriculture. She runs the day-to-day operations of the organization, writes grant proposals, leads fundraising efforts to support small farmers in India, and makes public presentations about sustainable agriculture.
Cambridge Who's Who. 2007. Joan P. Mencher's Biography. http://www.cambridgewhoswho.com/Members/NY/Joan-Mencher-1035277.html, accessed December 2, 2011.
Mencher, Joan. 1974. The Caste System Upside Down, or the Not-so-Mysterious East. Current Anthropology 15(4):469-493.
Sayeed, Vikhar Ahmed. 2009. Interview: The Right to Food. Frontline 26(26). http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2626/stories/20100101262608900.htm, accessed December 2, 2011.
Earned BA in Physics and Math from Smith College
Earned PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University
Field work in South India. Received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research on child rearing and family life in Kerala.
Taught anthropology at Hofstra College
Worked in South India. Looked at ecological issues and the differences between Tamil Nadu and Kerala and looked at how changes in ecology affected agriculture and social life
Conducted a study of land, agriculture, power and conflict in Tamil Nadu
Taught anthropology at Cornell University
Taught anthropology at Columbia University
Conducted field research in South India
Taught at Lehman College and the Graduate Center at CUNY
Engaged in a research project under the auspices of Columbia University and the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, financed by the National Science Foundation. The study dealt with the relationship between social structure and modernization, focusing on problems of family planning, agricultural development and rural housing
Was a co-principal investigator, with Conrad Arensberg and K. R. Unni, on a comparative study in Tamil Nadu and Kerala
Conducted a study with Dr. P. G. K. Panikar on the socio-economics of rice cultivation in different parts of Kerala
Rockefeller Foundation Post-Doctoral Program
Conducted a comparative study of women in rice cultivation in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal
Conducted an in-depth study of the lives of over twenty women by collecting oral histories
Let the Women Talk, a two-part study of the effects of change both planned and unplanned in the south Indian villages studied in 1979-1982
Founded the non-profit The Second Chance Foundation, which works to support rural grass-roots organizations that work with poor and small farmers in India and the United States on issues of sustainable agriculture
Received a pre-proposal grant from the City University of New York to explore interest and to develop a proposal to conduct a study of sustainable agricultural projects in southern India
Changing Familial Roles among South Malabar Nayars. Southwestern Journal of Anthroplogy 18(3):230-245.
Kerala and Madras: A Comparative Study of Ecology and Social Structure. Ethnology 5(2):135-171.
with André Béteille. Review of Caste, Class, and Power: Changing Powers of Stratification in a Tanjore Village. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 367:174-175.
with Helen Goldberg. Kinship and Marriage Regulations among the Namboodiri Brahmans of Kerala. Man 2(1):87-106.
Family Planning in India: The Role of Class Values. Family Planning Perspectives 2(2):35-39.
Conflicts and Contradictions in the "Green Revolution": The Case of Tamil Nadu. Economic and Political Weekly 9(6/8): 309+311+313+315+317-319+321+323.
The Caste System Upside Down, or the Not-so-Mysterious East. Current Anthropology 15(4):469-493.
Agriculture and Social Structure in Tamil Nadu: Past Origins, Present Transformations and Future Prospects. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Why Grow More Food?: An Analysis of some Contradictions in the "Green Revolution" in Kerala. Economic and Political Weekly 13(51/52):A98-A99+A101-A104.
with K. Saradamoni. Muddy Feet, Dirty Hands: Rice Production and Female Agricultural Labour. Economic and Political Weekly 17(52):A149-A153+A155-A167.
with Judy Brink, eds. Mixed Blessings: Gender and Religious Fundamentalism Cross Culturally. New York: Routledge.
NGOs: Are They a Force for Change? Economic and Political Weekly 34(30):2081-2086.
The United States, India and GM Foods. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 15(1):31-33.