South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - “This Village Belongs to the Government”: Examining Land Tenure and Resource Assemblages in Upland Central India

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Rather than framing land as a natural resource, critical scholarship invites us to conceptualize land as a contingent assemblage of elements, that include material substances, technologies, social relations and discourses (Li, 2014). This paper considers forest village lands in central India as such an assemblage, shaped by colonial and postcolonial histories of rule and extraction, as well as by livelihood practices of Adivasi (indigenous) residents. Forest villages were technologies of the rule introduced by the colonial state in upland landscapes to meet the labor requirements of forestry. Based on ethnographic and archival research, I examine tenure relations in forest villages of Satpuda hills in Madhya Pradesh over one hundred years. The central dilemma of the colonial state was to mobilize labor for forestry while ensuring that its mechanisms of control and harsh tenure conditions did not lead to emigration from and abandonment of villages. I distinguish between property and access (Ribot & Peluso, 2003) in forest villages, arguing that Adivasi access to land in the post-colonial period was governed by informal networks and state patronage. In the last twenty years, counter-exclusionary mobilizations, as well as forest tenure reform measures, have sought to recognize the rights of Adivasis to forest land. I examine their emergent and contradictory effects on access and tenure regimes in the forest villages. The paper contributes to the scholarship on land assemblages and contestations around them in the frontier and marginal landscapes.

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1 - “This Village Belongs to the Government”: Examining Land Tenure and Resource Assemblages in Upland Central India



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Send Email for “This Village Belongs to the Government”: Examining Land Tenure and Resource Assemblages in Upland Central India