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Title: "They are like that only" : Adivasi identities in an area of civil unrest in India
Author: Wadhwa, Gunjan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 3741
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the discursive construction of the Adivasi as tribal and backward, and in opposition to ideas of the 'modern'. It examines the multiple discourses, co- constitutive of the Adivasi as subject, within the modernising nation-state of India. In doing so, the thesis troubles the dominant discursive strains that have produced the Indian nation-state and the Indian national/citizen, and through this have positioned the Adivasi. The colonial regime in India constructed the colonised populations as distinct from the coloniser through various discourses of differentiation. Law, history, social categories, census and surveys became the instruments of governmentality that (re)shaped colonial subjectivities and constituted the power of the colonial state. Beyond the coloniser-colonised dyad, various social categories were deployed by the colonial state to strategically divide the country internally and create multiple internal others of which the Adivasis are one particular grouping. Over time and through re-iteration, these categories of distinction were sedimented in language, normalised, and naturalised within and through discourse. The post-independence Indian state sustained and re- articulated these distinctions through its law, policy and practice. The Adivasis were constituted as Indian nationals but in need of education, development, protection and civilisation. They were produced as synonymous with backwardness, tradition and lack of modernity. Exploring the discursive production of the Adivasi as tribal and backward in this thesis troubles the binary of traditional and modern through which a deficit view of the Adivasi is constructed. I problematise the dominant national discourse in India, its intersections with gender, and open it up for discussion and contestation. In this thesis, I engage with the following research questions: • How have law, policy and practice of the colonial and Indian state discursively produced the identity of the Adivasis in India? • How do local village community members produce and perform Adivasi identities through religion, education and gender? • In context of protracted violence, how do the Gond community navigate their Indian and Adivasi identities and claim their rights? Building on my practitioner work on the Right to Education (RTE) Act in areas of civil unrest in India the empirical data collection took place in a village in Vidarbha region in the state of Maharashtra over a period of seven months. It comprised policy review and analysis, eight focus groups with adults (parents, panchayat and SMC members, teachers), six focus groups with young people in 13-18 years age-groups, and 25 in- depth interviews with adult members from the village community, both Adivasi and non- Adivasi, observations and a researcher diary. The systematic reading and re-reading of data has presented me with an understanding of co-constitution of discourses and subjects, and the immanence of power in such constitution. It marks a shift to poststructuralism in my thinking and analysis and with it a questioning of development and modernisation discourses. An initial textual analysis of legal and policy enactments of colonial and post- independence Indian state illustrates the language of differentiation and the ways it produces the Adivasis as the Other within India. Through its focus on land and work, the policy reciprocally links identity of the people with the areas they inhabit. The categories of Scheduled, Backward and Tribal, re-produced through colonial and post- colonial policy texts, demarcate the land and the people and mark these as neutral and naturally occurring conditions. Integral to this analysis is the identification of discourses of modernity and development, which carry articulations of protection, equality and inclusion. It points to assumptions of individual responsibility in becoming 'modern' and 'developed' and the use of allied binaries of 'backward' and 'under-developed' in reference to differently positioned populations in India. By engaging with community 'voices' in this study, I demonstrate how the dominant discursive categories of distinction are interpreted and performed in the local village contexts. I illustrate the interpellation of the Adivasis into the dominant discourse and their deficit positioning within it. Focusing on religion, education and gender in relation to the performance of Adivasi identities, I highlight the constructed binary between tradition and modernity. However, I argue, through data, that these categories are discursive constructs, installed to produce and regulate the Adivasis in a deficit and subordinate position. Within the local context of protracted violence, the navigation of Indian and Adivasi identities by the local Gond community along with their claim for citizen rights, signal agency and resistance. While discursively produced and regulated, the Adivasis navigate the context of precarity through various strategies to demand their rights. They act in ways contradictory to their dominant construction as a social group. Silence and non-participation become strategies to contest and subvert dominant discursive norms. This study has implications for equality and social relations through its foregrounding of the particular context of the Adivasis. Its contribution to knowledge lies in encouraging a critical approach to social categories and difference. By breaking the tradition/modernity binary, this study troubles the assumptions that modernisation makes about social life and the ways in which it describes the future through law, policy and practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DS432.A2 Adivasis