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'We Celebrate the Birth of Girls'. Narratives of Past and Adivasi Women in Twenty First Century East Central India


· Sohini Sengupta Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai, India)


07/29 | 09:20-09:40 UTC+2/CEST


Representations of adivasi women rest on confusing contradictions. Attributed with autonomy and sexual freedom, viewed as the antithesis of Hindu upper caste counterparts, marked by backwardness, adivasi women have been subjects of state interventions around property, environment, maternity, poverty, health, sexual violence, witch-hunt. While adivasi movements are re-framing some of these debates, the role of gender in the politics of indigeneity is a less explored area of scholarship. Adivasi women’s experiences, framed by the anxieties of the Hindu society, have been marginal and subordinate to the emerging politics of belonging. Do adivasi women suffer exceptionally from the ‘penalties of difference’ (Okin)? Drawing insight from the critical debate between feminist theory and multiculturalism and adivasi women’s narratives from East Central India, this article explores and discusses the contentions between assumption of emancipation in colonial and post-independent modernity and distinctive ways of being adivasi. Centering women’s narratives about labouring, property, kinship, friendship, marriage, dancing, love and death, enables the articulation of the historical, ambiguous and situated experiences of being adivasi that takes place through negotiations by women over the meanings about their past and present. Adivasi women’s evaluative-narratives enrich understanding of adivasi lives and selfhood encapsulated by political, economic and symbolic domination of forest dwelling communities in India. This is especially significant for our times when rights of women are propagandized by political projects that have nothing to do with adivasi rights or feminism