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The Centre and the Margin in Jharkhand Adivasi Histories


· Sanjukta Das Gupta Sapienza University of Rome (Rome, Italy)


07/27 | 16:30-16:50 UTC+2/CEST


This paper looks into the shifting categories of the centre and the margins as reflected in Adivasi histories of Jharkhand. Since colonial times, marginality – not simply political and economic, but also as the culturally backward other – has been imposed upon the different Adivasi communities of the region. This idea of marginality was borrowed and perpetuated by Indian nationalists, even as they sought to represent themselves as the spokesmen of Adivasi exploitation, as well as in the post-colonial state which as the provider/redeemer enunciated various schemes of tribal ‘uplift’ and ‘development’. In contrast, however, the Adivasi relationship with the pre-colonial power structures was a more complex and nuanced phenomenon, with experiences of both expropriation as well as collaboration and partnership with regional polities. Through an analysis of a range of historical memories encapsulated in oral literature, political tracts, constitutional debates, memoirs, local and popular histories and social media discussions, this paper illustrates how this historical complexity was reduced to a simplistic representation where marginality became the centre-focus around which domination and exploitation were placed to construct a new idea of Adivasi identity. As Adivasis appropriated the notion of the margin, and actively selected their lived experience of marginality, their indigeneity and rootedness to their land was emphasized in their confrontation with dominant discourses in the political domain. The notions of centre and margins were thus constantly reconfigured in the context of Adivasi political mobilisation.