Reordering Adivasi Worlds: Representation, Resistance, Memory – Sangeeta Dasgupta


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Recounting the story of the Oraons and Tana Bhagats of Chhotanagpur in the present-day state of Jharkhand, this book questions postcolonial understandings of the category of ‘tribe’ and unravels the threads of a hierarchical adivasi world. It unpacks colonial ethnography, missionary narratives, and anthropological writings; explores issues of adivasi identity and resistance; and demonstrates how contemporary adivasi protest draws upon memories of the past. Dasgupta argues that nineteenth and early twentieth-century ideas of ‘tribe’ were not abstract imaginaries but structured colonial interventions. These affected the shaping of customary rights; the understanding of the rural world; and the perception of customs and practices. She analyses the ways in which Tana Bhagats questioned hierarchies among the Oraons; opposed landlords, moneylenders, and the colonial state; and engaged with Gandhi and the Congress. Dasgupta delineates how Tanas allude to their diverse experiences and distinctive memories to negotiate with the sarkar even today. Using colonial archives, oral narratives, and contemporary pamphlets, this book examines the contending ‘truths’ produced around adivasi protest, and the complex interplay between the past and the present, the oral and the written.


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