Indigeneity and Indigenous Movements in South Asia
Instructor: Dr. Markus Schleiter
Indigeneity is a contested concept in South Asia. On the one hand, global recognition and support for indigenous peoples in South Asia strengthens indigenous movements as they struggle to gain political and economic entitlements. For example, an international NGO successfully halted planned bauxite mining on the sacral lands of the Kondh people in Odisha, India, by presenting the community as ”real life” Avatar in reference to the Hollywood movie of the same name. On the other hand, in South Asia the categories ”indigenous” or ”tribal” were historically established by colonial administrators, and continue to identify communities as ”culturally Other” in relation to mainstream populations. Hence, claims of indigeneity often risk leading to further marginalization of the people referred to, with the result that members of such communities may be deprived of their rights as regular citizens.
The seminar focuses upon recent case studies of the political campaigns of indigenous movements. Based upon a series of key readings, we will discuss perceptions of indigeneity in South Asia and the volatility of the concept within the political arena. Furthermore, we consider how we, as anthropologists, can or should position ourselves when our work involves producing representations of such communities and their struggles. Who are the people concerned and how can we represent their everyday cultural lives?
More generally, the course will introduce key issues in South Asia, and present an ethnographic overview of the region. More detailed insights will be gained through our close readings of classic and recent ethnographic studies on the everyday cultural lives of different indigenous groups.
- Close reading of the key text each week
- Presentation of a subtopic (15 min.); or of two responses to the readings (5-10 min. each)
- Two comparative essays on the readings (1-2 pages each) to be submitted before the respective sessions
- Submission of two summaries of seminar sessions (1-2 pages each)
- Written paper (Hausarbeit)
Corbridge, Stuart and John, Jeffrey, Craig Harris (2012) India Today: Economy, Politics and Society, Cambridge: Polity.
Middleton, Townsend (2015) The Demands of Recognition: State Anthropology and Ethnopolitics in Darjeeling, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Piliavsky, Anastasia (2014) ‘Patronage as Politics in South AsiaDelhi: Cambridge University Press,.
Schleiter; Markus (2014) ‘VideoCD Crossovers: Cultural Practice, Ideas of Belonging and Santali Popular Films’, Asian Ethnology 73 (1-2): 181-200.
Shah, Alpa (2010) In the Shadows of the State: Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism, and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Vitebsky, Piers (1993) Dialogues with the Dead: The Discussion of Mortality among the Sora of Eastern India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.