Towards a Historical Sociology of Dispossession and Subordination in India's Adivasi Heartlands: A Gramscian Approach
Alf Gunvald Nilsen
(University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
This paper articulates a historical sociology of the processes of dispossession and subordination through which Adivasis have been adversely incorporated into the political economy of postcolonial India. The paper draws on Gramscian perspectives on uneven development and modern state-making.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents an historical-sociological account of the processes of dispossession and subordination through which Adivasis have been adversely incorporated into the political economy of capitalist development in postcolonial India. Specifically, the paper uses a Gramscian framework to trace the historical processes through which Bhil Adivasis in Western India have been constituted as marginal peasants and migrant labourers whose material deprivation is compounded by political disenfranchisement in relation to the Indian state. The lineages of contemporary poverty and political disempowerment among Adivasis in India is located in two intertwined processes of restructuring that unfolded under colonial rule: on the one hand, the "primitive accumulation" of land and forests as these were incorporated in colonial revenue systems and global orbits of commodity exchange; on the other hand, the transition from a precolonial system of "shared sovereignty" towards the colonial prerogative of "exclusive sovereignty". Further, this political and economic structure was reproduced after independence as postcolonial processes of state formation were negotiated within a "passive revolution" that entrenched dominant structures of class power across spatial scales in independent India. Theoretically, the paper will argue that a conceptualization of these processes entails an analytical engagement with "connected histories" of capitalist development and state formation across significant historical time and spatial scales. Drawing on Gramscian perspectives on uneven development and modern state-making, the paper articulates some central elements for a critical historical sociology of contemporary patterns of adverse incorporation among India's Adivasis.
Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent