Munda Politics and Land: Understanding Indigeneity in Jharkhand, India

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Virginia Tech


The eastern state of Jharkhand in India has been the site of contention between Adivasi communities, like the Munda, and the national government. This is a relationship between these communities and centralized, outside power that has existed for centuries in different forms. To understand this ongoing conflict, we need to understand the root causes of contention. Various scholars have traced this to a general rejection by Adivasis of State-sanctioned neoliberal development projects like land-grabbing and mining. I analyze, based on a fifteen month long ethnographic study conducted from May 2017 to December 2018, the meaning of land for the Munda community, and how these meanings underlie the Adivasi-State conflict, based on several forms of qualitative data. I argue that at the core of this ongoing conflict lie questions of identity construction and representation, neoliberal market forces, gender, and a historical narrative of resistance against outsiders. Importantly, to best understand Adivasi politics and their relationship to their local environment, one must actively listen to how these communities represent themselves.



Indigenous, Adivasi, Munda, Tribal, Jharkhand, Neoliberalism