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Differentiated outcomes of agrarian change among India’s Adivasis: land, labour and class inequality

October 19, 2023 @ 4:15 pm - 6:00 pm

By Rajanya Bose (University of Sheffield)

19 October, 4:15 – 6:00 pm UK time

Webinar via Zoom

Webinar recording available here: https://youtu.be/MnPigI7L1sw

This presentation explores the class dynamics of ongoing agrarian changes among Adivasis or indigenous people in two states in Eastern India. Adivasis have generally borne a disproportionate burden of displacement in postcolonial India, while also being entrenched in the lowest echelons of the informal economy as wage labourers. Their rising landlessness and ‘super exploitation’ as migrant labourers have led to scholars theorising the co-constitution of their ethnic and class positions in terms of ‘durable inequality’ and ‘conjugated oppression.’ Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, the presentation shows that Adivasis are internally differentiated owing to historical inequalities and through dynamics of agrarian change and capitalist relations within and beyond agriculture. While deepening of capitalist relations have worked against Adivasis in general, it shows, as importantly, certain Adivasi groups are discriminated much more than others, including being discriminated by other Adivasis. This challenges the common perception of Adivasis as largely egalitarian social groups and nuances the literature on agrarian change in India which focusses on the intensification of inequalities and relations of domination between Adivasis and the non-tribal social groups. It discusses land access and labouring conditions of Santhals and Lodhas in West Bengal, and Kawars, Agarias and Majhis in Chhattisgarh to demonstrate differentiated paths of agrarian transition among different Adivasi groups, which in turn have implications on building class and political solidarities in tribal heartlands of agrarian India.

About the presenter

Rajanya is a Postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, where she is currently working in an action research project on young peoples’ experiences of urban inequalities and claim-making in secondary cities in India and Nepal. She recently received her PhD in International Development at the University of East Anglia, UK. Her thesis conceptualized and enquired into an Adivasi Agrarian Question, to explore the class dynamics of agrarian change among indigenous people in India.

This seminar is part of the Autumn 2023 Agrarian Change Seminar Series organized by the Journal of Agrarian Change. For queries, please contact Shreya Sinha (shreya04@gmail.com) or aqs.jac@gmail.com

Cover image by Rajanya Bose: Men and Women carrying coal from the riverbed to their villages to mark their dissent against mining companies in an annual rally organised on 2nd October, in Tamnar Chhattisgarh, India.


October 19, 2023
4:15 pm - 6:00 pm




Journal of Agrarian Change