In the Shadows of the State - Indigenous Politics, Environmentalism, and Insurgency in Jharkhand, India

Alpa Shah

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Synopsis: In the Shadows of the State suggests that well-meaning indigenous rights and development claims and interventions may misrepresent and hurt the very people they intend to help. It is a powerful critique based on extensive ethnographic research in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India officially created in 2000. While the realization of an independent Jharkhand was the culmination of many years of local, regional, and transnational activism for the rights of the region’s culturally autonomous indigenous people, Alpa Shah argues that the activism unintentionally further marginalized the region’s poorest people. Drawing on a decade of ethnographic research in Jharkhand, she follows the everyday lives of some of the poorest villagers as they chase away protected wild elephants, try to cut down the forests they allegedly live in harmony with, maintain a healthy skepticism about the revival of the indigenous governance system, and seek to avoid the initial spread of an armed revolution of Maoist guerrillas who claim to represent them. Juxtaposing these experiences with the accounts of the village elites and the rhetoric of the urban indigenous-rights activists, Shah reveals a class dimension to the indigenous-rights movement, one easily lost in the cultural-based identity politics that the movement produces. In the Shadows of the State brings together ethnographic and theoretical analyses to show that the local use of global discourses of indigeneity often reinforces a class system that harms the poorest people.

From the Publisher: "Alpa Shah's book is an engaged and exceptionally lively account of the intersection between the `everyday state' and the people of one of India's most marginalized `Tribal' areas. A major contribution to the regional literature, her sometimes counterintuitive, often sobering, but always compelling analysis richly deserves the attention of anyone interested in the politics of indigeneity and its uneasy relationship with class politics and with left-wing activism."--Jonathan Parry, London School of Economics

"Presenting a sophisticated analysis of original empirical material based on sensitive long-term ethnographic fieldwork, Alpa Shah directly challenges existing frameworks in and beyond academic anthropology, and she provides important new perspectives on indigenous governance, development, the anthropology of the state, corruption, and local democracy, the politics of conservation, environmental and Maoist movements. In the Shadows of the State demonstrates the value of critical ethnography; it is likely to be read as an exemplar."--David Mosse, author of Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice

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Title: In the Shadows of the State - Indigenous ...
Publisher: Duke Univ
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