February 15, 2012


Tribal Insurgency in South Asia

Edited by Crispin Bates and Alpa Shah


280pp 215x140 mm Hardback

ISBN 978-81-87358-69-5


Pub date July 2012


Indigenous resistance is getting redefined in the global context; in India, the Scheduled Tribes, or more popularly called adivasi people, have gained prominence in the armed left-wing Maoist insurgency. They have been used as the front for social movements protesting against the neoliberal developmental policies of the state and the large-scale displacements that have resulted. They have also ignited special interest as both victims and agents in the communal violence emerging from the expansionist activities of militant right-wing Hindu Nationalist parties.

In Savage Attack: Tribal Insurgency in South Asia the authors ask whether there is anything particularly adivasi about the forms of resistance that have been labelled as adivasi movements. What does it mean to speak about adivasi as opposed to peasant resistance? Can one differentiate adivasi resistance from that of other lower castes such as the dalits? In this volume the authors argue that there is nothing particularly 'adivasi' or 'tribal' about forms of resistance that are labelled as such. Rather, the crucial question is how and why particular forms of resistance are depicted as adivasi issues at particular points in time. One interpretation has depicted adivasis as a united and highly politicised group of people, and has romanticised tribal society and history, thus denying the individuals and communities involved any real agency. Both the interpretations of the state and of left-wing supporters of tribal insurgencies have continued to ignore the complex realities of tribal life, the exercise of 'practical reason' by tribal peoples in dealing with the many challenges facing their communities, and the true diversity in the expressions of political activism that have resulted across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent.


Introduction : Alpa Shah, Crispin Bates

1. We Shall Fight Them on the Beach: Counterinsurgency, Colonisation and the Andaman Islanders, 1771-1863: Satadru Sen

2. 'Natural Boundaries': Negotiating Land Rights and Establishing Rule in Northern East-Bengal, 1790s-1820s: Gunnel Cederlöf

3. From 'Natural Philosophy' to 'Political Ritual': An Ethno-historical Reading of the Colonial Sources on the Konds' Religion (Orissa): Raphaël Rousseleau

4. Locating Adivasi Identity in Colonial India: The Oraons and the Tana Bhagats in Chotanagpur, 1914-1919: Sangeeta Dasgupta

5. Tribal Armed Rebellion of 1922-1924 in the Madras Presidency: A Study of Causation as Colonial Legitimation: Atlury Murali

6. Events, Incidents and Accidents: Re-thinking Indigenous Resistance in the Andaman Islands: Vishvajit Pandya

7. The Making and Unmaking of an Adivasi Working Class in Western Orissa: Christian Strümpell

8. Adivasis and Communists in Post-Reform Kerala: Neoliberalism, Political Disillusionment, and the Indigenist Challenge: Luisa Steur

9. Thoughts on Religious Experience and 'Politics' in Adivasi India: An Anthropologist Attempts a Rereading of History: Amit Desai

10. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Maoist movement in Jharkhand, India: Alpa Shah

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