Author: Nandini Sundar
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195686640
Anthropologists are often accused of wanting to keep tribal or indigenous people as museum pieces. Exploring the expansion of the state in Bastar over the past century and a half, and resistance to the particular forms it has taken, Subalterns and Sovereigns redefines the way in which history and anthropology think of tribal India.
Nandini Sundar argues that forested and hill areas like Bastar have never been outside the ‘mainstream’ of history, and that the flattening out of local politics to create the appearance of isolation and homogeneity is essentially a product of colonialism and post-colonialism. She shows that the choice today, as in the past, has never been one between ‘tradition’ and ‘modern civilization’ or between ‘development’ and ‘backwardness’, but over alternative visions of democracy.
The book is divided into three parts. The ethnohistorical first section portrays the pre-colonial economy and polity, showing how the significance of kingship and Bastar’s famous Dussehra festival has changed over time. The second part uses more standard archival sources to explore critical rebellions, yet these too are countered by oral histories of the same events. It also documents the growing restrictions on popular access to land and forest, the multiple historical understandings shaping encounters between different actors, and the relationship between colonial anthropology and contemporary laws. The final section, `Uncertain Futures,' highlights the contradictions faced by tribal societies today.
The second edition brings the book up to date discussing the contemporary socio-political developments in the state of Chhattisgarh. In a new afterword, the author investigates the ongoing Naxalite movement and the government’s counterinsurgency efforts.
This book will be an important resource for historians, anthropologists, ecologists, administrators, development practitioners, and activists particularly those concerned with Bastar, social movements, and tribes. It will also appeal to those interested in indigenous responses to colonialism and capitalism, and the relationship between colonialism and anthropology.
‘‘I would recommend her book as a bench-mark study and one which every scholar and administrator should read in order to understand tribal society.’
—M.N. Buch, The Book Review
‘In a work alive with imagination and craftsmanship, wit and irony, Sundar braids multiple themes together.’
—Satish Saberwal, Studies in History
‘..An impressive monograph that addresses many important themes in the modern history of subaltern groups in the hills of Asia.’
—David Ludden, American Historical Review
Preface to the Second Edition
List of Maps
List of Tables
List of Photographs
List of Illustrations
1. Recreated Pasts
2. Rebellious Pasts
3. Uncertain Futures