Research > Adivasi Studies

We hope, through this programme to trace the connections between the forest, other landscapes and adivasi struggles for life, livelihood and dignity in Andhra Pradesh specifically, and in India more generally. We recognize at the outset the vast diversity of communities described as adivasi – the many many different tribes that spread across forests, urban landscapes, rural communities, nomadic and semi nomadic groups – and the specific set of concerns and issues related to each of them. The constitution of India recognizes that Adivasi communities have a unique relationship with the land and forests, and each community has a distinct culture, way of life, language and knowledge system. And yet, they are the most gravely dispossessed communities in the country. The critical question of equity has not been effectively addressed, nor has the loss of community spaces and processes; the active dispossession, displacement and fragmentation of adivasi communities remain urgent problems; as also the appropriation and commoditization of cultural forms and artefacts; and the real threat of the loss of collective memory, of identity.

What are the factors, which affect adivasi livelihoods? What is the current socio-economic, occupational, employment, educational and health status of adivasis? What are the opportunities available for them outside their domain and how they are accommodated in open labour markets? What are their wage patterns as well as working and living conditions? What is the role of migration in their economic development? Is migration a livelihood strategy for them? How does MGNREGS help them? Does it? What are the current policies for adivasis and what kind of special policies do they require?

The Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) of India cover a population approximately of 60 million. Some of them are included in the list of Scheduled castes, some others in the Scheduled Tribes, and quite a few in Other Backward Classes. But there are many of these tribes, which find place in none of the above. The DNTs have been the victims of historical dislocations, unconventional occupations, colonial legacy and social stigma.

With a view to enabling a better understanding of questions of identity, equity and justice as they emerge from the adivasi experience, we propose to: record oral histories; document case studies; compile cultural artefacts; trace the articulations of constitutionalism in adivasi struggles; document skills and knowledge that emanate from forest lives, and the mobile lives of nomadic and semi nomadic communities; and communitarian conversations and disputes about village, family, and relationships as they are deliberated upon in these locales.

Adivasi struggles have focused on securing autonomy and control over resources and territories; and asserting the right to a cultural space free of domination. The struggle is not just for rights but also for freedom to live in our environment with dignity. Questions of exploitation, struggles assert the right to self- determination and autonomous governance, in the present period of economic growth when global capital invades forest areas for resources profoundly affecting people and communities who live in these areas, the struggles by adivasi people attains renewed significance.

Restoring a sense of history to communities means building the forest archives and recognizing the contribution of adivasis to an understanding of the interconnections between ecology, biodiversity, suffering and human dignity through struggles.

We invite scholars, students and community based activists to join us in building an archive for the future.