1 Institut for Antropologi, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Bringing capitalism down to earth in the changing political lives of Adivasi workers in Kerala
Following the police raid on the ‘Muthanga’ land occupation by Adivasi (‘indigenous’) activists in Kerala, India, in February 2003, intense public debate erupted about the fate of Adivasis in this ‘model’ development state. Most commentators saw the land occupation either as the fight-back of Adivasis against their age-old colonization or the work of ‘external’ agitators. Capitalist restructuring and ‘globalization’ was generally seen as simply the latest chapter in the suffering of these Adivasis. Little focused attention was paid to the recent class trajectory of their lives under changing capitalist relations, the exact social processes under which they were having to make a living, and what had only recently—and still largely ambiguously—made them ready to identify themselves politically as ‘Adivasi’. Demonstrating the usefulness of ethnographic curiosity driven by an ‘expanded’ class analysis, as elaborated in Marxian anthropology, this article provides an alternative to the liberal-culturalist explanation of indigenism in Kerala, arguing instead that contemporary class processes—as experienced close to the skin by the people who decided to participate in the Muthanga struggle—were what shaped their decision to embrace indigenism.
Modern Asian Studies, 2014, Vol 48, Issue 5, p. 1334-1357