ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Environment and Development amongst Adivasis as Deviance in Liberal Discourse


Prakash Amit - Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, New Delhi, India


36 – Interrogating Deviance and ‘Crime’ in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia


 Developmental histories of the South Asian sub-content, particularly India, is marked by multiple notions of deviance, some of which is criminalised and decriminalised by evolving political economy and changing politico-social landscapes. These evolutions are also a function of reconceptualization of issues which until recently were seen as being well settled. For instance, it was only in the 1970s that the anthropocentric notions of relationship between the environment and development were interrogated but the question mark on the sustainability of the Anthropocene is more recent. Accordingly, what was seen as deviance with respect to the environment has evolved, often so codified by legal regimes. A rather close and perhaps, parallel trajectory can be noted in the articulation, acceptance and delegitimization and rearticulation of identity amongst the Adivasis. This idea of protectionism and paternalism that cuts across anthropocentric approaches to environment as well as developmentalism towards Adivasis is closely linked to the changing discourses of liberalism marked by prioritisation of the rights of the state, political communities and stages of capitalism. This paper will reflect on the complex and evolving classification and reclassification of Adivasis and the notion of deviance in relation to their environmental habitat across colonial and postcolonial liberal regimes.