ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

State Life: Adivasis, Land Distribution and the Reproduction of State Legitimacy in Kerala


R.C. Sudheesh - Azim Premji University, School of Development, Bangalore, India


42 – Changing Contours of Legitimacy and Governance in India


 Faced with the need to manage the growing number of landless people, several states around the world are experimenting with scattered land distribution programmes in combination with welfare transfers instead of comprehensive land reform. This article explores how state legitimacy is reproduced in the wake of intense land struggles. Taking up the case of the Aralam resettlement site for landless Adivasis in the southern Indian State of Kerala, the article argues that the management of the landless population could take the form of ‘state life’ – a life envisaged by the state for the people rather than the life they themselves wish to lead. State life in Kerala is shown as shaped by three interlinked processes – reducing land to welfare, ‘making live’ through welfare programmes, and mobilising assumptions about the target population. State life allows states to reproduce legitimacy and put out simmering land struggles in the short term but ends up reproducing landlessness eventually.