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The social life of categories: affirmative action and trajectories of the indigenous
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
2013 (English)In: Focaal: European Journal of Anthropology, ISSN 0920-1297, E-ISSN 1558-5263, Vol. 2013, no 65, 33-41 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article I examine the ways in which the term “indigenous peoples“ is reworked in a specific South Asian context. I focus on the new, hybrid category of “indigenous tribe“ in the Indian state of Meghalaya. I argue that we can think of the indigenous tribe category as a strategic conflation of two different regimes of rights or political assertions. The first relates to the existing nation-state framework for affirmative action as expressed in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, while the second relates to the emerging global framework for asserting the rights of indigenous peoples. While the benefits of asserting the status of indigenous tribes is obvious, for example, preventing other, nonindigenous tribes from owning land in the state, the long-term gains seems more doubtful. Both affirmative action programs and indigenous peoples frameworks are motivated by a moral imperative to redress historical injustices and contemporary social inequalities. To evoke them for other ends might eventually backfire. The larger point I seek to make, however, is that political categories tend to take on a life of their own, escaping their intended purposes and hence applied by people in novel and surprising ways.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berghahn Journals , 2013. Vol. 2013, no 65, 33-41 p.
Keyword [en]
affirmative action, India, indigenous peoples, politics of identity, scheduled tribes, state classification, vernacular categories
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88831DOI: 10.3167/fcl.2013.650104OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88831DiVA: diva2:613815
Available from: 2013-04-02 Created: 2013-04-02 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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