Deficit as a way of life?: Land, education and gender in a local village community in India

In this paper, I explore the implications of the international education and development discourse for a local village community living in contexts of precarity in India. I focus on the ‘way of life’ constituted through the colonial demarcation of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes, its description in the official state discourses, and its effects on gender relations in the local contexts. Historically in India, the Adivasis, or Scheduled Tribes, have been produced as an internal other by the colonial and Indian state through multiple regulatory discourses of land, work, religion and education. However, even within this othering, gender remains a significant axis in the construction of difference and hierarchy. I examine these intersections of land/work, education and gender in relation to the production and performance of Adivasi identities in the village community. I argue that education has been historically deployed to produce and regulate the Adivasis in a deficit position, given their proximity to nature/environment and close contact with land through agriculture and forestry. I illustrate how this social regulation and control is doubly disadvantageous for the Adivasi women owing to their gender and ethnic identities.

Given the impetus to redefine the relationship between human and non-human/environment in the global discourses of development, this paper highlights the gendered dimensions of such reconfiguration through education in a local village context. I draw on the notion of ‘differentiated mobility’ (Massey, 1994) to argue that the discursive production of the Adivasis as tied to land and forests exacerbates their already deficit social positioning in India. I engage with community ‘voices’ and illustrate through data excerpts the gendered implications of such production. The paper focuses on empirical research that took place through in-depth interviews and focus groups with both Adivasi and non-Adivasi village community, observations and a researcher diary. The analysis is framed by poststructural theorisation of data, informed by postcolonial and feminist literature.

Leave a Reply