The everyday politics of India’s “land wars” in rural eastern India

in Focaal
Author:
Kenneth Bo Nielsen University of Bergen Kenneth.Nielsen@uib.no

Search for other papers by Kenneth Bo Nielsen in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Abstract

The large-scale transfer of land from rural communities to private corporations has become a defining feature of India’s development trajectory. These land transfers have given rise to a multitude of new “land wars” as dispossessed groups have struggled to retain their land. Yet while much has been written about the political economy of development that underpins this new form of dispossession, the ways in which those threatened with dispossession have sought to mobilize have to a lesser extent been subject to close ethnographic scrutiny. This article argues that an “everyday politics” perspective can enhance our understanding of India’s new land wars, using a case from Singur as the starting point. The agenda is twofold. I show how everyday life domains and sociopolitical relations pertaining to caste, class, gender, and party political loyalty were crucial to the making of the Singur movement and its politics. Second, by analyzing the movement in processual terms, I show how struggles over land can be home to a multitude of political meanings and aspirations as participants seek to use new political forums to resculpt everyday sociopolitical relations.

Contributor Notes

Kenneth Bo Nielsen is an anthropologist working at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway. He works on rural social movements and the politics of development in India, with a special focus on West Bengal. His articles have appeared in journals such as Journal of Contemporary Asia, South Asia, Contemporary South Asia, Economic and Political Weekly, and Globalizations, and in edited book volumes. Nielsen has co-edited several books, most recently The Politics of Caste in West Bengal (Routledge, 2016). Email: Kenneth.Nielsen@uib.no

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

  • Adnan, Shapan. 2015. Primitive accumulation and the “transition to capitalism” in neoliberal India. In Barbara Harriss-White and Judith Heyer, eds., Indian capitalism in development, pp. 2345. London: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Banerjee-Guha, Swapna. 2013. Accumulation and dispossession: Contradictions of growth and development in contemporary India. South Asia 36(2): 165179.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baviskar, Amita. 2001. Written on the body, written on the land: Violence and environmental struggles in Central India. In Nancy Peluso and Michael Watts, eds., Violent environments, pp. 354379. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bedi, Heather, and Louise Tillin. 2015. Inter-state competition, land conflicts, and resistance in India. Oxford Development Studies 43(2): 194211.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bhattacharyya, Dwaipayan. 2011. Of control and factions: The changing “party society” in Rural West Bengal. Economic and Political Weekly 44(9): 5969.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chatterjee, Partha. 2004. The politics of the governed. Delhi: Permanent Black

  • Chatterjee, Partha. 2011. Lineages of political society. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Corbridge, Stuart, John Harriss, and Craig Jeffrey. 2013. India today. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Cross, Jamie. 2014. Dream zones. London: Pluto.

  • Dhanagare, D. N. 1995. The class character and politics of the farmers’ movement in Maharashtra during the 1980s. In Tom Brass, ed., New farmers’ movements in India, pp. 7294. Essex: Frank Cass.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Forbes, Alice, and Lucia Michelutti. 2013. “From the mouth of God”: Divine kinship in contemporary popular politics. Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 67: 118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gudavarthy, Ajay. 2012. Introduction: Why interrogate political society? In Ajay Gudavarthy, ed., Reframing democracy and agency in India, pp. 128. London: Anthem Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guha, Ranajit. 1988. On some aspects of the historiography of colonial India. In Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, eds., Selected subaltern studies, pp. 3744. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gupta, Dipankar. 2015. The importance of being “rurban.” Economic and Political Weekly 50(24): 3743.

  • Hart, Gillian. 2015. Political society and its discontents. Economic and Political Weekly 50(43): 4351.

  • Jenkins, Rob. 1999. Democratic politics and economic reform in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Jones, Jonathan. 2009. Negotiating development: A study of the grassroots resistance to India’s 2005 special economic zones act. PhD diss., University of Florida.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kapadia, Karin. 2014. Caste and class in gendered religion. In Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Anne Wal-drop, eds., Women, gender, and everyday social transformation in India, pp. 235250. London: Anthem Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kerkvliet, Benedict. 2005. The power of everyday politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

  • Kohli, Atul. 2012. Poverty amid plenty in the new India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Levien, Michael. 2012. The land question: Special economic zones and the political economy of dispossession in India. Journal of Peasant Studies 39(3/4): 933969.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Levien, Michael. 2013. The politics of dispossession: Theorizing India’s “land wars.” Politics and Society 41(3): 351394.

  • Levien, Michael. 2015. Six theses on India’s land question. Economic and Political Weekly 50(22): 146157.

  • Majumder, Sarasij. 2012. “Who wants to marry a farmer?” Neoliberal industrialization and the politics of land and work in rural West Bengal. Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 64: 8498.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Michelutti, Lucia. 2008. The vernacularisation of democracy. Delhi: Routledge.

  • Mohanty, Mritiunjoy. 2007. Singur and the political economy of structural change. IIM Calcutta working paper no. 601. Kolkata: IIM Calcutta.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nielsen, Kenneth Bo. 2014a. Saving the farmland: The making of popular anti-land acquisition politics in Singur, West Bengal. PhD diss., University of Oslo.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nielsen, Kenneth Bo. 2014b. Women’s participation in the Singur movement, West Bengal. In Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Anne Waldrop, eds., Women, gender, and everyday social transformation in India, pp. 203218. London: Anthem Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pal, Mahuya, and Mohan J. Dutta. 2013. “Land is our mother”: Alternative meanings of development in subaltern organizing. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication 6(3): 203220.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Piliavsky, Anastasia. 2013. Where is the public sphere? Political communications and the morality of disclosure in rural Rajasthan. Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 31(2): 104122.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roy, Dayabati. 2014. Rural politics in India. Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

  • Rudolph, Lloyd I., and Susanne H. Rudolph. 1987. In pursuit of Lakshmi. Delhi: Orient Longman.

  • Ruud, Arild. 2016. From client to supporter: Economic change and the slow change of social identity in rural West Bengal. In Uday Chandra, Geir Heierstad, and Kenneth Bo Nielsen, eds., The politics of caste in West Bengal, pp. 193215. Delhi: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sampat, Preeti. 2015. The “Goan impasse”: Land rights and resistance to SEZs in Goa, India. Journal of Peasant Studies 42(3/4): 765790.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scott, James. 1985. Weapons of the weak. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Shah, Alpa. 2013. The tensions over liberal citizenship in a Marxist revolutionary situation: The Maoists in India. Critique of Anthropology 33(1): 91109.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sinha, Subir. 2015. On the edge of civil society in contemporary India. In Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Srila Roy, eds., New subaltern politics, pp. 225253. Delhi: Oxford University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Steur, Luisa. 2009. What’s left ? Land expropriation, socialist “modernizers,” and peasant resistance in Asia. Focaal: European Journal of Social Anthropology 54: 6773.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Steur, Luisa. 2015. Theorizing Thervoy: Subaltern studies and Dalit praxis in India’s land wars. In Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Srila Roy, eds., New subaltern politics, pp. 177201. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sud, Nikita. 2014. Governing India’s land. World Development 60: 4356.

  • Whitehead, Judy. 2015. Au retour à Gramsci: Reflections on civil society, political society, and the state in South Asia. Journal of Contemporary Asia 45(4): 660676.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Witsoe, Jeffrey. 2013. Democracy against development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 246 139 15
Full Text Views 11 0 0
PDF Downloads 12 2 0