'Forest governmentality': A genealogy of subject-making of forest-dependent 'scheduled tribes' in India

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This paper analyses the historical trajectories of both British colonial rule and independent India to categorise scheduled tribes and to appropriate and legalise forests in tribal areas. It builds upon Foucault's notion of governmentality to argue that the history of the scheduled tribes’ subject-making and the related history of forest demarcation is indispensable for understanding the current politics of decentralised forest management in India. Three dimensions of ‘forest governmentality’ – the history of categorisation, the politics of social identity, and the technologies of forest governance – are discussed to show how recent efforts to politicise forest tenure rights have reinforced political control over the scheduled tribes through new forms of authority, inclusion and exclusion. However, to claim their individual and community right to forestland and resources, the scheduled tribes have internalised their ‘new’ ethnic identity, thereby creating countervailing power and room to manoeuvre within the current forest governance regime. This is supported by a case study of the Bhil, a predominantly forest-dependent scheduled tribe in the semi-arid region of western India
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-673
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • indigenous people
  • governance
  • politics
  • rights

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