Spirits, State Effects and Peoples' Politics: Negotiating Sovereignty in 20th Century Kanker, Central India Open Access

Deo, Aditya Pratap (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/nc580m827?locale=en


Most histories of tribal peoples, even if they conceive of their subjects as agents in the making of their histories, do so in terms determined by the rationalist protocols of modernity in which the tribal life-world is considered archaic and before the time of history. The life-expressions of tribal peoples are relegated to the domain of culture/religion separated from the political, worthy of mention as curio but incapable of providing the terms on which a history can be rendered.

This study begins with a recognition of the trans-temporality of our world - both that of modern, urban intellectuals, and of "tribal" peasants - to fashion a historical narrative from evidence of self-presentations by tribal peoples that, though informed by history, exceed its rationalist strictures. It does so by exploring present-day popular constructions of the polity of colonial-princely Kanker in central India that appear in the oral accounts of the past given in the practices of the ancestral deity of the Gond peoples of Kanker, the anga dev.

When we make anga dev practices, and accounts, a central ground of investigation, a radically different understanding of tribal peoples, power and polity comes into view. The dominant narratives of "tribal" history in the colonial period construct a story of victimhood or heroic resistance in which tribal peoples are either passive recipients of, or reactive to, a pre-determined polity, closed off in the domain of the state. In the popular accounts, by contrast, the mixed tribe-caste anga dev communities appear centrally implicated in the making of the polity. These accounts contain conceptions of the polity in which sovereign power and authority are imagined in ways that overflow the constraints of statist historical representation, and are contested, negotiated, divided and shared between the raja, the symbol of the colonial-princely state, and the people and their ancestral gods. The negotiated, divided nature of sovereignty can be seen clearly in the rituals of the Dasehra and Madai festivals, the practice of settling disputes and resolving problems with the help of deities, and the accounts of the past given in the anga dev communities.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Making of the Project...1

Chapter 2. The Historiography of the Project...40

Chapter 3. The Archive of "State" and "Subjects"...85

Chapter 4. The King as "I" and Other Notes on Ethnography...132

Chapter 5. The World of the Anga Dev: A Field of Forces...154

Chapter 6. Polity and Sovereignty in the Anga Dev Accounts...224

Chapter 7. Conclusion...284

8. Glossary...301

9. Bibliography...310

Table of Illustrations


1. Anga Dev at the Madai at Kanker Palace, January 2011...5

2. A Madai scene at Kanker Palace, January 2011...6

3. Performing puja at the Madai ceremony at Kanker Palace, January 2011...11

4. Chhattisgarh Tourism poster of the Anga Dev Madai, Ishanvan, January 2011...14

5. Anga Dev at Kanker Palace during Dasehra, October 2011...16

6. Axe, trumpet and metal chain form of gods, Kanker Palace, October 2011...17

7. Anga Dev dancing at Kanker Palace during Dasehra, October 2011...18

8. Poster for Manohar Netam's conference, 2009...27

9. An Iqrarnama, 1946...119


1. State of Chhattisgarh and district of Kanker...79

2. Kanker District...80

3. The Politico-Sacred Geography of Kanker...228

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