The University of Arizona

Unfolding nomadism? A feminist political ecology of sedentarization in the Attappady Hills, Kerala

Deepa Kozhisseri, Sudhir Chella Rajan


The landscape of the Attappady Hills in the Nilgiri range of Kerala, South India, is home to several Adivasis or indigenous peoples and settler communities, and has had intermittent cycles of agrarian crisis and sufficiency, according to colonial accounts from the early 20th century. Since the 1970s, rapid sedentarization of hunting-gathering communities, expanding capitalist markets, conservation projects, and sizable development interventions have contributed to agrarian and nutritional distress. There is a simultaneous process of adopting capitalist market forms and holding on to communal structures, along with manifestations of patriarchy, and resistance through gender struggles within the household and through community mobilization. Adivasis in the region seem to be undergoing processes of being simultaneously alienated from the forest and rediscovering connections to their land and the non-human world. By highlighting the material aspects with relational ecological ties and patriarchal manifestations with rural women's movements, this article proposes the relevance of nomadic movement in interpreting gender and environment subjectivities that have a bearing on these communities' future foodscapes and the rest of their landscape. We point to a continuous process of becoming, a 'feminist politics of the earth' in this landscape and extend the gender-nature debate beyond dualisms and liminality by highlighting fluid dialectical processes within a feminist political ecology framework.

Keywords: Agrarian transitions; sedentarization; feminist political ecology; nomadic theory



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