Conference Panels

ETHNIC IDENTITY AND ETHNOLOGY AMONG INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS IN A COMPARATIVE CONTEXT

Convenor: V. Jagadeesh, Anthropology, Karnatak University
Email: drvjagadeesh(at)gmail.com

The diverse ethnic and cultural origins of the people of India are shared by other peoples of the South Asian subcontinent, including the inhabitants of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. The overwhelming majority of the Indian population shares essentially the same physical characteristics. There is no concrete scientific evidence of racial differences within this, although there are ethnic and cultural variations, such as those of language and religion. There are a number of people in India who have been identified by the Government as ‘tribal’, meaning they belong to one of more than 300 officially designated 'Scheduled Tribes'. These ‘tribal’ people have sometimes been called ‘hill tribes’ or, more commonly today, Adivasis. Members of Indian Adivasi communities are thought to be indigenous and tend to be ethnically distinct. These groups are typically endogamous, marrying within their own communities.

This panel seeks presentations treating the historical origins and present-day status of Adivasi groups in South and Southeastern Asia and beyond. It seeks to place the Adivasi populations in their linguistic, historical, and cultural context, analysing the effects upon Adivasi communities of such events and policies as the Partition into India and Pakistan (and the subsequent formation of Bangladesh), the historical trajectory of policies toward Scheduled Tribes, the impact of development policies, land seizures, and others. Given its comparative aspirations, it also invites papers upon the process and effects of doing anthropological research field work among such communities. While in the first instance oriented to assessing the historical trajectories and current conditions of Adivasi populations in South Asia, this panel also invites papers on Indigenous populations in other parts of Asia and Australasia, as well as the world beyond Asia, where they are facing similar dilemmas.

  • SESSION 1     Room: G.28 SOC SCI     Fri 8/7/2011     Time: 13.30-15.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: Ethnic Identity and Ethnological Study Among Banjaras of Karnataka, India
      • Vislawath Jagadeesh, Karnatak University
    • Paper 2: Ethnic Identity and Ethnographical Study Among Kudubi Community of Karnataka, India
      • T. Basavanagouda, Karnatak University
    • Paper 3: Ethnographical Profile of Tea Gardeners in Assam, India
      • Begum Gulrukh, Gauhati University
    • Paper 4: Ethnology and Ethnicity Among the Dimasa Kachari, With Reference to the Dimasa Kachari, Barman
      • Sarmah Chandana
  • SESSION 2     Room: G.28 SOC SCI     Fri 8/7/2011     Time: 15.30-17.00     Room Location Map
    • Paper 1: ETHNOGRAPHICAL STUDY AMONG HALAKKI VOKKALU COMMUNITY OF KARNATAKA, INDIA
      • Babu Ray Shegunsi, Karnatak University
    • Paper 2: A Comparitive Ethnographical Profile of South Asian Population
      • M.C. Mallikarjuna, Karnatak University
    • Paper 3: Ethnic Identity and Ethnology among the Indigenous Naga Population in a Comparative Context
      • P.R. Mondal and Neli Daili University of Delhi
    • Paper 4: Ethnic Identity of the Buddhists in Pune
      • Anjali Kurane, University of Pune

SESSION 1

Chair: V. Jagadeesh, Karnatak University

Paper 1: Ethnic Identity and Ethnological Study Among Banjaras of Karnataka, India

Vislawath Jagadeesh, Karnatak University

The diverse ethnic and cultural origins of the people of India are shared by other peoples of the Indian subcontinent, including the inhabitants of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Srilanka. The overwhelming majority of Indian population share essentially the same physical characteristics. There is no concrete scientific evidence of racial differences with in this, although there are ethnic and cultural variations, such as language and religion. There are number of people in India that have identified by the Government as tribal, meaning they belong to one of more than 300 officially designated 'Scheduled Tribes'. The Banjaras are from Rajasthan, northern part of India. They have unique settlements in Karnataka state (Southern part). They live scattered over the state, but they are distinctly identified by their dress and their language. Banjaras are called by several names like Lamani, Lambada, Sukali etc. Perhaps the name Banjara or Lamani speaks of their community occupation (Jagadeesh 2005). Banjaras population is rich with diverse ethnic and cultural groups. Ethnic groups are those based on a sense of common ancestry, while cultural groups can be either made up of people of different ethnic origins who share a common language and belief in common, such as castes of a particular locality. There are number of people in India that have identified by the Government as tribal, meaning they belong to one of more than 300 officially designated 'Scheduled Tribes'. The tribal people are sometimes called hill tribes are Adivasis. Members of Indian hill tribes are thought to be indigenous and tend to be ethnically distinct.

Paper 2: Ethnic Identity and Ethnographical Study Among Kudubi Community of Karnataka, India

T. Basavanagouda, Karnatak University

Kudubi's is an ethnic group, often a distinct category of the population in a larger society with a different culture. Distinct ethnic and cultural groups were recorded by Anthropologist and Scholars and they have recognized certain ethnic groups which could be the result of migrations or exploitation by the rulers. Ethnic identification of kudubi's of Karnataka gives an ethnographical idea on the relationship that exists between an individual and a group with whom the individual believes he or she has common ancestry based on shared individual characteristics, shared socio-cultural experiences, or both. For example, an individual may identify with a person to whom he is in close contact in the form of a parent or a friend, with a group from which he or she draws values. And further with family or co-workers, or with a broad category of persons, for example, ethnic or occupational groups. The fore, the present research paper deals with Kudubi community of Karnataka  India, who reside in the coastal part of Karnataka. Kudubis are immigrants and it is noticed that they came from Goa about 400 years, approximately dated 16th Century A.D. Antonio Mascarenhas reports that Kudubis belong to the Munde Austroloid race (1970:20). Stephen Fuchs (1973) opines that Kudubuis are the food gathering and hunters in South India. It is little difficult to trace the racial features of Kudubis as it is hard to find sufficient literature documents and evidences on Kudubis. Portuguese. Consequently believes that there are a good number of Kudubis turned Christians today in Goa. Olivinho J.F. Gomes opines that aborigines stock in Goa is known as the Govddi. The Christian Convert of the 'Gardi' aboriginal was termed 'Kunbi'.

Paper 3: Ethnographical Profile of Tea Gardeners in Assam, India

Begum Gulrukh, Gauhati University

Assam is the biggest producer of quality tea in India, contributing about 55% of country's total tea production. Dependant on about five million labourers which is about 20% of the state's population , they are all descendants of those who were brought to Assam from all over eastern India. They belong to the different castes and tribal groups such as Santhals, Mundas, Oraons, Kharias, Gonds, Khonds, Kisang and Nagesias coming from the present day Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal between 1861 until the early 20th century. Comprising of a plethora of communities , having their own unique origin with a diverse social, ethnological and economic backdrop, the tea tribes stands apart from rest of the Mongoloid surroundings. The present study therefore is an attempt to look into their lost individual ethnicity reminding us again as man being a highly adaptable creature. Common identity as Tea Garden Tribes could be because of a common ecological setting, as they are all living together. A common influence on the life and ethos of these labourers in matters of education, health, employment, income, gender equality, access to opportunities, realization of opportunities, participation in various activities of social significance, ownership of resources and means of well being. The mounting socio- economic problems arising out of their illiteracy, ignorance, isolation from sophisticated life have dragged them into poverty and other evils. The degree of political awareness and involvement of the illiterate workers including women workers in the political process is miserably poor.

Paper 4: Ethnology and Ethnicity Among the Dimasa Kachari, With Reference to the Dimasa Kachari, Barman

Sarmah Chandana

Assam, situated in the north east corner of India has in its history received various streams of migrant population. These people have settled down here and have contributed to the formation of different societies that is seen at present times. Earlier there was intermixture between these communities birth at the socio-cultural and biological level, sometimes giving rise to new groups. Dimasa Kachari is a community which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman linguistic group of the Indo-Mongoloid family. They are spread over Dima Hasao district (former N.C. hills), Karbi Anglong, Cachar and Nowgaon district of Assam. In the first two districts they follow the traditional culture while those living in Cachar have accepted Hinduism and those living in Nowgaon district are followers of Vaishnavism. The present study describes the ethnology of the Hindu sect of the Dimasa Kachari who are locally known as Barmans. Ethnicity among the Dimasas is quite ephemeral to their existence in the region. Ethnic identity movement among the Dimasas has over the years become very violent with an extremist faction demanding a separate state to be carved out of areas which are inhabited by Dimasa people.

SESSION 2 (90 mins)

Chair: Basavanagouda.T, Karnatak University

Paper 1: ETHNOGRAPHICAL STUDY AMONG HALAKKI VOKKALU COMMUNITY OF KARNATAKA, INDIA

Babu Ray Shegunsi, Karnatak University

Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the origins, distribution, technology, language, and social structure of the ethnic, racial, and national divisions of humanity. The present paper describes the halakki vokkalu community in Karnatak. The main focus of my research is on holistic study on the area of geographical distribution, population, traditional customs, language, marriage pattern, and the lifecycle rituals is enlightened. Further decides the research paper emphasizes on social organization and institution like political, economic, and religious. Halakki Vokkalu have their settlements in Karnataka extending from North of Karnataka to the Mandovi River to the west of Sharavati and upto the Sahyadri hill of the west and valleys of these areas, with a total population of 95360 in Uttara Kannada District. They speak Konkani and because of this they are also called Konkani Kunabis. Kannada speaking Halakki vokkalu are referred to as Kaanadee Kunabis as per the old Maharashtra Gazetteer. In order to understand the overall condition of Halakki Vokkalu of Uttara Kannada District The present research paper deals with the ethnological study of Halakki Vokkalu community of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka. The Halakki Vokkalus have divided their boundaries into seven parts for administration purpose.

Paper 2: A Comparitive Ethnographical Profile of South Asian Population

M.C. Mallikarjuna, Karnatak University

The culture of Asia features the heritage of many nationalities, societies, and ethnic groups in the region, traditionally called a continent from a Western-centric perspective, of Asia. The region or "continent" is more commonly divided into more natural geographic and cultural subregions, including the Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia (the "Indian subcontinent"), North Asia, West Asia and Southeast Asia. Geographically, Asia is not a distinct continent; culturally, there has been little unity or common history for many of the cultures and peoples of Asia. Asian art, music, and cuisine, as well as literature, are important parts of Asian culture. Eastern philosophy and religion also plays a major role, with Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam; all playing major roles. One of the most complex parts of Asian culture is the relationship between traditional cultures and the Western world. There are an abundance of ethnic groups throughout Asia, with adaptations to the climate zones of Asia, which can perate, subtropical or tropical. The ethnic groups have adapted to mountains, deserts, grasslands, and forests. On the coasts of Asia, the ethnic groups have adopted various methods of harvest and transport. Some groups are primarily hunter-gatherers, some practice transhumance (nomadic lifestyle), others have been agrarian/rural for millennia and others are becoming industrial/urban. Some groups/countries of Asia are completely urban (Singapore and Hong Kong). The colonization of Asia was largely ended in the twentieth century, with national drives for independence and self-determination across the continent.

Paper 3: Ethnic Identity and Ethnology among the Indigenous Naga Population in a Comparative Context

P.R. Mondal and Neli Daili University of Delhi

The question of identity is crucial in the present time, and of deep concern to every man and nation. One's identity is strenuously guarded and enthusiastically perpetuated across generations. There was a time when identity was not problematic because people lived in isolation, independence and self-sufficiency and so identity was not threatened. The situation has changed. While there is force or dominance by one social group over the other, there is also stiff resistance. Further, while there is on the one hand an easy and smooth absorption into another, on the other hand, there are societies which are becoming self-assertive of their ethnic pride and potentialities. In such circumstances people want to exist with a name and dignity. The indigenous societies in India and the entire world over are aspiring to do so by asserting themselves in the modern society. Nagas are indigenous people living in the Northeast of India. From time immemorial, the Nagas had been inhabiting the Naga Hills as a nation. They have a distinct character, customs, rituals and style of life with geographical, historical, ethnological, linguistic and other features. The ethnic identity of the Nagas was not a problem until the arrival of the British imperialistic power in the 19th century. The British, for their own administrative convenience, divided the Naga territory into various parts without the consent of the Nagas. In the process, a big chunk of the Nagas territory was gifted to the Burma as a present and left the remaining part in India.

Paper 4: Ethnic Identity of the Buddhists in Pune

Anjali Kurane, University of Pune

Ethnic identity and social mobility are interrelated. Bhat says: "Ethnicity has emerged as a powerful instrument for achievement and mobility in contemporary societies." Ethnicity is the sense of ethnic identity. It is an accurate appreciation of ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is the root from where ethnicity arises. Ethnic identity plays a crucial role in bringing about social mobility of a community on which interaction takes place. Social mobility is the movement of an individual or groups, from one social position to another. It is a change in social object of value, beliefs, anything that has been created or modified by human activity. It is a change in one's education, occupation, income, economic change in conditions, prestige, status, power and wealth. It changes a person's overall social position. Rao (1984's vii), in his Foreword to Bhat's study, says: "Ethnic identity is a significant unit of operation in educational, economic, and political field, which leads to social mobility of the community." In the present study, I have examined the relationship between ethnic identity of the Buddhists in Pune and the consequent social mobility of the community. The present investigation concludes that the maintenance of ethnic identity has become a strong basis for social mobility of the Buddhists, in Pune. Assertion of a new identity contributed to lessening of the social disabilities, dis-privileges and oppression experienced by the Mahars in the Indian social system and led to certain upward social mobility.

Discussants: P.R. Mondal; Daili Neli; and Gulrukh Begum