TAPSA: “Negotiating ‘Green’ Citizenship in North-east India: Of Native Peacocks and Non-Native Nepalis”

Suchismita Das, doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology

This paper is an interrogation of the “cross-pollination” of political and ecological discourses about belonging – specifically the linkages between the value placed on nativism of species in ecology and on autochthony in ethnopolitics. The ethnography traces the declaration of a Bird Sanctuary near Kitam, a predominantly Nepali village in Sikkim. The Nepali community, despite more than two centuries of presence in the Indian landscape faces a deficit of belonging, as a group whose name itself indexes foreignness. The peacock is the flagship species of the protected area, around whose protection the demand for the sanctuary revolved. How is the belonging of this multi-species knot, of the Nepali community and the peacocks, recognized under the ecological gaze of the forest department, environmental NGOs and national ecotourists visiting the sanctuary? How do the two distinct parameters of valuation of diversity – “unity in diversity” as a motto of multicultural inclusion, and biodiversity as a central tenet of ecological conservation – intersect in constituting an emergent regime of recognition of ethnic diversity and of belonging on the frontier? What are the limits in the strategic mobilization of environmental stewardship as a claim towards “green” citizenship? The paper aims to speak both to this particular moment of ethnopolitics and the larger question of the influence of moral philosophies of nature on principles of political belonging, inclusion and exclusion.

Thursday, May 3, 2018 - 12:45pm
Foster 103