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Unruly Hills

Unruly Hills: A Political Ecology of India's Northeast

Bengt G. Karlsson
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Unruly Hills
    Book Description:

    The questions that inspired this study are central to contemporary research within environmental anthropology, political ecology, and environmental history: How does the introduction of a modern, capitalist, resource regime affect the livelihood of indigenous peoples? Can sustainable resource management be achieved in a situation of radical commodification> of land and other aspects of nature? Focusing on conflicts relating to forest management, mining, and land rights, the author offers an insightful account of present-day challenges for indigenous people to accommodate aspirations for ethnic sovereignty and development.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-105-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-23)

      It was already late afternoon when thelyngdoh(the traditional priest) of Hima Khyrim, Mr. P. Lyngdoh Nongkrem, and his assistant welcomed us into their office in Smit. My friend Pam and her two children had come along to shop at the weekly market that was being held that day. After hours of haggling in the crowded marketplace, we were all rather exhausted. And as we waited for Mr. Lyngdoh to turn up, I had several cups of sweet tea, which added to the stress I had been feeling during the day. I was going back to Sweden early the...

    • Chapter 1 Nature and Nation
      (pp. 24-74)

      In this opening chapter, I shall introduce the reader to Meghalaya and the larger region known as Northeast India. The aim is basically to set the scene for the later discussions. There is a lot of ground to cover and I ask forgiveness if the reader at times feel lost in the text. I begin with a note on the state boundaries that have come into place since Independence, and then move back in time to discuss the significance of British rule and its contemporary legacies. Here I return to Marx’s notion of primitive accumulation. I then move on to...


    • Chapter 2 Elusive Forests
      (pp. 77-125)

      In this chapter, I explore various aspects of the forest in Meghalaya. The forest has become a key site of contention in the state. How much forest is there, how should the forest be managed, who has the rights over it, and what happens to the environment if all the trees are being cut down? These are some of the questions I will address. I begin by recounting a story from the field.

      Rathan Mumin told me that his father once took a photograph of a car parked on the stump of a giant tree and that picture had made...

    • Chapter 3 Shifting Land Rights
      (pp. 126-172)

      In the quote above, the Garo leader Sonaram R. Sangma is being questioned in court about his role in instigating the Garos to oppose the colonial intrusion into their hills. Deemed a “professional agitator” and “a man of dangerous character,” Sangma had earlier been imprisoned and, at his release, forbidden to return to the Garo Hills. But since he had managed to gain extensive support and triggered discontent among the Garos, the colonial government found it necessary to send a special commission in 1906 to enquire into the alleged injustice done to the Garo tribesmen of these far-away hill tracts....

    • Chapter 4 Mining Matters
      (pp. 173-224)

      In this chapter I explore the politics of mineral extraction in Meghalaya. Mining of coal and limestone is a critical source of income for the state government. The large deposit of uranium in the state stands in turn to be exploited, but such plans have come up against stiff opposition by various organizations. I begin with a story from the field.

      Mr. H.S. Shylla, Chief Executive Member of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council at the time, greeted me with a friendly handshake as I entered his spacious office in Shillong. He was in a good mood, just returning from...


    • Chapter 5 Indigenous Governance
      (pp. 227-265)

      Robert Kharshiing and the other leaders of the grassroots democracy movement in Meghalaya managed to hit the right publicity button by bestowing a green award upon former US Vice-President Al Gore for his campaign against global climate change. Several national and international media picked up the story, with imaginative headlines like the one by the Associated Press, “Tribal kings in remote Indian state give environmental award to Al Gore.”² The BBC journalist Subir Bhaumik reported: “The award will be handed over at the second Dorbar Ri (People’s Parliament) on 6 October near a sacred forest at the village of Mawplang,...

    • Chapter 6 Political Ecology at the Frontier
      (pp. 266-289)

      I began this book by suggesting that the resource struggles discussed in it can best be understood in relation to a larger history of capitalist expansion into southern hinterlands, and I end by returning to this proposition. By way of conclusion, I also sum up the principal arguments developed in the previous chapters, organizing this summary around four interrelated themes. First, I revisit the thesis of the environment as trigger of violence; second, I recapitulate why I believe frontiers, and more particularly resource frontiers, are central to the argument; third, I address the complex notion of nature turned into a...

  10. References
    (pp. 290-310)
  11. Index
    (pp. 311-316)