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Thematics- Marginalized Communities>> Tribal

The Global & the Located: On the issue of a Global Party

By Narendra Bastar

In the adivasi-folk worldview and self-image a global party, or globalization in any form or appearance, does not hold much water. Not only do such notions not spring from his experience and his earth, not only are they alien and non-dialogic coercions, they are also mechanisms to perpetuate his marginalisation. Globalization is a subject where there are strongly held views but relatively little empirical evidence, particularly of the micro level. Some view globalization as a panacea that will reduce inequality and contribute to the elimination of poverty, while others are deeply suspicious of the process, believing that it will lead to further concentration of the benefits globally. Both side track the adivasi-folk and disguise reality.

The issue is not of poverty, growth, equality, injustice -- or imagined alternatives -- alone. In the last about 4-500 years ethnocide, genocide and marginalization has characterized the relationship between the adivasi-folk world and the world that regards everything – save itself – as ‘the other’. Now a worsened avatar of the same continues vide what is called globalization. The first phase of globalization brought in colonization and the second has institutionalized marginalization through ecocide and development. Civil society has contributed to this eventuality by engaging with the ‘establishment’ on its terms and not on terms of adivasi-folk.

In the first place, globalization in any form is antithetical to the worldview of the adivasi-folk. It is an abstract space that displaces the life space of the adivasi-folk. From his perspective life space is embodied place. Hence the issue of habitation and locatedness is central to the adivasi. He affirms locatedness through an almost sacred sense of ‘boundaries’ that can be crossed only when one crosses over into ‘abstract space’ but which can never be crossed in life space terms. The human body has certain boundaries and hence can traverse only certain boundaries; the hut has an embodied boundary within which certain functions are to be performed. Similarly the village size has a boundary (in Abujh Maad a village consists usually of 3-4 huts), its layout has a boundary; and the surrounding landscape has a boundary. Within that is the comprehensible and the accessible. Outside that is the abstract, the incomprehensible, which does not sufficiently address the body, place and nativity, the phenomenon of locatedness. The body, as located, is the absolute zero-point from which all life space is organized into here, there, up, down, small, large, accessible etc. Beyond this, the body-place dialectic is amiss. The kinship between the adivasi’s being and being of the earth is amiss, too. In locatedness there is attunement to local earth; attunement is embodiedness, an experientiality that is constitutive of who one is. There is a historical continuum of body and embodied terrain within which body and place are intertwined. It is interesting to note in this context a conversation with Astu, an adivasi in Bastar, some months ago wherein he said that ‘boundary’ is essentially an ‘unknowable’. It is known after it is crossed; and then it is often too late to revert. The very notion of a global party tends to represent such irreversibility; in itself irreversibility is that which has no boundaries left. Contrast this with the unprecedented expansion-compression of space and time in particularly the last 20-30 years through IT revolution…… Have some boundaries been crossed? In the same vein, is the very notion of majoritarian democracy a crossing of such boundaries?

Majoritarian democracy is constituted by the participativeness in nurturing the globalization of last 4-500 years. On account of non-participation stemming from the strengths of their tradition, culture and world view the adivasi-folk have been kept outside its purview, on the ever-receding margins. In its other manifestation as the State, such democracy has accelerated globalization through de-traditionalization of societies; and substituted voluntary cultural assimilation with enforced cultural homogenization. Ironically, it is democracy itself that has denied them their freedom of access to their world. In the adivasi experience of last 4-500 years this has been unprecedented. At least for the adivasi the distinction between the State and society has often proved to be a little too short.

Earth is the foundation of life of nativity and intrinsic-ness, the located do not think of it as resource, nor do they pave it over or dump poisons or strip the vegetation and let the soil run away. As the land builds, the richness and diversity of habitat increases. More varieties of being and ‘non-being’ find niche and expression in the web of life. In the adivasi’s locatedness, then, the earth is an interdependent living community of memory and micro-organisms, insects and worms, ancestors and spirits, small and big animals, reptiles and birds, water and vegetation, cultural rhythms and mysterious and impenetrable knowledge: all live in, contribute to and feed on components of the interdependent community of being and non-being. Beyond this is the abstract space wherefrom body, locatedness and boundary run away and the earth is no more. Looking at the Abujh Maadia, locatedness and earth involve walking, and no more. It works to communicate a certain way of being on land. The earth is only as big as where his feet take him. Beyond that is the un-located globe. It is significant to note that though the Mayans made wheels for their children’s toys they made none for themselves. In the Abujh Madia’s world the globe is the abstract space which has neither knowledge, cosmology, values of collectivity, reciprocity, respect and reverence for the ‘other’.

Incorporating this in the global worldview, any or all of this terrain is, at least seemingly, an impossible task. In Astu’s words, the global is the idiom of the impossible and absurd. It is a peculiarity of such discourse that whereas it allows for certain spaces it completely disallows others. Both the establishment and civil society are perfectly married in this respect. The un-addressed epistemological issue for both is whether there is only one metaphysics to contacting Reality.
In the discourse of modernity and globalization, in any form, the constituting of personhood in the images of locatedness and landscape has been associated with reactionary-ism where as the libertarian movements have invoked the notions of personhood as disembodied from the native and the located. A re-grounding of ‘polity’ through awareness of the located is an embodiment of the indigenous discourse that comprises co-inherence of the earth and the self. The discourse of modernity and globalization has marginalized majorities in their own nativity by dis-embodying their discourse. Such blindness is connected with the disparagement of the rhythms native knowledge. It is a crucial element in perpetuating his marginalization.

To the eternal misfortune of the adivasi-folk, the all-encompassing modernization/globalization metaphor defines the world for him. Nothing conceptualizes a world view as well as its language. As it is, the adivasi-folk is talked of in more and more globalized, modernistic, cognitive ways in almost total exclusion of other aspects: the moral-aesthetic-spiritual space that approximates the adivasi cosmology of dialect, language and idiom of inter-relatedness whereby the ‘brother’ –locality, landscape—has not become the disembodied ‘other’. He is wily-nily being made to live in a historical-civilization context whose intellectual and moral visions are circumcised by its continual denial of the other, where self-sameness is enabled not through affirmation but negation. Hence, the continuous unease of the adivasi with all forms and symbols of modernity. Such strident predominance is crushing the native self-sameness and denies him access to his world. For him there is an intense desperation accompanying this realization. There are efforts now on his part to fill this ‘historical-civilization’ void in his past by adopting/borrowing somebody else’s past, the Hindu past, Christian past by striking a ‘secular’ stance or integration into a globalized structure as a global party, which is un-connected to his ‘landscape’. Hence, the relentless effort to uproot his landscape.

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South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy