Meenakshi Nair Ambujam

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva

Grant number

Gr. 9762

Approve Date

October 24, 2018

Project Title

Nair Ambujam, Meenakshi, Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland - To aid research on ''Landless with my Title-deed': Rethinking Restitution in Adivasi Life, Telangana (India),' supervised by Dr. Shaila Seshia Galvin

Preliminary abstract: This research proposes to examine experiences of post-restitution landlessness among adivasis or tribal populations of Telangana, a federal state in India. At a time when calls for effective land governance and titling reforms are emphasised upon by both social movements and neoliberal institutions across various countries, title-deeds are presumed to grant absolute ownership and control over land. Dispossession and uncertainty of land tenure, faced by adivasis, have been historically linked to their inability to possess title-deeds– citing different understandings of property. My research explores how adivasis, who have engaged in the process of restitution and adopted notions of property, curated by the state, continue to remain landless despite holding title-deeds and related documentary artefacts. The disconnect between ownership of land and its possession, despite having these documentary artefacts, point to ways in which practices of restitution may perversely enable the persistence and even deepening of conditions of landlessness and dispossession among adivasis. I suggest that processes of restitution, through the production and circulation of documentary artefacts– particularly title-deeds, land records and registries— perpetuate and sustain conditions of landlessness that they otherwise seek to remedy. Consequently, my research traces how this may affect claim-making strategies employed by adivasis and their participation in state-sponsored policies of restitution. Through 13 months of archival and ethnographic research in Hyderabad, Utnoor and Bhadrachalam, in adivasi hamlets and state bureaucracies, this research refines and advances theoretical conceptualisations of dispossession and landlessness.