Roderick Wijunamai

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 10739

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Wijunamai, Roderick (Cornell U.) "The promise of oil palm in India’s Northeastern borderlands"

This is a project about how indigenous geographies affect, and are affected by, the building of a national economy. India is the world’s largest importer of edible oil. To contain its increasing demand, the Government of India launched the National Mission for Edible Oil-Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) in 2014. Nagaland—alongside other Northeastern states—is one of the key sites where production is concentrated. The region is geographically and politically at the margins and is home to constitutionally designated “tribal” communities. Particularly, the Naga uplands is where South Asia’s longest sovereignty movement continues to persist. Grounded in a proposed fourteen months of participant observation, in-depth interviews, and discourse analysis, my research explores the confluence of a national economy and indigenous futures in Nagaland through the lens of India’s oil palm development. Specifically, I consider the expectations, aspirations, and ambivalences of the upland Nagas, as well as of the Indian state. I explore the ways in which oil palm expansion encounters indigenous Naga customs, traditions, and ways of life. My research contributes to critical agrarian studies, economic anthropology, and anthropologies of indigenous sovereignties