Indigenous Land and the Politics of Voice: The strategic representation of indigeneity, in activism against land acquisition by mining companies

By Radhika Borde.
Acquisition of indigenous land for purposes of mineral extraction is a controversial issue for several environmental reasons, including the unique one of the emotional/spiritual attachment indigenous communities express for their land and the ecological balance they often maintain on it. In India, this issue came into media focus with the attempt by UK-based Vedanta Resources to acquire the Niyamgiri hill, considered sacred by the indigenous Dongaria Kondh community which lived on it. After more than a decade of activism, mining on the Niyamgiri hill has been banned by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The project analyses the reasons for the sympathy showed for the indigenous community, with an emphasis on the role of local and international civil society actors in determining it. It will apply the theory of subalternity to the situation of the Dongaria Kondhs and describe how activists popularized their struggle from both “below” and “above”. The project includes a comparative dimension as well and compares this case with similar cases in the Philippines and Guatemala. It attempts to theorize a logic operating across the various contexts.

Claudio Minca and Martijn Duineveld - Cultural Geography Group, Wageningen University
Bettina Bluemling – School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow