ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Practices as Political

Tribal Citizens and Indigenous Knowledge Practices in the East Himalayas

Whether the “practising Adivasi” or the practitioners of traditional knowledge are subjects of different rationality is examined here. Through a study of the Lepcha traditional practices in the east Himalayas, it is argued that the practising Adivasi or indigenous peoples are indeed presenting empirical sites of “ethico-political articulations,” or “Ecosophy,” a term Félix Guattari uses in The Three Ecologies to advocate a normative theory and a “futuristic” approach. The study affirms that the recalcitrant Adivasis, who, as groups of our times, are presenting us with life-sustaining zones of pristine biodiversity as alternatives to the nature-devouring, deep industrialisation models of the modern state.


The author sincerely thanks Mayalmit Lepcha, Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha, Tempa Lepcha, Hee Moo Ongkit, Anum Namgyal, Kyacho Lepcha and many more nature warriors in Dzongu (North Sikkim) who have diligently used their modern education to spread awareness on the imperatives of preserving forests and rivers in their pristine glory.

The cultural practices of indigenous peoples and the Adivasi Indians often appear to present an alternative position to the foundationalist political theory that governs modern nations. The catalytic role that modern technology-backed developmental projects play in upsetting the equilibrium of local ecologies is brought into focus by many resistances of the indigenous communities the world over. These resistances to the assimilationist powers of modern governmental regimes are often claimed on the grounds of autonomy of their world view and lifeworld practices. The aim of this paper is to examine whether the practising Adivasi or the practitioners of traditional knowledge, more than being citizen–subjects (self-interested individuals answerable only to the regime of the modern state), are instead subjects of indigenous knowledge and different rationality.

Through a study of the Lepcha traditional practices in the East Himalayas, this paper engages with a cultural community with different rationality. The study explores whether the “sites of difference” in the traditional habitats of indigenous peoples also offer possibilities of “becoming,” that is, becoming ecological subjects from being subjects of scientific rationality. With their indigenous knowledge practices, the Lepcha language-speaking people of Dzongu in North Sikkim offer alternative sites of modern scientific knowledge. Their skills in biodiversity conservation have helped them sustain the pristine East Himalayan ecosystem over centuries, and have lately attracted international recognition from professional ecologists around the world who are alerting people to the dangers of the forest-devouring and water-polluting models of industrial growth.

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Updated On : 25th Nov, 2020
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