Research project: For a Theory on Ecological and Cultural Imaginary: River, nature, community histories and the politics of marginalisation
The geographical-cultural backdrops of this research are the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu in the south and Himachal Pradesh and Kumaun-Garhwal in the north. The project considers cultural and ecological imaginary as social and political constructs, informing ideas of nature, history and memory. This is done through engagement with different contexts, given below.
Ecological imaginary - For the Kondareddi, Koya and other tribal communities living by the river Godavari (in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and bordering Chhattisgarh), the Tamarind, Mango, Ippa (Basia latifolia) trees inhere sacredness and festivals are dedicated to their worship annually. The forests are also home to small patches of podu (shifting cultivation) that supplement income and food. The agrarian, for them, is also the forest. With the Madras Forest Act of 1883, and subsequent state intervention, even post-Independence, in the Godavari districts, Wildlife Sanctuary, National Park, etc. gave a different — ‘governancing’— meaning to these spaces. For the fishing communities on the river Godavari, its flows are intrinsic to their own histories and identities. Fishing zones are culturally and inter-generationally fixed. With colonial and post-colonial state intervention, rivers are seen as a commodity and of utilitarian value alone; hence ‘flow’ and ‘fluid’ notions of spaces are not acknowledged.
Cultural Imaginary - Certain communities persevere with their acts of remembrance and memory as intrinsic to their community identity. The identity of several minoritised or marginalised communities (in terms of caste groups or indigenous/tribal/adivasi/officially designated minorities) seems to be bound inseparably to ‘not forgetting’ (not simply remembering) or ‘remembering not to forget’ what they have been through in the past, what they are going through at present and here the dominant, hegemonic should be seen as the one that constructs over time these marginal identities. In this context is located one example, of the Tamil Jaina community of Tamil Nadu.