The forests of Attappady Hills part of the Western Ghats in Kerala homeland to Adivasi people is a frontier region where a settler population is now predominant. This paper aims to bring the concept of borders as a heuristic device to interpret gender-ecology-indigeneity in Attappady. The conversations among Adivasis, between Adivasis and settlers, between Adivasi women and their children become in media res dialogues of their border subjectivity. This was an empirical study in Attappady in which life experiences, oral history and myths were studied using narrative analysis. The paper discusses four findings: First how land dispossession disproportionately impacted Adivasi women. Second the gradual increase of elopement and its linkage with land dispossession among women and loss of commons. Thirdly the collapse of the household due to alcoholism and Adivasi women’s social movement to protect their oikeon. Fourthly the rupture of gender agriculture foodways and how women are running community kitchens for nutritious meals. The Attappady hills that were once denuded have regenerated although the region is prone to recurrent droughts and floods. In the midst of these climate change challenges and agrarian distress both these forests and Adivasi women are uniting from their border position and showing signs of being mutually constituted in renewal. While narratives of “enchantment” can serve as technologies of power it argues that critical border thinking has to be accompanied by visions of “re-enchantment” of the commons. Flows of knowledge are in media res between enchantment, critical enchantment and re-enchantment. Epistemic potential for this re-enchantment comes from the convergence of decolonial feminist epistemologies of geo politics, body territory and indigenous feminisms with ecofeminism. The emergent affective interrelation shows co-production of place and people. Finally, a grounded approach is recommended for strengthening women’s collectives and multifunctional land use planning to ensure gender equity in access to natural resources.
“Valli” at the border: Adivasi women de-link from settler colonialism paving re-enchantment of the forest commons.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 21(7), 139-152.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol21/iss7/11