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In the Shadows of the State suggests that well-meaning indigenous rights and development claims and interventions may misrepresent and hurt the very people they intend to help. It draws on extensive ethnographic research in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India officially created in 2000, after a long struggle for the autonomy of its indigenous people.

It follows the everyday lives of some of the poorest villagers as they chase away protected wild elephants, try to cut down the forests they allegedly live in harmony with, maintain a healthy skepticism about the revival of the indigenous governance system, and seek to avoid the initial spread of an armed revolution of Maoist guerrillas who claim to represent them. Shah reveals a class dimension to cultural-based identity politics, that often silences the poorest and most marginalised.

London and Durham N.C.: Duke University Press; Delhi: Oxford University Press

Order: UK


'Presenting a sophisticated analysis of original empirical material based on sensitive long-term ethnographic fieldwork, Alpa Shah directly challenges existing frameworks in and beyond academic anthropology. She provides important new perspectives on indigenous governance, development, the anthropology of the state, corruption and local democracy, the politics of conservation, and environmental and Maoist movements. "In the Shadows of the State" demonstrates the value of critical ethnography; it is likely to be read as an exemplar.' David Mosse, author of Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice.

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Related Radio Broadcasts

A taste of one of the chapters of 'In the Shadows of the State' read by the author.


Is Yosemite a better home for the wild elephants of Jharkhand, India?

2018, Resonance 104.4fm broadcast of 22/8/2008