Hunter Gatherer Research

Disruptive transactions

The complex configurations of sharing and the vulnerability of life in the Jarawa Reserve forest in the Andaman Islands

Hunter Gatherer Research (2017), 3, (3), 537–556.

Abstract

The murder of a mixed-race child in the Jarawa reserve territory of the Andaman Islands made headlines in the global media in March 2016. What caught the interest was the murder of the child, allegedly by a Jarawa man in collusion with an outsider, and the ethical and legal conundrum it purportedly posed to Indian state authorities. The murder of the child was in fact carried out at the behest of an outsider, a poacher in the forest who was apparently the father of the child and known to have been involved in multiple sexual relationships with a particular group of Jarawa women who formed a sorority and lived at the fringes of the reserve’s forest. Without the protective structures of a family, this sorority has forged alliances among themselves and consequently remained in an ambivalent relationship to the community, often facing overt restraints on their rights to participate in the practices of ‘sharing’ within the community. The women’s proximity to outsiders and their participation in an alternative exchange economy with poachers and settlers is a mode of survival. This paper focuses on the precarious existence of this group of Jarawa women in the Andaman Islands, reflecting on the contingent and gendered configurations of sharing, non-sharing and transactional practices that have emerged in the context of the Jarawa community’s contact with the outsiders, their confinement in a territory close to non-tribal settlements, and their inclusion in a welfare system that erodes their values of sharing in deeply disruptive ways.

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References

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Barnard, A & Spencer, J (eds) 2002. Encyclopedia of social and cultural anthropology. London: Routledge. Google Scholar

Barry, E & Kumar, H 2016. Baby’s killing tests India’s protection of an Aboriginal culture. New York Times, 13 March 2016. Google Scholar

Boehm, C 2001. Hierarchy in the forest. The evolution of egalitarian behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Google Scholar

Dowling, JH 1968. Individuals, ownership and the sharing of game in hunting societies. American Anthropologist 70(3):502–507. Google Scholar

Hodgson, DL & McCurdy, S 1996. Wayward wives, misfit mothers and disobedient daughters: wicked women and the reconfiguration of gender in Africa. Canadian Journal of African Studies 30(1):1–9. Google Scholar

Kishigami, N 2004. A new typology of food sharing practices among hunter-gatherers with a special focus on Inuit. Journal of Anthropological Research 60(3):341–358. Google Scholar

Leacock, E & Lee, R 1982. Politics and history in band societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar

Lee, R 1992. Demystifying primitive communism. In Gailey, CW (ed) Dialectical anthropology: essays in honor of Stanley Diamond. Volume 1. Gainesville: University of Florida Press:73–94. Google Scholar

Mukhopadhyay, K, Bhattacharya, RK & Sarkar, BN 2002. Jarawa contact: ours with them, theirs with us. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India. Google Scholar

Pandya, V 2002. Contact, images and imagination: the impact of roads in Jarawa reserve forest of Andaman Islands. Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en Volkenkunde 158(4):799–820. Google Scholar

Pandya, V 2009. In the forest: visual and material worlds of Andamanese history (1858–2003). Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Google Scholar

Pandya, V 2014. Being ‘primitive’ in a modern world: the Andaman islanders. In Devy, G & Davis, G (ed) Knowing differently: the cognitive challenge of the Indigenous. New Delhi: Routledge:13–44. Google Scholar

Radcliffe-Brown, AR 1964. The Andaman islanders. New York: Free Press. Google Scholar

Sahlins, M 1965. On the sociology of primitive exchange. In Banton, M (ed) The relevance of models in social anthropology. London: Routledge:139–159. Google Scholar

Sahlins, M 1972. Stone age economics. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton. Google Scholar

Sarkar, J 1990. The Jarawa. Calcutta: Seagull Books. Google Scholar

Sekhsaria, P & Pandya, V (eds) 2010. The Jarawa Tribal Reserve Dossier: cultural and Biological Diversities in the Andaman Islands. Pune: Kalpvriksh. Google Scholar

Service, ER 1966. The hunters. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Google Scholar

Suzman, J 2017. Affluence without abundance. New York: Bloomsbury. Google Scholar

Woodburn, J 1982. Egalitarian societies. Man, New series 17:431–451. Google Scholar

Woodburn, J 1988. African hunter-gatherer social organization: is it best understood as a product of encapsulation? In Ingold, T, Riches, D & Woodburn, J (eds) Hunters and gatherers (Vol 1). History, evolution, and social change. Oxford: Berg Press:31–64. Google Scholar

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Details

Author details

Pandya, Vishvajit

Mazumdar, Madhumita