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Tribes and the Indian State: The Ho of Jharkhand and Gaddis of Himachal Pradesh


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This talk emerges from the recently published edited volume Caste, COVID-19 and Inequalities of Care: Lessons from South Asia (Springer 2022). The core theme is how casteism and other forms of marginalization contribute to both biological and psychosocial health disparities. Sanghmitra Acharya will frame the broad discussion of the social determinants of wellbeing. Jay Sharma and Stephen Christopher will present their chapters, which are about two tribes, separated by 1,000 miles, both struggling with legacies of colonialism, belonging, and establishing their place in 21st-century India. Sharma will present about the Ho's reaction to state mandates during the pandemic and Christopher will present about Gaddi Dalits who have fallen into administrative limbo and are deprived of affirmative action opportunities. In both cases, tribal relations to the State causes considerable anguish. 

Sanghmitra S. Acharya is a Professor in the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She has been Visiting Faculty at CASS, China; Ball State University, USA; UPPI, Manila; East West Center, Honolulu; and the University of Botswana. She has received fellowships and grants by UNFPA, the Asian Scholarship Foundation, USEFI, ICSSR-CASS and SICI. She works on the issues of health and discrimination. 

Jay Prakash Sharma is a doctoral candidate specializing in cultural anthropology and Adivasi (indigenous) studies. His Ph.D. dissertation is titled, “Revisiting Subaltern Politics: Memory, Spirituality, and Law”. His dissertation investigates how a local movement against limestone mining in a remote village of Jharkhand in India, is mediated by indigenous faith (religion), ethnic identity, and memory among Ho tribal community in Jharkhand. He received the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Junior Fellowship (2021-22) for conducting his year-long dissertation fieldwork. He has published his previous work in Economic and Political Weekly and the International Journal of Indigenous and Marginalized Affairs. He recently contributed a chapter on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Ho tribal community of Jharkhand, in an ed. volume Caste, COVID-19, and Inequalities of Care: Lessons from South Asia, Springer.

Stephen Christopher completed his PhD from Syracuse University in 2018. In 2019, he was a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at Kyoto University. He is currently a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Copenhagen. Stephen has taught anthropology, South Asian studies and academic writing at Beijing Normal University, Vietnam National University, University of Bremen, Pitt in the Himalayas, Syracuse University, Semester at Sea, Tokyo Metropolitan University and Denki-Tsushin University and Appalachian State University.


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MAX-Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, MAX-South Asia Center


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