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The Making and Unmaking of the Gonds. History of Hunting Mores in Colonial India

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This article will examine Gond tribes and their social history of hunting mores in colonial India. While a large corpus of anthropology and ethnographic studies has analysed the socio-economic and cultural life of many indigenous tribes in India in the post-colonial and contemporary situation, they do not particularly offer greater historical insights concerning the colonial period for the reader. This is true especially on the subject of tribal hunting practices during pre-colonial and colonial periods, which was often entirely dismissed by mainstream historians. Hence, it is worthwhile to consider what kind of life the Gonds led prior to British rule, and in what way the Gonds' society had flourished until the colonial intervention; and to what extent hunting had primacy in the tribal economy and society of the Gonds in the Central Provinces during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The present study aims to analyse the history of the Gonds in relation to their hunting practices and their negotiation with natural environment during the colonial period. Situating this hypothesis in the sphere of cultural geography and natural history, and on a par with other tribal groups, our research will shed light on the Gonds' forest homelands, their ecological vision and society of hunters during a time when wildlife numbers outweighed those of people. Thereby this research will offer some reflections in order to locate the Gonds' hunting mores in space and time for the colonial period in India. Importantly it will be suggested that despite 'subalternity' attached to the Gond tribals, they were successful in maintaining independent hunting cultures under the very rubric of the British Raj.
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Keywords: South Asia/colonial India; cultural geography; environmental humanities; indigenous tribes; social-economic and cultural history of hunting

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2017

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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