UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reimagining conservation landscapes : Adivasi characterizations of the human-dimensions of southern Indian forests Jolly, Helina


One of the most damaging consequences of forest management and wildlife conservation policies around the world has been their pivotal role in the long-term dispossession of Indigenous groups from their ancestral lands. Indigenous presence in, knowledge, and understanding of the natural world is perceived as a problem requiring the correction and intervention of the state. These wrongful assumptions are dominant in the treatment of Adivasi (India's Indigenous people) across post-colonial India. This dissertation empirically investigates the relationship of Kattunayakans, a hunter-forager Adivasi community of Southern India and protected area forest landscapes. It critically contrasts the ideology that defines India's forest policy with Adivasi views of human relationships with wildlife, forested land, forest fire, and forest food. From all the above, chapter 2 characterizes Kattunayakan ways of engagement with wildlife as a form of 'deep coexistence' that describes wild animals as: rational beings in conversation with humans; as gods, teachers, and equals; and as relatives with shared origins practicing dharmam (alms). Chapter 3 contributes empirical evidence to the study of Adivasi-forest relationships by articulating socio-cultural meanings and values that Kattunayakans associate with protected area forests. Chapter 4 engages with Adivasi knowledge of forest fire as an agent, co-manager, actor, preserver, groomer, and enabler of socio-ecological functions. It contests the notion of a forest fire as a dangerous phenomenon that should be quickly extinguished and positions fire as a co-habitant being, on par with animal and human residents. Chapter 5 seeks to expand understanding of Adivasi food transitions and ensuing consequences for the socio-ecology of Indigenous peoples. It describes the food as a facilitator of knowledge, memories, identities, aspirations, reciprocities, relationships, and ways of living. It highlights the need to learn about Adivasi foodways beyond nutrition and have policies that bring an Adivasi inclusive take on food transitions. What emerges is an interpretation of the forest that emphasizes coexistence over domination, highlighting the fluid agency of animal and non-animal entities over rigid policy prescriptions and broader notions of forest security as human security. Together these views remain central to Adivasi well-being despite decades of forced dislocation.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International