The Origin of the Forest, Private Property, and the State: The Political Life of India's Forest Rights Act
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CitationVaidya, Anand Prabhakar. 2014. The Origin of the Forest, Private Property, and the State: The Political Life of India's Forest Rights Act. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation tracks the creation and implementation of India's 2006 Forest Rights Act or FRA, a landmark law that for the first time grants land rights to the millions who live without them in the country's forests. I follow the law in relation to the forest rights movement that has been central in lobbying for, drafting, and implementing it in order to examine both how the movement has shaped the law's meaning as well as how contests and alliances over the law's text and meaning have transformed the many movements citing and using the law. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, I track the law from contests over its drafting in New Delhi to contests over its meaning in Ramnagar, a North Indian village. Ramnagar was settled by landless forest dwellers organized by forest rights activists, and its continued but still precarious existence is premised on a claim to land through the Act. I show that the meaning of the FRA was contested at every stage through collective action oriented around what Bakhtin (1982) terms `chronotopes,' the joint depiction of time, place, and characters in language. By diagnosing contemporary injustice through a depiction of the past and pointing to a just future to be brought about through the action of a collective, political movements and identifications form around and act through chronotopes. The movements enacting the Forest Rights Act have critically seized upon what one bureaucrat involved in its drafting called its `word traps,' words or phrases in the text with apparently uncontroversial literal meanings that in fact allow the law to be read through the political chronotopes of political parties or movements. By attending to the relationship between the legal text, its chronotopic deployment, and collective action, my project provides new ways to understand laws in political practice and language in political practice.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274142
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