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Abstract

This study looks at the nature of colonial intervention into the forest regions of Andhra called as the Agency and its transition from a fluid social space to a space of tribal exceptionalism. In the pre-colonial period, these forest tracts were home to various social groups and not just adivasis. These groups were connected with the polities of the neighbourhood through segmented politico-religious networks. The colonial rule disentangled these networks through the creation of administrative exceptionalism called as the ‘Agency’. Till the late 19th century, the colonial state-making continued by relying on the traditional muttadari system and allowing fluid practices. But with the beginning of agrarian expansion in the neighbouring plains, settled agriculture became the ‘normative’ to judge other spaces. The Agency spaces with multitude of livelihoods became the binary ‘other’ of the settled agriculture. The pressure from agrarian expansion and a bias towards non-tribal resulted in the growth of tribal land alienation. Legislation to arrest tribal alienation sanctified the administrative exceptionalism and later helped in the evolution of adivasi as a political subject. In the early decades of 20th century, developmental policies and the introduction of survey and settlement only reified essentialist stereotypes about the adivasi. By 1930s, the Agency as a space of legislative exceptionalism was further continued with the 1935 Act and the category of Partially Excluded areas. The necessity for continuing the special laws was defended. After the independence, these areas were renamed as Scheduled areas in the Constitution of India with special laws for tribal protection.

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