Colonial world of postcolonial historians: reification, theoreticism, and the neoliberal reinvention of tribal identity in India

Bhabani Nayak

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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This article develops a critical analysis of the colonial world of the postcolonial historians whose works inadvertently contribute to the process of reconstituting the colonial construction of tribal identities in neoliberal India. The monolithic and colonial construction of tribal identities in postcolonial India reinforces and preserves tribal identities along the lines of the colonial methods of identity formation based on territorialization. The article highlights the problematic features of the territorialization and deterritorialization of tribal identities and their reconstitution. Territorial-based identity formation is now being used and sustained by the neoliberal political and economic ruling and non-ruling elites in order to exploit tribal communities. The existence of upper-caste and class-based Hindu social order is concomitant with a social hierarchy based on the exploitation of tribal communities in India. This article locates the colonial and neoliberal capitalist logic of identity formation that serves elites, and helps to advance the neoliberal political-economic project of the Hindu right. A postmodern logic of identity formation facilitates the expansion of the neoliberal capitalist economy with the process of Hinduization. It contributes to identity formations that divide the people on territorial grounds. The article is divided into four parts. The first outlines the philosophical basis of identity formation and its links with neoliberalism; the second deals with identity formation based on territory; part three documents the debates on tribal identity formation in postcolonial India; and the final part elucidates the capitalist logic inherent in territorial-based identity formations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-532
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Asian and African Studies
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

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  • Hinduization
  • India
  • Postcolonial
  • identity
  • tribal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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