Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Marginal Lands? The Commodification and Re-appreciation of Upland Agriculture in the Borderlands of Northeast India

How does the commodification and re-appreciation of the contiguous uplands of Northeast India, Bangladesh and Burma/Myanmar transform the relationship between these states and their upland citizens?

Erik de Maaker

Sustainability and profitability

This project explores the growing importance that ecologists and sociologists attribute to upland agriculture in Northeast India, and its bordering hill regions of Bangladesh and Burma. Shifting cultivation ( jhum) - the dominant mode of agriculture - is increasingly regarded a safeguard for the acclaimed biodiversity of this ‘hotspot’. In India, several large scale UN-funded and government backed schemes are being implemented to further its sustainability and increase its profitability. It seems likely, that comparable developments will take place in the neighboring uplands of Bangladesh and Burma/Myanmar as well.

Shifting attitudes

The positive attitude towards shifting cultivation is remarkable, and theoretically interesting, since it is preceded by a period of more than a 150 years in which government administrations have primarily attempted to ‘end’ it. According to Scott (2009), shifting cultivators are antithetical to “the state”. This notably holds for what he refers to as “the last enclosure”, the contiguous South and Southeast Asian uplands that have so far remained at the periphery of its modern states. Are states finally coming to terms with shifting cultivation? How are the challenges, posed by this development, met?



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