Traveling models of indigenism and Kerala’s emergent ’adivasi’ politics

  • Luisa Steur School of Oriental and African Studies
Keywords: indigenism, politics, activism, ideology, Kerala


Indigenism in the South Indian state of Kerala today is as much about claims for redistribution and democratization as about cultural recognition. This paper explores the many complex and contested ideological currents that hide behind the general cachet of global indigenism and starts by proposing a theoretical approach that draws attention to the more subaltern currents in the field. It then moves on to distinguish four travelling models of indigenism that have partly come to shape the field previously dominated by class discourse, followed by a description of the expression of these travelling models in different indigenist ideologies in Kerala. I conclude with the argument that it is precisely in the lack of consensus on the ground on what indigenism means that there is hope that the present wave of indigenist mobilization can contribute towards reviving and deepening democracy rather than merely reinforcing cultural stereotypes in Kerala, and elsewhere.