Graduate student Roger Begrich, under the supervision of Dr. Veena Das, will investigate the relationship between Adivasi (indigenous or tribal people) and the Indian government. Research will be conducted over an 18-month period in two Adivasi communities, one urban and one rural, in the state of Jharkhand, India. Jharkhand is a newly created state in the Indian Union, having been granted statehood in November 2000, after Adivasi movements had demanded state autonomy for more than 50 years. The creation of this new federal state represents an important turning point in the history of indigenous peoples in India. It is therefore of particular interest to analyze the dynamics ensuing from the interaction between governmental processes and local communities at this specific moment. The particular focus of this investigation will be Adivasi practices of alcohol consumption, which long have been at the center of state concerns of reforming Adivasi communities, while simultaneously a fundamental aspect of Adivasi identity. The researcher will gather data from colonial and contemporary archives, and will conduct an ethnographic field study, using participatory mapping, semi-structured interviews, household budget analysis, household suervys, and participant observation. He will investigate state discourses and practices that constitute Adivasis, through their drinking practices, as a distinct population, as targets of reform. He also will compile a detailed ethnography of drinking practices and consequences within the social and moral worlds of the two focal Adivasi communities.
This research will contribute significantly to the training of a social scientist and to three contemporary areas of social science inquiry: the study of indigenous peoples, the interdisciplinary field of alcohol studies, and the ethnography of the state. It will also help to fill the need for a nuanced understanding of substance abuse problems among marginal populations. The findings of this research can thus be helpful for formulating effective public health interventions in India and elsewhere.