Considering the Peripheries: Gendering Indian Denotified, Semi-Nomadic and Nomadic Communities

Considering the Peripheries: Gendering Indian Denotified, Semi-Nomadic and Nomadic Communities

CISA Speaker Series

Monday, May 17, 2021

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Pacific Time)

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This presentation will focus on one of the most marginal segments of the Indian population, the communities that were brought under the net of the notorious Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 in colonial India and subsequently ‘denotified’ in the post-independence period. Such denotified communities, alongside a host of nomadic and semi-nomadic communities, are a heterogenous but numerically significant segment of contemporary Indian society. They not only share the burden of history but also the conditions of continuing stigma, extreme deprivation, neglect and marginality in the current social, economic and political order. Yet they remain invisible to the state and society owing, for instance, to their lack of access to the increasingly important identification documents such as UID or even to voting rights. In the absence of credible political representation and continuing social ostracization, these groups can be seen as among the most deprived segments of Indian society at present.
Against the backdrop of the factors which have allowed these groups to remain in such peripheral conditions, this presentation will focus upon how such conditions shape their gender and sexual relations. Apart from the author’s previous research work with one such community, the Bedia, the paper will build upon the available empirical evidence from a variety of academic and non-academic sources to piece together a picture of gender relations that are an outcome of peripheral social, economic, and even physical, location. The over-representation of the women of these groups in sex work and all the implications this carries is one of the foci of the presentation. Their extreme vulnerability to violence at the hands of law enforcement agencies is another. 
The paper will also make some observations regarding the impact of the lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic upon these groups.



Anuja Agrawal is a Professor at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She is the author of Chaste wives and prostitute sisters: Patriarchy and prostitution among the Bedias of India (2008) and editor of Migrant women and work (2006). She has written on a wide range of issues especially in the fields of family, kinship, marriage and gender studies.  The details of her writings can be accessed at:







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Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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