Interrogating Notions of the Powerless Oustee

Authors

  • Kim Beazley

    1. is a PhD candidate in the Geography Department at the University of Cambridge (Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN, UK). She is interested in nature–society relations and works on conservation, protected areas and conservation-related displacement in the Indian context.
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  • I am grateful to Bhaskar Vira, Emma Mawdsley, Rucha Ghate, Mukund Kulkarni, Deepshikha Mehra, Tom Beazley, Ingrid Beazley and Paul Toms, as well as the anonymous referees of Development and Change, for their helpful comments on this paper. I would also like to thank the Sahasrabudhe family, Abhishek Durshetwar, Anil Tiwade, Maharashtra State Forest and Revenue Departments and above all, the villagers of Botezari.

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the year leading up to the relocation of Botezari village from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, India, and suggests that it does not accord with the conventional scholarly theory of the powerless oustee. The village's pre-relocation phase was characterized by a genuine local openness to displacement; a socially-aware displacement authority; lively NGO and press presence; and a relatively assertive and astute village community. This facilitated constructive dialogue, culminating in meaningful concessions and a perceptible power structure shift, which, I argue, indicates that the received wisdom of inevitable oustee powerlessness may in some instances require qualification, at least in the Indian context. There, the last decade has witnessed some broad changes in regimes of governance and civil society, and a growth of cultures of opposition and struggle from ‘below’. Where such wider structural changes come together with other more locally-specific favourable factors, cases such as the one described here may materialize, in which the acute powerlessness of the displaced should not be assumed.

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