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Who is Philippe Descola?

Indentured labour from the Chota Nagpur plateau was poured into these plantations pushing the indigenous people higher into the hills from duars [1]. The plantation culture created a gulf between communities of the valley and hills rupturing their age-old cohesion over trade, frontier governance and social interaction.

The Nature and Culture Summit

Thus, the indigenous communities of Brahmaputra of today are a shadow of their past. In the first wave of colonialism, their cohesion was replaced by isolation and in the second wave of colonialism in the neo-liberal era, autonomy among clans and kinship groups was further ruptured by introduction of money. The market forces rendered a new dimension of profitability to the relation shared by indigenous women with nature and culture.

Assimilation of neo-liberal traits led autonomy among clan and kinship groups to crumble owing to introduction of money. For instance, the endemic turmeric root, which was used to cure local ailments, became a tradable product. Younger generations are oblivious of the folk songs sung during community plantation of turmeric.

They are also unaware of traditional weeding and harvesting practices, as turmeric plantation has begun to be outsourced by multinational companies. Outside interference in erstwhile autonomous societies began with colonial ethnographers eroticising the indigenous people as remnants of a savage world, far from world wars and modernisation. Often the British anthropologist was closely followed by Marwari moneylenders from mainland India who made inroads into tribal heartland replacing barter in the self-sustaining ethnic economy by bonded labour.

The illiterate forest tribes were traded off in the market by these shrewd moneylenders who were addressed with envy as ' asami'. In this process, the tribal woman became a property disposed sometimes as labour and other times as flesh. The asami disapproved of indigenous customs thereby imposing mainstream values in forest society and the indigenous woman became an agency to propagate his cause. For instance, the Rabhas of Assam had the custom of deka-chaang, which was a social arrangement for young girls and boys to interact and explore potential marriage partners.

However, the moneylender along with economic transformation brought in social transition. He launched a mission of moral salvation by introducing the mainstream notion of shame in forest villages, thereby alienating indigenous people from their ancestral culture. As neo-liberalism strengthened, forest villages resembled market spaces. This endeavour was aided by the government and projected as transforming the linkage between indigenous and market societies by bringing in employment and development through ecotourism resorts. These resorts amidst forests legitimised the presence of a different set of outsiders, namely the backpack travelers, who became customers procuring ecosystem services and ethnic culture, in the name of ecotourism.

This began the saga of neo-liberal deceit and ordeal of dehumanising indigenous bodies. The outsider is a representative of the consumerist society who ventures into forest villages seeking pleasure from ethnic cuisines, spaces, bodies and festivity. The gains, which they seek from the forest is entertainment often translated as tranquility. Resorts and home-stays thus become avenues for the service industry transforming the natural zone of Chandubi lake into a tourist hub, advertised with the punchline, 'backward is beautiful'. As backpack travelers, both national and international, mostly urbane and university educated, entered the forest hinterland of Chayani Borduar Forest Reserve languishing in home-stays and occasionally taking forest trails, the indigenous women's drudgery and servitude as labouring bodies galvanised.

It required her to dispense traditionally ascribed cultural roles, in addition to the emerging role of entertaining guests, providing ethnic cuisine and liquor. The inflow of money into the household increased her domesticity by restricting her participation in the public sphere and even prevented education in context of adolescent girls. Home-stays eulogise traditional norms thereby trapping her within four walls. These spaces are often owned by male members of the society but their roles are limited to tending of guests, providing guided tours and collecting fees.

Thus, the labour of the indigenous woman remains hidden as her work is seen as a mere extension of domestic responsibility. The consumers of ethnic culture constantly seek natural or authentic ways of acting and behaving, which has imposed newer standards of gender norms. The indigenous woman becomes an actor in her own household where her behaviour unfolds as theatre and the outsider its audience.

Especially on weekends, she is expected to make cultural performances of dance and drama to rejuvenate these nature enthusiasts. Today the sense of festivity is replaced by gross routinisation as the indigenous woman becomes an incoherent puppet in the ecotourism [2] loot. Chandubi Lake in Assam. Photo by Hrishikesh Sharma.


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Gendered bodies are contested sites. In the postmodern sense of the word, the indigenous woman is required to dress and accessorise in such a way that her body resemble a cultural museum. A race has ensued searching for beads and family heirlooms to mesmerise potential customers.

Also, resurgence of bamboo artifacts and handicraft are parts of this re-ethnicisation process. Her cohesion with nature is replaced by bargain to suit the neo-liberal taste of backpack travelers while she herself becomes a cog in the wheel of nature based industry, too weak to protest and voiceless to resist domestic drudgery.

Right where our body ends - anthropology of edges, Tamar El Or

She is required to spend longer hours tussling forces of nature in the forest, field and pond systematically segregating the limited resources for her family and guests. Her closeness with the ecosystem and culture are mythically glorified in folktales, which she herself resonates in the form of short stories or songs to sooth the ears of travelers.

She is indoctrinated in the gendered division of labour and accepts her diminishing being as a contribution to the welfare of society and family. She fails to acknowledge that unpaid hidden labour is a surplus accumulation of benefits, which she will never reap, instead more is expected of her to satisfy the sensual urges of travelers. Thus begins a saga of abuse at home where her overworked body is toyed around in the name of full customer satisfaction.

So, the home-stays have converted the indigenous woman to private machines producing labour of love while being excluded from the political process of decision making, entitlements and wage. She is perceived as subordinate to her male counterpart despite being the real breadwinner of her family.

She continues to be the second sex despite trading her being and body to ethnic consumers bearing baggage of nature, culture and market in the forest based ecotourism industry. Ecotourism is hailed as a successful strategy by the government to include the forest villages into the mental map of economy.

Advertisement of this cause is done by reintroducing primitive means or transport and bamboo platform houses in the forest tracts with an aim to enhance ethnic experience highlighting its bio-degradable character.

Traditional houses called chaang ghor platform cottages made of bamboo have reentered the community space and become an integral part of the ethnic retreat. The traditional drip irrigation system made out of bamboo and non-motorised wooden boat are artifacts from the past introduced by the government to pull nature enthusiasts.

The Nature and Culture Summit

Only by acknowledging the entanglement of physical, social and psychological can the full picture of the biological emerge. Here it is a question not only of supplementing the biological by adding other factors, but of re-conceiving the social and psychological, indeed the whole ecology of the system of life as a necessary part of the biological. The challenge this poses to an orthodoxy which attributes consciousness and sociality to only certain orders of living thing, pretty much on human terms, is hard to under-estimate.

Reading this collection, you feel constantly on the threshold of innovations across a broad range of fields, innovations that not only offer new insights into specific cases and issues but open-ended possibilities of re-configuration. This represented the first complete artificial synthesis of the genetic material of a cell.

Thus the first living creature was made which had no ancestor. The Yeast 2. The complete synthesis of genetic material makes genetic modification and editing—in which genetic material is extracted in the lab and radically modified—almost old hat, controversial enough as it was.

Pig brains kept alive outside body for hours after death

The next step, already planned, is the complete synthesising of the human genome. The significance of such developments is hard to over-state. The possibilities are endless in an era where radical solutions are needed for urgent environmental and energy problems and to solve intractable medical conditions. And, of course, the cultural, ethical and political questions involved are immense, unprecedented and limitless. Suffice it to say, there has been no time in which the binarism between the natural and the cultural as well as that between the ideal and the material seems so useless, even meaningless.

It is to a thinking that can deal with the material beyond not only binarisms, but also beyond the logic where they seem merely paired, tangled or entwined that we will have to turn to begin to talk about these things. Cockpit design, car design, air-bags are some examples of a complete disregard for female users. Since women have been constantly discriminated as users within the field, one can claim that through the experience of exclusion and oppression they will result in creating user-friendly more inclusive technologies, taking into account the aspects of gender, class, ability and race.

Each discipline reflects the bodies that create it, thus male dominance within technology affects the ways in which the field has been developing, as well as influences its sets of priorities, its assumptions etc. The symbolic violence has been systematically undermining women and their achievements. Still women active within the areas historically and societally associated with men, are at all time accounted not for their knowledge and their performance, rather are they examined and portrayed through their sex.