In a study drawing from sites in western, eastern and southern India, I argue that land is not simply the solid surface of the earth. It is best understood as a materially and conceptually dynamic realm, intimately tied to the social. As such, land transitions across porous registers of territory, property, authority, the sacred, history and memory, and contested access and exclusion.
While states, markets and politics in post-liberalisation India try to make land suitable for ‘growth’ and ‘development’, my work reveals that the relationship between the soil and institutions is never straightforward. A state attempting to order a layered topography is frequently stretched into shadowy domains of informality and unsanctioned practices. A market may be advanced, but remains precariously embedded in sociality. Politics could challenge the land-making of the state and markets. It may also effect compromises. Attempts at constructing a durable landed order thus reveal our own (dis)orders.
In attempting to ‘make’ the land, my research shows how the land simultaneously ‘makes’ us.
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About the author:
Nikita Sud is Associate Professor of Development Studies at the University of Oxford. She is a fellow of Wolfson College. Her book The Making of Land, and The Making of India will be published by Oxford University Press later this year. Nikita's previous book Liberalisation, Hindu Nationalism and The State: A Biography of Gujarat (OUP, 2012), drew on research in the state led by then Chief Minister Modi. She keeps a keen eye on the politics of development, and the politics of India, and regularly comments in the press.