Friday, August 19

 ‘OUR PLACE IN THE FUTURE’: AN EXPLORATION OF CHALAKI AMONG YOUNG MEN DISPOSSESSED BY A MINING PROJECT

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By Minati Das

Working Paper No- 392

In the mid 1990’s, Adivasi and Dalit villagers in Kashipur, Southern Odisha, strongly resisted a proposed bauxite mining project through collective struggle. The movement registered many successes but it could not stop the mining project. The struggle waged on for twenty years and eventually declined by 2010. Curiously, as the construction work on the mining refinery accelerated to advanced stages, contours of an emerging socio-economic differentiation became visible. A set of young men, appeared on the horizon, who closely engaged with the mining company and routinely obtained personal economic benefits from it. These men were active participants in the collective action and according to others had ‘Chalaki’ that others lacked. This paper is an exploration of Chalaki as associated with these young men to understand the implication of individual participation in the struggle on the socio-economic differentiation that came about in the refinery area villages as the collective action ceased. Engaging with Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural capital’, I explore how the networks struck and skills acquired during the movement that were used to advance collective action goals, were recast into a coveted form of cultural capital towards more personalised ends. Focussing on the trajectories of three individuals, I offer to make a case for Chalaki as coping in order to improve one’s life-chances in a context where choices are limited and uncertainties of the future loom large. I argue that Chalaki seek to personalise, localise, alter and actively shape the distributional outcomes, even if in a limited way. The ethnographic fieldwork for this paper was conducted over a ten-month period during 2010-2012 and in June 2018.

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