Friday, June 5, 2009

Legal Grounds: Natural Resources, Identity and the Law in Jharkhand, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2009 (edited volume).

Many of the major struggles in India today are taking place around the right to use or exploit natural resources. In the first volume of its kind, Legal Grounds explores the ways in which the law structures identities and access to resources, and how people use it to stake claims about citizenship.

Using the particular case of the state of Jharkhand, the volume raises larger questions about colonialism, globalization, and the rule of law in a postcolonial society divided by class, ethnicity, and gender. The essays examine rights, laws, and policies on land, forests, water, mining, and self governance, engaging with a wide range of issues: how are notions of customary law used to make political claims; what are the different ways in which personal laws are read by courts and village councils; what are the multiplicity of forums in which people struggle for justice; and why do people choose not to engage with some sites of law. The volume shows how subsistence needs force people to negotiate the blurred lines between legality and illegality, and how people yearn for the state to observe its own laws, even as they protest against the content of the laws. 

An important contribution to the debates on the functioning of law in postcolonial India, this volume will be of interest to a wide cross-section of readers—sociologists, political scientists, development studies scholars, activists, lawyers, as well as the lay reader.