'Landless with my Title-deed': Rethinking Landlessness in Adivasi Life, Telangana (India)

'Landless with my Title-deed': Rethinking Landlessness in Adivasi Life, Telangana (India)
Across India, over 7 million people are impacted by land conflicts, disputes, and insecure tenure rights. Adivasis or Scheduled Tribe populations are significant among them, despite policy and programmatic interventions that seek to strengthen their land rights. Taking this as a point of entry, this research investigates how and why adivasis continue to experience enduring conditions of landlessness in Telangana, India—a region known for its strong pro-poor land legislation. Specifically, the project focuses on adivasis who were awarded title-deeds through state-sponsored land distribution and redistribution schemes, yet continue to experience perplexing conditions of landlessness. Based on ethnographic research conducted in adivasi hamlets and state bureaucracies, as well as archival research and the analysis of land records and registers and digitised records generated through land distribution and redistribution practices, my research advances theoretical and scholarly understandings of dispossession, landlessness and land itself. It does so by attending to land’s entanglement with paper and bureaucracy and demonstrating how land is an assembled entity, crafted and put together through a range of material practices—some of which are textual in nature. Consequently, the dissertation details how lands slip, slide, stretch and shrink through the crevices of paperwork. By demonstrating how contemporary manifestations of landlessness go beyond socio-legal and literal definitions, the dissertation rethinks landlessness as a dynamic and shape-shifting concept.


Meenakshi Nair Ambujam

Defended in

1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021

PhD defended at

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Department of Anthropology and Sociology


Social Sciences


South Asia