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Sacrificing People is a new, updated edition of Felix Padel’s classic case study of colonialism, originally entitled The Sacrifice of Human Being: British Rule and the Konds of Orissa. The journey of the book, like the struggle of the Konds, is from colonial intrusion to developmental destruction.
The book puts into perspective the communal murders and ethnic cleansing that happened in the district of Kandhamal where the Konds are concentrated, in 2007–8, where an explosion of orchestrated violence occurred, mostly in the form of attacks against Christians, on a scale recalling violence at the time of colonial invasion (1830s-60s), when invading forces burnt dozens of Kond villages. The role and words of the first missionaries in Orissa, who targeted this district in particular, is analysed to throw light on recent events. The book’s increasing relevance is also due to Bauxite cappings on the high mountains dominating the Konds’ landscape in southern Orissa. Their base rock was named ‘Khondalite’, honouring the Konds, but their high aluminium content has elicited an invasion of mining companies with even greater impact on the Kond culture and environment than the British invasion.
As renowned anthropologist Hugh Brody writes in his Foreword to this new edition, “it is impossible to read Padel’s work without being drawn into its flow of history, anthropology and profound insights into the way colonial projects have shaped how we see the world in general, India as a nation and tribal peoples in particular.” Moving beyond the particulars of a remote resource conflict, Sacrificing People offers a way of comprehending the roots of human violence by understanding ourselves and our place in the modern structures of power and control, whose core is a sacrifice of human being—a cruelty and dominance more extreme than human sacrifice because it sacrifices the essence of being human.
This book will fascinate scholars and the discerning public alike, as a meticulously researched, exceptionally original study of the forms of domination that permeate the modern world.
Felix Padel is a freelance anthropologist trained in Oxford and Delhi universities. Interested in tribal cultures, the natural environment and tracing the origins of society, he connects his life and work with his great-great grandfather Charles Darwin. He is also a performing musician in Indian and Western traditions, and lives in Wales and Orissa.
List of Maps ix
List of Abbreviations xi
Foreword to this edition by Hugh Brody xiii
Foreword to the first edition by Veena Das xix
Preface to the new edition xxv
Preface to the first edition xxxiii
1. A Case Study of Colonialism 1
Nirantali and the creation of earth—On the meaning of sacrifice—‘The enlightened treatment and strong hand’—The Kond tribe—Tribal culture—‘A conquest over their minds’—The colonial power structure—Anthropology full circle
2. Conquest: The Ghumsur Wars 35
‘Pacification’—The deadly pursuit of honour—Punish and reward
3. Suppressing Human Sacrifice: The Meriah Agency 64
‘The right of the Government....did not admit of a question’—Macpherson’s war—A war of words—Campbell’s regime
4. Human Sacrifice As a Kond And Hindu Ritual 109
The meriah rite—Female infanticide—The context of Kond religion—The brotherhood of clans—The role of the Hindu rajahs—The Dom’s child—Interpreting human sacrifice
5. The Colonial Sacrifice of ‘Enlightened Government’ 142
Saving meriahs: a Robinson Crusoe complex—Human sacrifice versus Christian sacrifice: the conscious contrast—Human sacrifice versus public execution: the unconscious contrast—After the Agency—Indian intermediaries: old and new elites—The sacrifice of life, land and liberty
6. ‘Soldiers of Christ’ 185
Complementing the administration—’Giving his life for the Konds’—Missionary dualism—School and hospital: diffusing Christian knowledge—Conversion: a religion of fear—Dividing the community
7. Merchants of Knowledge: Anthropologists in a Social Structure 242
A gulf of understanding—The conquerors as anthropologists—‘The Kandhas do not take any thought for the morrow’—A hierarchy of knowledge—The sacrifice for science—A human anthropology?
8. In the Name of Development 288
Cycles of exploitation—The colonial roles—Sacrificing the present for an unreal future—What is real development?
9. Questioning the Sacrifice: A Postscript 315
Different levels of human sacrifice—Colonial roots of the modern sacrifice—Conflict in Kandhamal—Mining and cultural genocide