Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Untimely Constitutions: The Sixth Schedule and the Politics of Recognition in Northeastern India

The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution recognized indigenous sovereignty in 1950, decades before comparable doctrines emerged in other common law countries. Limiting itself to the communities it identifies as 'scheduled tribes'— all of whom inhabited the hills of (what was then) Assam province— the Sixth Schedule remains the Constitution's the most comprehensive attempt to accommodate particularity and difference within the homogenizing demands of liberal citizenship. Article 370, which protects Kashmiri autonomy, is a similar attempt to balance national integration with respect for cultural and religious alterity— and the current government's commitment to abrogating it has been a sobering lesson in the fragility of legal safeguards in the face of majoritarian tyranny. The processes that undermine the Sixth Schedule are slower and subtler, but they have nonetheless eroded the intent behind the schedule to promote the interests of extractive capital and local elites under the guise of "modernization" and "development." Tracing the legal trajectory through which the Sixth Schedule has been weaponized into a tool for private capital accumulation in postcolonial India provides an intriguing foreshadowing of one possible fate for indigenous recognition in other liberal democracies, which are only now grappling with the dilemmas of settler stratification that India has always confronted. My dissertation research thus focuses on the mutually constituting discourses of ethnicity and property that mediate competing claims to resources in the city of Shillong in northeastern India. It explores the material consequences of the Sixth Schedule to ask: to what extent does the law shape, rather than reflect, the dialectic of belonging and recognition at the foundation of liberal democracy?