The Mannans and the plantation zones established in the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats – “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference)

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Abstract 2: The Mannans and the plantation zones established in the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi 

School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai


Plantation is a colonial product, an importation into the land of the indigenous people that has acted as a geographical violence over their territoriality and cultural imperialism over their identities. Cardamom Hills falls into the Western Ghat region in the Idukki district of Kerala, India. The uplands are known since time immemorial as the abode of various indigenous communities such as Mannans and as the natural niche of wild herbs and spices like cardamom. With the colonial conquest over the region, this evergreen forest got transformed into plantation zones of cardamom, pepper, tea etc; a process which got further accentuated with the migration of the settlers in the post-Independence period. Plantation development has not only alienated Mannans from their ancestral land but also webbed them into implacable dependency over the plantations as labourers. The migrant settlers further marginalized them through a complete economic, social, political and demographic domination. The settler colonialism in the Cardamom Hills not only rejects the history and existence of the Mannans but also manufactures new history of the hills. While the dominant narratives portray Cardamom Hills as ‘no man’s land discovered by the settlers’, it distorts and disqualifies the Mannan sense of self and history. Therefore, the Mannans gets condensed as the ‘Other’ or as ‘people without history’ in their own territories.

This paper is an attempt to understand the ways in which the Mannans use their oral tradition and language to resurrect their history and reclaim association to their land. The paper would also elicit how the community uses narratives as a cultural resistance against the superimposition of the Malayalam language and Malayali culture of the dominant settlers. The arguments in the paper are based on detailed ethnographic field work conducted in various Mannan settlements in the Cardamom Hills.

BIONOTE: Anu Krishanan is currently pursuing her PhD at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She may be contacted at the email ID: [email protected]

Source: Book of Abstracts for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)


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