Customary Lawscapes of Indigenous Community Forests in Central India
This post‐humanistic study explores lawscape – the bringing together of multiple forms of law and place – in three Indigenous (Adivasi) communities in Central India. Although “lawscape” is not an Indigenous term, it serves to convey the various norms that manifest in spatial practices, as described by the participants to the research. A concept that recognizes the variety of relations intertwining law and place, may also serve to promote Indigenous rights more widely.
Customary lawscapes depict the communities’ relation to land. The customs, norms, and relations within the lawscape are not only relationships among people with respect to the land, forest, and resources, but among the whole more‐than‐human community, including the forest itself, with respect to its constituents. The respondents have strong emotional associations with the forest as a whole and with its particular beings and places. Protection of the forest is a key element of the lawscape: the community forest extends as far as the residents are able to actively protect the forest (against fires and logging). Inside the boundaries of the community forest there are small patches that have their particular functions and rules.
In the stories told by the interview respondents, deities tell in dreams which places are sacred, and animals and humans negotiate territories in various ways of encountering. The lawscape emerges through encounters such as these. In the research, the focus has been on these subtle lawscapes. Furthermore, a process of documenting the content of customary practices secured by UN conventions such as the convention on biological diversity, is studied. Biocultural rights is a novel approach that aims to do justice to the local understandings of how to live well in the forest, while accommodating these local stories to a framework that indicates the ways in which the practice of these customs are protected by international agreements.
Tikli Loivaranta is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku, Finland, where she also received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 2014. Currently she is researching the understandings of (statutory and customary) forest rights among indigenous communities in Central India. Previously she has studied participation in carbon forestry projects in Northern India. She is also an activist in The Siemenpuu Foundation, Emmaus Aurinkotehdas and The CBD alliance, all of which promote human rights together with biodiversity conservation.