Arun Agrawal and K. Sivaramakrishnan
Introduction: Agrarian Environments
As raika shepherds and other migrant pastoralists in western Rajasthan
travel between pastures, forests, and fallow, they are moving across land-
scapes that have a long history of changing vegetation, human activities,
and state policies (Agrawal
1999).
When the gregarious
sal
trees in south-
west Bengal colonize an abandoned mango grove or enter a fallow upland,
we are reminded that lands in this region change from cultivated fields
to naturally regenerating woodlands across space and over time (Sivara-
makrishnan
1996).
The expansion of irrigation in some parts of Kheda,
Gujarat, and its contraction in other adjoining areas is a consequence of a
combination of economic and ecological factors (Gidwani
1996).
These are
examples of "agrarian environments." They draw attention to the blurred
boundaries between an autonomous nature that supposedly stands outside
of human endeavor, and a human agency that is presumed to construct all
landscapes. As changing, hybrid landscapes, these are but three of the many
regions in India that remind us of the prodigious energy necessary
to
fix
the agrarian and the environmental as separate domains of existence and
analysis.
Our use of the term "agrarian environments" denotes an insistent atten-
tion to a field of social negotiations around the environment in predomi-
nantly agrarian contexts. The interactions and processes we examine are
unavoidably inflected by the agrarian affiliations of the actors and issues in-
volved. They demonstrate the pervasive links between the agrarian and the
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