Unfixed land and the making of Contemporary India

As we face climate change, our relationship with nature needs rethinking. Nature is impacted, even constituted, by human activity. However, societies are also co-constituted by nature. My research explores the subject-centrality of nature through land and the making of contemporary India. For centuries, we have believed that land is a fixed asset. I propose unfixed land. Interdisciplinary, qualitative research in India shows humans physically reconfiguring, legally redefining, politically re-labeling and discursively reimagining land in growth and investment-led policies. For instance, riverbeds are mined, ponds built over, and national territory securitised and then commercialised. In turn, unfixing land shapes our institutions. Legality and illegality blend in states, markets and politics with vast shadows. Here, middlemen and musclemen unfix and re-fix land, keeping it in circulation. Unfixed land is not merely the holder of India’s growth story. It is that story, and one that needs urgent telling.