When Hunters Gather but Do Not Hunt, Playing with the State in the Forest: Jarawa Children’s Changing World

  • Vishvajit PandyaEmail author
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


Traditionally, children in the Jarawa community (South and Middle Andamans) play games that replicate the movements of animals their parents hunt in the forest. Jarawa children and adolescents grow up observing adults’ activities and incorporating them into their play. Boys often replicate the hunting practices of adults by making replicas of the bow and arrow. Jarawa adults view children as complete individuals and assume that children will, of their own accord, begin contributing to the political economy of the band when they are ready to do so. This also implies that children learn on their own not just finite skills but through play learn to negotiate diverse situations in their changing world. Since 1999 the world of the Jarawas has undergone a rapid transformation. The outward hostility and self-imposed isolation of the Jarawa community have eroded, and the young boys have begun hanging out at the major road passing through the reserve forest. This paper considers changes that have occurred in Jarawa children’s play since 2001 with the influence of traffic, tourists, and a more visible state authority. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this chapter illustrates various aspects of children’s play: the different ways in which play facilitates the articulation and maintenance of, as well as challenges to, power relations between the Jarawa and elements of encroaching modernity. In this sense, play is revealed to be far from just “hanging out at the roadside” but an activity through which children develop and learn to conduct new politico-economic relations in a place where outsiders, state, forest, and Jarawas collide.

Jarawa children play at the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) (1999) imitating fiddler crabs to while away the time before the next convoy of traffic passes by and is attracted to stop and watch the kids at the roadside, while the adults wait on the side to contact and gather from the road users


Jarawas Andaman Islanders Hunter-gatherers Forms of play Work Political economy 


  1. Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (1976) Retrieval from Precipice. Port BlairGoogle Scholar
  2. Asad T (1986) The concept of cultural translation in British social anthropology. In: Clifford J, Marcus GE (eds) Writing culture: the poetics and politics of ethnography. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 141–164Google Scholar
  3. Cipriani L (1959) The Jarawa problem. Bull Bihar Trib Res Inst 1:43–55Google Scholar
  4. Dimeo P (2004) Sporting and the civilizing mission in India. In: Fischer-Tine H, Mann M (eds) Colonialism as civilizing mission. Anthen Press, London, pp 165–178Google Scholar
  5. Ennew J (1998) Preface. In: Johnson V (ed) Stepping forward: children and young people’s participation in the development process. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp 2–5Google Scholar
  6. Fawcett G (1912) Extracts from the accounts of Fawcett in military command of punitive expedition against Jarawas during 1910. Census of India 1911, vol II, part I. Government Printing, Calcutta, pp 52–61Google Scholar
  7. Geertz C (1973) The interpretation of cultures. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Grimshaw (2005) Reconfiguring the ground: art and the visualization of anthropology. In: Westermann M (ed) Anthropologies of art. Yale University Press, New Haven/LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Hellard S (1861) Notes on the Andamanese captured at Port Blair. J Asiat Soc Bengal 30:259–263Google Scholar
  10. Krishnatry S (1976) The Prime Minister and the Andaman Nicobar Archipelago. Government Press, Port BlairGoogle Scholar
  11. Man E (1932) On the aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands. RAI Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Mann R (1973) Jarawas of Andamans: an analysis of hostility. Man India 53(2):201–220Google Scholar
  13. Morphy H, Banks M (1997) Rethinking visual anthropology. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  14. Mukhopadhyay K (2002) Jarawa contact: ours with them and theirs with us. Anthropological Survey of India, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  15. Pandya V (1991) Gukwelonone: the game of hiding fathers and seeking sons. In: Hewlett B (ed) The father-child relationship: developmental, symbolic, and evolutionary perspectives. Walter de Gruyter, New York, pp 263–279Google Scholar
  16. Pandya V (1994) Recontextualized objects: Andamanese aesthetics, spirits and history. In: Selected papers from 7th CHAGS. University of Alaska Press, FairbanksGoogle Scholar
  17. Pandya V (1999) Hostile borders and friendly contacts: Jarawas of Andaman Islands, vol 3, Working Paper. Asian Research Institute. Victoria University Press, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  18. Pandya V (2000) Making of the other: vignettes of violence in Andamanese Culture. Crit Anthropol 20:359–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pandya V (2002a) Contact, images and imagination: the impact of roads in Jarwa reserve forest of Andaman Islands. Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land-en Vokenkunde 158(4):799–820Google Scholar
  20. Pandya V (2002b) Jarwas of Andaman Islands: their social and historical. Econ Polit Wkly 37: 3830–3834Google Scholar
  21. Pandya V (2009) In the forest: visual and material worlds of Andamanese history (1858–2003). University Press of America, MarylandGoogle Scholar
  22. Pandya V (2014) Events, incidents and accidents: re-thinking indigenous resistance in the Andaman Islands’. In: Bates C, Shah A (eds) Savage attack: tribal insurgency in India. Social Science Press, New Delhi, pp 167–199Google Scholar
  23. Portman MV (1899) A history of our relation with Andamanese. Government Printing Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  24. Radcliffe-Brown AR (1964[1922]) Andaman Islanders. Free Press, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  25. Singh S (1973) Devices to mitigate Jarawa hostility. Vanyajati 21(4):109–113Google Scholar
  26. Smith S (2000) Children at play. In: Mills J, Mills R (eds) Childhood studies: a reader in perspectives of childhood. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Temple R (1903) Official record of dealings with the Jarawas: census of India 1901. Government Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication TechnologyGujaratIndia

Personalised recommendations