Time to move:
Winds and the political economy of space
in Andamanese culture
by Dr. Vishvajit Pandya
Vishvajit Pandya gained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Anthropology and has continued research in various parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia. He has taught in the USA and New Zealand. At present he holds a professorship at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, nr. Indroda Circle, Gandhinagar 282007, Gujarat, India. PandyaV@yahoo.com
First published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), S91-S104, 2007
© Royal Anthropological Institute 2007
Seasons, or temporal duration, for Andamanese are created by the flow of winds through the Andamanese cultural construct of space, which is neither fixed nor constant. In order to organize the space for society, Andaman islanders have to move constantly out from the place where the winds are. Winds associated with temperamental spirits are powerful aspects of nature that culture has to negotiate. Within this worldview where winds affect individual body condition and the capacity to continue hunting and gathering, Andaman islanders negotiate space by creating conditions that invite winds to structure and sustain life. For this purpose, smells are ritualized and wind movements are manipulated. As a result, seasons are distinguished either by winds that are spirit-given, or by a lack of winds caused by islanders' actions. Based on ethnographic data from the Ongees and Jarawas, this analysis will focus on how various forms of movement in Andamanese culture are negotiated according to a political economy of winds and smells. The worldview of the Andaman islanders, within which winds are so central, has major implications for government authorities, who are keen to conne the translocating Jarawas to a specic and permanent location. But is this possible for the Andamanese, for whom space, like time, changes by the presence and absence of winds?
Winds which flow through any given space at any given time invariably bring about changes in social structure and social practice. Felt as an invisible force, winds exert compelling powers over the human body's sensory system, producing culture-and context-specific discourses. For us, expressions such as 'winds of change' that are 'inevitable' or the more foreboding 'calm before the storm' are indicative of the range of ideas about wind, which make it symbolic and metaphorically a rich field of human experience. Winds in a sense constitute a signicant index of both seasonal transformations and corresponding changes in bodily and social practice. The human body and winds together form a field in which cultural strategies are evolved, in relation to given meteorological and anemological conditions that often have a discernible structural pattern. For most humans, the concern is vulnerability to wind conditions and efforts to minimize it. As a result, aerodynamics is a design issue for various forms of material culture in our world.
A longitudinally arranged cluster of islands in the Bay of Bengal (6o to 14o north latitude and 92o to 94o east longitude) forms India's union territory of the Andaman slands. Today the total area of 6,408 square kilometres has a population of more than 356,000 and about 85 per cent of it is covered by forest. From 1788, attempts to explore and colonize the islands were met with resistance from the tribal people, who were the sole occupants of the large territory, identified by various dialect groups. The situation changed from 1858, when the British finally set up control of the islands and Andaman islanders experienced a major decline in their number in relation to an increasing number of non-tribal settlers. Today not more then 450 individuals are identifiable as descendants of the Andamanese, located in four different parts of Andaman Island. Contemporary cultural contexts and social situations for the Andaman islanders have dramatically transformed from the classical ethnographic accounts such as given by E.H. Man (1932 ) and Radcliffe-Brown (1964 ). None the less, as in the classic monograph on the islanders (Radcliffe-Brown 1964 : 142, 147-8, 157, 178, 195), aspects of winds and spirits (Leach 1971)continueto occupy a prominent place among the Ongee and Jarawa tribal groups. This paper aims to analyse how the Ongees and Jarawas design their practices in relation to winds and spirits, and, furthermore, how these practices structure the relationship of humans with winds and spirits.1
1 Ongees of the Little Andaman Island and Jarawas are now confined to Jarawa reserve territory on South and Middle Andaman Island. In spite of the geographical distance between the two groups, historically they used to have exchange relations, linguistic affinity, and a common material culture. My fieldwork on the Andaman Islands started in 1983 when I spent a year with the Ongees in the forest of Little Andaman Island. Over the years I continued visiting an Ongee settlement at Dugong Creek. Since 1997 the Andaman Nicobar administration has permitted me to visit the Jarawa reserve territory, and with the kind assistance of the Andaman field staff I established contact with the Jarawas. Unlike the prolonged participant observation that has been possible with the Ongees, work among the Jarawas was undertaken in short trips to the reserve territory. This was primarily because the Jarawas were resistant to outsiders and to sustained contact with the outside world until 1998. The Ongees, by contrast, were hostile until 1892. Historically, culturally, and linguistically, Jarawas and Ongees share many aspects of their respective worldviews, and this paper has emerged out of years of conversations and moving with the groups of Andaman islanders and reflecting on the parallel cultural practices and thoughts among them in a space they share as hunters and gatherers.
For the Andamanese, winds are indexical of the powerful presence of spirits. The arrival and departure of winds from specific directions are indicators of the traffic of powerful and angry spirits moving within the Andamanese space, a space that Andamanese also share with spirits and animals (Pandya 1993; 2005). For the Andamanese, the differentiation of places becomes possible by recognizing the presence of different winds flowing through each place. Both the winds and spirits are not visible but felt in the form of changing temperatures and smells. The experience of winds and spirits, brought together by smells, is culturally made visually concrete by smoke and clay paints on the body that either release or confine the smell of the human beings (Pandya 1993: 105-163). For the hunters and gatherers of the Andaman Islands, specifically the remaining 95 Ongees and 282 Jarawas among whom I have been conducting field research, time is experienced in the form of the varying motion of winds and spirits through places in which they move. Conceptually the two basic seasons that the islanders experience in terms of wind direction bringing rains and its effect on the islanders occupying the resource areas to hunt and gather can be represented as shown in Figure 1.
Fig. 1. Andamanese seasonal cycle showing activities in relation to 'windful' and 'windless' places.
The question is how the Andamanese strive to create periodically what could be described as the structure of a 'windless space' in between the two durations associated with two distinct directions of winds that 'fill up the space'. By culturally creating 'windless space', Jarawas and Ongees effectively try to shift specific seasons and the movement of spirits associated with them. This, in brief, forms the analytical and ethnographic focus of my paper.
Winds are ritually stopped from flowing into a place to create different temporal orders. In order to explain how winds are stopped by the islanders, I will first introduce the worldview of the Andamanese, in which winds play a crucial role, and then address the 'how' and 'why' aspect of wind cessation. I will thereafter consider some ethnographic details of how winds are stopped and started by the islanders as part of a larger effort to create alternating cycles of a 'spirit-given season' of winds and 'human-made seasons' that are windless. In the concluding section, I will touch upon the issue of power implicated in the ritualized act of 'stopping winds' and 'regulating the traffic of spirits' within the confines of Andamanese space. I intend to show in my analysis the implications of the intervention of human agency in the natural and spiritual aspects of Andamanese space, and how winds and spirits have a bearing on the assumptions underlying the state-imposed political economy for the hunters and gatherers of the region. There is an inherent contradiction between the state's requirement of a xed territorial location for the Andamanese and the Andaman islanders' own political-economic concerns informed by their specific understanding of wind and spirit movements and olfactory politics.
For a brief moment let us keep aside the Andamanese and consider our clocks, analogue or digital, as devices designed to indicate the ceaseless flow of time. This conceptualization helps us to grasp the ritual of stopping winds among the Andamanese. Chronometric instruments have to be set at a point from which these can record the ow of time. This act of setting time involves a brief but critical moment of 'timelessness' that makes the 'time-setter' in a sense the 'time-maker', too. It is through the act of transposing 'given time' into 'constructed time' that modern societies convey the inherent instrumentality of their relationship to time. This ritual of stopping, adjusting, and starting time is done in most industrialized societies at least twice in a year for summer and winter to create what could be called an effective political economy of energy consumption. These time adjustments are basically structures of practice that in turn condition our practice of structures in relation to the seasonal cycles of summer and winter. In our movements across space, too, we adjust time in accordance with longitudinal variations in order to make the transition to a place meaningful.
Homologous to this contemporary engagement with time is the Andaman islanders' practice of stopping and starting winds, as part of a complex engagement with capricious spirits pervading the islanders' space &endash; a space that is shared between animals, humans, and spirits, who all live and move and practice hunting and gathering with each other.
Muroi, one of the most accomplished Ongee spirit communicators, explained his experience of winds in the following manner:
When we walk through the forest our bodies touch the plants around, and we keep cutting them down along the trail, so that the plants do not tell the animals where the Ongees are moving to in the forest. While we walk through the jungle we must breathe deep and remain quiet to ensure minimal trace of us is left! Invisible spirits cannot be seen by all humans but are constantly around us. They move around everywhere and as they move they create winds along the paths they move. Wind is the experienced form of the invisible spirits all around us! Like the plants can feel us, we feel the spirits by experiencing winds.
Similar concern is reflected by a group of Jarawas near Kadamtall to whom I posed the question of why they move from place to place when the administration wants them to settle down(much like thenon-tribal people).The Jarawa men collectively expressed that:
We have to be behind the Aholey-kwhada [southwest winds], in the forest while the winds and spirits are at the coast and sea! But that also makes us in front of the Mahey-kwhada [northeast winds and spirits] that come to the forest and we move to the coastal area for gathering! Our shelters are always between the two winds but your homes stand in one place and are surrounded by winds and spirits that keep coming around. We change locations and avoid the spirits and winds.
The Andamanese world and its view
In the worldview of the Andamanese, winds flow from places, carrying along various smells that guide the movement of spirits. For the Andamanese, this makes the world both dynamic and in a state of constant flux. Human beings as source of smells and as smell-manipulators are subject to constant interaction with powerful and malevolent spirits. Proximity to spirits and the propensity to being hunted by spirits is a possibility for all and something that is regularly experienced during temporal transitions such as between dawn and dusk, between ebbing and flowing tides, and in moments when it rains during sunshine. Spirits are also associated with spatial categories that are ambivalent, like the mangrove forests, where seawater and fresh water mix. Consequently, the Andamanese remember not to be in an ambivalent place, particularly in times of transition.
Andamanese have to humanize the space around them, in which the balance of power is in a constant state of flux. In their worldview, the condition of being human is indicative of a decline from the capacity of or state of being a powerful spirit. With the inevitable transition of seasons and winds, the encounter with spirits becomes unavoidable, in particular when the spirits are believed to enter the Andamanese habitat by plotting a careful course of movement along winds and smells. Toothless spirits are known to enter human space by consuming soft food substances or become contained in living human beings in conditions of pregnancy or sickness. From the perspective of the Andamanese, the human form is actually a transformed spirit body. They are mindful, however, that as humans they can be hunted and transformed into spirit form. This makes pregnancy, sickness, and death conditions that are invariably related to the movement of winds. These, in other words, are conditions which place the human body in an ambiguous and vulnerable position. The structure of Andamanese taboos and transformative rituals makes it possible for humans to revert back for certain durations to the position of spirits so that they can continue to exist as humans in the natural world (see Pandya 1993: 211-80). This transition and shift in identities makes it possible for Andamanese to distribute the relative power of humans and spirits within their ritualized space. The humanized space is continuously 'charged' with the forces of 'spirit power' existing within the campground as well as the forests. For the Andamanese, the forest, campground, and coasts make up the space wherein they negotiate their complex relationship with spirits.
In the Andamanese world, humans constantly degrade from being human as smells are carried away by winds. So rituals become ways for humans to re-calibrate relations with spirits and endow themselves with 'spirit-like' powers. Throughout their lives humans have to constantly keep changing their conduct by being 'spirit-like', so that the order of the world continues. In doing so, the whole community can continue to be human. The difference between the 'spirit power' and 'spirit-like power' is that spirits generate wind movements and humans restrict wind movements. Winds are restricted by significant rituals that focus on the breaking of certain taboos, making the object of taboo acquire what Radcliffe-Brown called 'social value' (1964 : 264, 270, 353, 397). The breaking of the taboo causes angry spirits temporarily to move out from a place where humans can move in and avoid the chance of being hunted by spirits. So rituals that have social value are essentially assertions and reications of the basic power relations. In order to understand the complexities of the Andamanese worldview it is necessary to recognize the fact that our notion of spirits is part and parcel of a dualist formulation that is by and large inapplicable to Andamanese thinking. For us there is an ontological opposition between spirits and matter, and a moral opposition of spirit and god and often, more radically, of numerous spirits and a single god. The former opposition implies that spirits are immaterial. Their substance is 'breath', most invisible in the visible, most immaterial in the material. Spiritual existence is understood as the existence of an animating principle without a body or outside body. But no spirit in the Andamanese world has this disembodied existence, nor is it reducible to such an existence.2
2 Ever since Frazer (1928) and Robertson Smith (1959) turned taboo into a subject of inquiry, it has remained a classic concern for anthropologists. However via Radcliffe-Brown's work on the Andaman Islands (1964 ), a rich context was provided to question the possibility of correlating the prevalence of taboo with certain social forms or social situations. For instance, it is a 'taboo' to mention and talk about the dead and eat certain foods (Radcliffe-Brown 1965: 147). But then the mourner, like the expectant parents, are both subject to similar acts of avoidance and ritual value (cf. Radcliffe-Brown 1964 : 111, 288).
This is exemplied by the fact that the closeness of spirits causes a shivering of the human body. Intense heat that generates sweat and releases odours attracts spirits to the source of smell. If the bodies are weak and light in weight they fall prey to the hunting spirits. This for the Andamanese creates a world where spirits and items hunted by them all are interrelated by a dynamic of winds, smell, temperature, and weight. The world of the Andamanese is set in motion by 'aero-, thermo-, and aroma-dynamics'. Lack of olfactorial distinctions in space makes all living and non-living things in space subject to spirits exercising power over them. Within this world the Andamanese seasonal cycle is made up of two durations, the northeast monsoon and southwest monsoon, that are associated with 'place being filled with wind' by the presence of spirits. These are the two 'spirit-given' seasons when humans are concerned to avoid being in a place where spirits are.
June to September (southwest winds) is the season (Kwalakangney [Ongee], Aholeyfikwhada [Jarawa]) when it is tabooed for Andamanese to hunt and gather from the sea. Islanders have to remember that this is the time when the spirits are hunting out in the sea. This makes it imperative that Andamanese only hunt in the forest, as in the sea they themselves may get hunted. Hunting (pig) in the forest is tabooed from October to January, as at this time of northeast winds (Mayakangney [Ongee] Mahey-kwhada [Jarawa]) spirits hunt and gather in the forest. During this season the only safe place for the Andamanese is hunting and gathering (turtle) in the coastal area. From an ecological viewpoint, such transhumance ensures for the Andamanese that the natural resources of one place are not over-used.
In order for humans to survive, power over the spirits becomes an essential requirement. It is generated by rituals of stopping winds in the Andamanese world. For a brief duration, Andamanese stop the winds and appropriate the powers of and become like the spirits themselves, creating entirely windless places. Islanders expel the angry spirits from a place, an inducement, until spirits come back with winds to another place. This ensures that, like spirits, humans move to places where they can hunt and gather, without getting hunted by spirits. So, apart from the two 'spirit-given' seasons experienced in a seasonal cycle, human beings make conditions of no winds and no spirits, brief periods of human-made seasons. During these human-made seasons islanders replenish the power that has been lost in the form of smell that has been dispersed or dissipated, and nd respite from sickness, misfortune, or death that is brought about by winds and spirits.
To deal with winds that take away and scatter the smells in space, islanders carefully restrict the scattering of vulnerable body odours by elaborate clay paint. Cooling white or heat-inducing red clay paint is applied in accordance with traditional designs on the body. The other technique is retaining bones: the most condensed form of body smell from dead relatives and hunted animals (Fig. 2). These retained bones constantly release the smell of the bodies that are no longer living within the natural world. The human capacity constantly to release a dead body's smell actually deceives the spirits and animals by transmitting a smell message that nothing is missing in the world of the Andamanese.
Typical example of body painting and bone ornament made out of dead relatives' bones.
This strategic manipulation of smells in relation to the medium of winds and recipient spirits keeps spirit tempers calm and ensures safety in humanized places. These practices related to winds and smells make it possible for spirits, humans, and animals to coexist. If the spirits receive information about things being killed by the humans, particularly categories of food that spirits prefer, angry spirits come down to humanized space, which humans experience in forms of devastation caused by powerful storms and strong gusts of winds.
So the complete seasonal cycle is a process set into motion by winds and spirits coming to the place of human beings, and through rituals expelling spirits and stopping he winds. This creates a seasonal cycle in which places in a space are distinguished. Distinction of placesisbroughtaboutbytemporaldurationsthat are spirit-givenanddurationsthatare made by Andamanese themselves. Windful, spirit-given seasons and windless, human-made seasons secure the transition from the forest to coast and back (Fig. 3).
The spirit-given season ends by breaking a taboo which causes tototey-maa inanfigamey nanchugey, 'windless time in a place'. Reimposing the taboos starts the experiencing of the spirit-given season. Taboos are placed in Andamanese culture to keep the spirits calm and humans safe, but by breaking the very same taboos humans become like spirits and induce a state of windlessness, as spirits in anger leave the islands along with the winds.2Sotheritualof breakingatabooislikeoperatinga 'culturalswitch' that releases or restricts power in the form of angry spirits. Powerless humans for a certain period become like powerful spirits.
Figure 3. The Andamanese seasonal cycle represented as a sequence of seasons and taboos.
Let me consider a concrete case of taboo and its breaking. According to the classical account of Radcliffe-Brown (1964 : 152, 155), the cicada is protected from being killed and similarly beeswax may not be burned. However, these restrictions are specific to spirit-given seasons within the seasonal cycle. The cicada is killed during September, and beeswax is burned during February, in order to push the winds and angry spirits from one place to another (Radcliffe-Brown 1964 : 357-9). So the seasonal cycle is a sequence of interludes of spirits affecting humans and humans manipulating spirits, both of which are experienced in terms of wind conditions.
During southwest winds, as the spirits are out at sea, the Andamanese depend only on forest food. When they need to get to the sea to gather resources, the islanders need to move by changing the winds from southwest to northeast. The wind conditions are switched off and on during February and March, known as toraley,or laheyteye (extraction), when the islanders consume the proscribed, prime spirit food of honey.
Windless space to make time
During February and March, in order to satisfy their hunger, the toothless spirits enter honeycombs. As consumption of honey needs no mastication, it is the favourite food of spirits. The presence of the spirits in the honeycomb induces the bees to reproduce and produce honey as a by-product. So, when islanders search for, gather, and consume all the honey in the forest, they are not just humans consuming an insect by-product, but during this season they are consuming the spirits present in the honeycomb, much like malevolent spirits who gather and hunt humans. By mid-February the dry forests are still and eerie with only the dominating sound of the honeybees' buzz and the shrikes waiting to catch their meal around the honeycombs. All the Andamanese bands, till mid-March, move frantically from place to place following the shrikes to cut down honeycombs. All effort focuses on gathering honey. The significance of honey is reflected in the carving of the exclusive wooden honey container. Honey containers are one of the few items of material culture that islanders decorate carefully and arduously. The eating of honey at the wives' campsite is obligatory, as is a cooling dip in water or the application of cooling white clay paint after every such session.3 All this angers the spirits as they realize that humans are taking advantage of the situation, and to make sure that the human intent is communicated to the spirits successfully, the honeycombs are set on fire and melted beeswax is collected. In this process the smell of the consumed honeycomb is released to be absorbed by the remaining spirits and to aggravate them.
3 Application of white clay paint on the body restricts the release of body smell and is also used after death in a family as well as after consumption of hunted animals.
For nearly a month islanders predominantly depend on honey as the staple food that must be shared by frequent inter-band visitations. Sharing honey ensures the transformation of the spirits into foetuses in the wombs of women who consume it. In fact, in Andamanese language fertile women who have experienced frequent pregnancy are oftenreferredtoas tanjayebuley, a word also used for the honeycomb. This culturally signicant consumption of honey ensures the reproduction of human children, who are spirits trapped inside the honeycomb that are transformed in the woman's womb. Thus consumption of honey not only produces a windless situation, but also facilitates reproduction. Torale, honey-gathering, is a time when, in a way, humans hunt or appropriate the spirits contained in honey. During spirit-given seasons, by contrast, humans can be potentially hunted by spirits and made into fellow-spirits. Windless time multiplies the human community and windful time causes losses to the community in the form of deaths and addition to the spirit community.
By the end of March all the honeycombs have been gathered. Andamanese can now get ready to set up camps in the interior forest. Men prepare the arrows for the pig-hunting season while children make spinning-tops. Wild fig fruits have a twig inserted through them, which is twirled around to set them in a whirling motion on the ground. These tops, known as tikitiki (Ongee) or tuutuhu (Jarawa), are launched by groups of excited children shouting 'tototey tototey konyuney rotonka!' (Wind, wind where are you now?). Only the parents who teasingly say to children 'It is not tototey, (winds) you can never see it, it is yet to be felt' subdue all this noise. It is time to move as forest places are now more conducive. Realizing what humans have been doing with honey, angry spirits with winds will descend to the coastal areas, but the humans have left to set up camps in the forest to pursue pig-hunting. For the islanders it is of course a desired outcome of them breaking the taboos about honey.
By April the southwest winds arrive at the coastal areas with the spirits. These shake the jackfruit tree loaded with semi-ripe fruits. Jackfruits (buludangey [Ongee] Aabdangey [Jarawa]) drop and get scattered on the forest floor for humans to gather and wild pigs to feed on. For the Andamanese this is a sign that spirits have come to the sea and the forests are ready for pig-hunting. Until August islanders do not venture out to the proscribed coastal area, as spirits are present there. The presence of the spirits out in the sea is marked by rains and rough swells, which are responding to winds that accompany the spirits hunting for turtles and fish. Subsiding storms indicate to the islanders that the spirits are moving into the forest to feed on yet another prime soft insect by-product, a delicacy for the spirits, the cicada grubs (tombowagey [Ongee], payethen [Jarawa]).
Spirits enter the rotten tree-trunks, decaying after months of the heavy downpour of the southwest monsoon. To be safe and assured that spirits will move into the forest, spirits and winds have to be moved from the sea to the forest. This constitutes the start of second short duration Dare (Ongee), or Totahey (Jarawa),4 a human-made season when the winds are restricted and have to be started again to create the season of northeast winds, when islanders reside at the coast. To achieve this altered condition in space Andamanese rituals focus on killing the cicada grubs. Much like the honeybee larvae confined in the honeycomb, cicada grubs concealed in the rotten tree-trunks become the focus of the ritual breaking of taboo.5
4 In both Ongee and Jarawa language tototey means 'winds'. They distinguish aeoyey as a term that implies air, something that is around but does not flow or move as tototey does. Dare in Ongee language is also a verb that means 'to bring'. In Jarawa language Totahey is averb to express 'coming of'.
5 It is signicant to note that both the insects are appropriated in a form when they have yet to achieve their capacity to y, a capacity associated with the ow of wind. Ongees in particular avoid killing birds in the forest as they can y and are closely associated with wind, and both Ongees and Jarawas insist that things that really y should not be made into food.
In Andamanese mythology, cicadas are regarded as constantly complaining to the spirits by the loud sound they make at dawn and dusk. The contention is that in spite of having wings like birds they are unable to fly high and away. This ambiguity of the cicada also makes them the prime signier of the ambivalent time of dawn and dusk when it is neither day nor night. According to Ongees, cicada should therefore never be hurt. Cicadas communicate to the world the need to differentiate and change activities from daytime to night-time.
From August to September, as the southwest monsoons subside, the fallen, decaying tree-trunks become rich nursery-beds for cicada grubs. The soft, succulent little morsels are prime food for the spirits. As the spirits feed, winds are not experienced. Spirits in the process of devouring the grubs also reduce the insect noise that irritates them and caution humans about temporal changes and associated dangers. Groups of Andaman islanders with machete set out each day to split open every possible rotten tree-trunk and extract the grubs. Cicadas are loosely packed in a green leaf and lightly grilled on an open fire. This grilling is essential as heated grubs swell up and burst open, releasing smell for the spirits to absorb, thus increasing their anger and motivating powerful winds from the northeast.
Here we have the parallel of burning honeycombs and grilling grubs. This not only transforms raw to cooked but also sends a 'smell-signal' via winds to the spirits. As the winds start again, spirits shift from the sea to the forest, where humans have consumed cicada, prime spirit food. This movement of the winds from the northeast caused by the angry spirits is induced by the Andaman islanders breaking the taboo on killing the cicadas. All this makes it possible for the islanders to move from the forest to coastal areas, whereas the winds and spirits have moved in the opposite direction. From October to January the Andamanese camp along the coastline collecting resources from the sea. Time is formed into space by movement of winds, spirits, and humans. Spirits hunt humans and animals; humans avoid spirits and hunt animals. Animals remain relatively powerless in this hierarchical relationship. Within this shared space and these power relations, consumption of the tabooed honey and cicada creates a position of power for humans where not only the winds affect humans but humans also affect the winds. Coastal residence during the northeast winds and forest residence during the southwest winds is an Andamanese 'practice of structure' in relation to winds, but the utilization of a windless situation, when spirits themselves are gathered and consumed in the form of restricted insect-derived food, is a 'structure of practice' that sets the very practice of structure into a dynamic state. From February to March and August to September, it is the humans who dominate over the spirits.
As space changes due to the presence and absence of winds, time, too, changes. Andaman islanders make possible the very essence of moving as hunters and gatherers without getting hunted and gathered in 'timespace'. Conceptually the seasonal cycle therefore acquires yet another dimension where the presence and absence of winds is connected with categories of food gathered, hunted, and consumed.
Conclusion: cultural implications and political-economic considerations
No wonder early colonial surveyors of the Andaman islanders at the turn of the twentieth century enumerated the indigenous hunters and gatherers as practitioners of animistic religion, listing them as 'Storm Worshippers'. Consequently, early ethnographers of the islands, such as Man (1932 ), Portman (1899), and Radcliffe-Brown (1964 ),were engaged in arguments about the animistic world focusing on Puluga, a divinity that played a signicant role in generating northeast and southwest winds and different seasonal conditions (Leach 1971; Radcliffe-Brown 1910; Schmidt 1910). In the Andamanese animistic worldview there is really no differentiation and demarcation between sacred and profane, pure and impure, natural and supernatural, visible and invisible, powerful and powerless. In fact much of the world around is subject to taboos and is created so that they can be broken. For the majority of the time, spirits and winds dominate in the power relations with humans, but to deal with this asymmetry, for a short time humans do to spirits what spirits do to humans. The Andamanese culturally construct a season within the so-called 'naturally given' ow of time.
Andaman islanders oscillating between coast and forest also posed a major problem for the expanding colonial administration and its control of space. Early accounts elaborated on the breaking of 'taboos' that would cause a major imbalance in the availability of specic prescribed forms of game in prescribed seasons. However, my own ethnographic recording of Andamanese ideas about food in relation to winds and seasons considers another dimension. Radcliffe-Brown interpreted the food taboos of theAndamaneseasexpressionsof thebelief that 'foodmaybeasourceof dangerunless it is approached with circumspection', that is, by respecting certain prohibitions and practising certain avoidances (1965: 272). He avoided the term 'taboo' and preferred the idea of 'ritual prohibition', a rule of behaviour that is associated with a belief that an infraction will result in an undesirable change in the ritual status of the person who fails to keep that rule. But, collectively, Andamanese rituals of breaking food prohibitions dealing with honey and cicada bring about the desired change of wind conditions and seasons for the whole community (cf. Radcliffe-Brown 1965: 135, 207).
By consuming things that anger the spirits and affect the wind conditions, Andamanese reduce the very notion of danger to that of the 'socially valuable'. Their cultural notion of winds and spirits and related ritual ensure season after season of safe hunting and gathering. Food culturally articulates a specic form of subject in Andamanese culture, a subject that is constituted in the discursive predications made possible by the very symbolic order of culture that fears loss in terms of smells caused by spirits and winds that haunt the cultural space. Andamanese culture is constituted by standing against the inarticulated ow of winds and resisting power of spirits by articulating the unseen spirit bodies that move with winds and transforming human body smells.
For Andamanese, the body is not only a substance to be legislated upon but it is also a subject that is constantly symbolically constituted by experiences of the body's resistance to the subject's symbolic ordering of self in relation to winds. One could say that the rule of avoiding contact with spirit becomes ritual where the symbolic aspect becomes completely objectied morality. Thus, Andamanese act morally, not because they follow rules for their own sake, but because they are afraid of certain putative consequences of not following them. In the same vein, many people under the rule of law obey it because they are afraid of punishment and see no other reason for lawful behaviour. However, for Andamanese it would be essential to 'disobey' law and be 'punished'. This is because Andamanese have never forgotten that humans actually exist as a form of spirits. As a result the structure of taboos and ritual makes it possible for humans to revert back for a duration to the position of spirits so that they can continue to exist as humans in the natural world. This is essentially an assertion and reication of the basic power relation whereby spirits hunt in the world of humans and animals and humans hunt animals by avoiding the spirit hunting them.
Today groups of Ongees and Jarawas are classied as 'Primitive Tribes' by the Indian administration in relation to the nation-state. Only since 1998 have indigenous groups like the Jarawas come into full contact with and ended their resistance to the increasing number of outsiders on the island. Ongees, on the other hand, have been in contact with outsiders since 1892 and exhibit a degree of acculturation. But from the days of colonialism to the present, post-independence, the major concern for the administration has been to make the tribal people settle down in one place and not allow them to translocate.
An implicit vision in the thrust of developmentalist and welfare activities headed by the nation-state is that hunters and gatherers should stay put in a place so that they can be provided for. The translocating hunter-gatherer is a problem in the eyes of the state and its vision of the political economy. The administration's major problem is to convince the Andamanese that lack of movement would bring 'winds of welfare and modernization' to them. Time and space is a given, non-changing construct in the worldview of the nation-state and its political economy. Restricted movement is the very essence of the exercise of power by the political economy that has carved out forest territories as tribal reserves. The tribal should not be seen and entertained in any way by the non-tribal.
These demarcations and restrictions, particularly in relation to a major road passing through the tribal reserves, are not really understood by the tribal people and the non-tribal people, who regularly, legally or illegally, move in and out of the bound areas (Pandya 1999a; 1999b; 2002). This worldview of the state is in direct conict with the political economy of space as conceived by the Andamanese. For the Andamanese, space cannot be demarcated as a xed territorial unit, as winds continue to ow and unify places into a large space. Spaces are subject to change, and time itself is a creation of movement in and out of space. For the Andamanese, the relations of power that structure their political economy are based on movements of smells, spirits, and humans, all affected by winds. In the act of stopping and starting winds, the experience of time for them becomes place-specic. It is not just a time, but also the experience of different times in different places that distinguishes the spatio-temporal conception of the Andamanese. In the structure of the state's political economy the Andamanese propensity to move and their specic experience of winds are issues best ignored. Yet the Andamanese sense of political economy continues to be based on negotiations with spirits and smells and power is exercised by moving in relation to winds. The administration's strident refusal to acknowledge this was evident in February and March 2005 when during honey-gathering season it spent an extra $15,000 to keep the Jarawas from moving in different parts, particularly in the direction of the middle and south Andamans, by posting extra guards, signs, and patrol jeeps. The justicatory logic offered was that it was not safe for the 'naked tribals' to be seen on the road passing through the reserve forest.
The administration fails to realize that the imperative of movement will continue to drive the Andamanese as long as they experience the ow of winds and feel the presence of spirits in their lives. Some administrators feel that the answer lies in the introduction of pig farming and apiculture, which should be taken up by the 'Primitive Tribes'. I have doubts about my ability to 'translate' the administration's vision of the future to the Andamanese, but I did pose a counter-question for a senior administrator on the island bysaying,'Howabout you droppingthe ideato takeleaveinthe summer and cruise off to cooler climes? Maybe then the "native", too, could be persuaded to stay put in just one place!' I am still waiting for the administrator to respond, as he is on his annual summer break, while the winds continue to ow in and out of the Andamans.
I would like to thank the editors and workshop participants for the discussions and comments; Dr Madhumita Mazumadar, who made it a point to think about the wider implications within the Andamanese context; and Prof. Ralph Nicholas, who originally inspired me to start studying winds in 1983. All the years of eldwork on the Andaman Islands would have been impossible without the kind co-operation and goodwill extended by the Andaman Nicobar Administration and Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti ofce at Port Blair, particularly Mr S. Awaradi, Mr B. Das, and Mr A. Mondal.
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Last changed 29 May 2007