The article compares three cases of identity construction in middle India (Orissa and Bihar) among groups that would conventionally be called "tribes." The first case, comprising the closely related Juang and Hill Bhuiya, actually involves apparent assimilation into caste society, and the self-identification of both groups as jati, which in this context suggests "caste," not "tribe." The second case involves the Santal, who, after a period of imitation of caste society and Hindu values, have now shifted to constructing and maintaining a distinct identity as adivasi or "tribals." The third case examines a campaign by a sympathetic local elite in support of tribal land rights, which is using artistic motifs as a diffusionist instrument in constructing a concept of "indigenity." The article argues that maintaining a distinct identity is important for advance in this multiplex society. The differences between the three examples are located mainly in different attitudes to myth and history
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