As of now there is an enormous empirical material on the
Indian tribes. But an adequate explanation of the present state and status of tribal societies is yet to emerge. Indian tribal studies, however, fall into two different paradigms - cultural and functional. The culturalists have been concerned with what may be termed a "tribal character", the "values" and the "attitudes patterns". On the other hand, the functionalists have studied "political" and "economic" organizations of tribes to construct tribe-caste dichotomies and continuums.
Neither the functional nor the cultural approach adequately grasps the process of change in these societies and their subjugation to the society-at- large. Often enough conflicts and contradictions have been studied to the extent that they play a role in maintaining the already existing culture or structure. The transformation of one culture/structure into another in these societies has been more often than not overlooked.
In order that the theoretical and empirical gaps may be overcome an attempt is made in this thesis to draw upon recent developments in historical materialism in the context of Indian tribes. This opens up a possibility of investigation into the social process of (re) production and the concomitant values and ideologies in these communities.
The less known Bonda highlanders of Southern Orissa in eastern India provide an instance of a society caught in a process of change from an earlier mode of tribal organization to a society guided by the market economy. The organization of labour force among the Bonda is undergoing
a shift from the traditional communal labour aid to a form of wage labour.
This process of change started by colonialism has gained renewed momentum after independence. The state sponsored development agency mediates this change towards commoditization of labour products as well as labour power and exerts economic and cultural pressures on the highlanders.
The historical materialist construction of Bonda society as undertaken in the present work includes the realities and realms of knowledge available to the Bonda producers themselves - for cognition of their social conditions and its related consequences.