Teaching Woolf in an Age of Distant Reading (Slides for Woolf Society Conference, June 2024)

 I'm speaking at the International Virginia Woolf Society Conference in Fresno, California, on Saturday 6/8. Here are my slides for the talk. 

New Article: "Catachresis at the Origin": Names and Power in Toni Morrison's Fiction

I have a new article on Toni Morrison out in South Central Review, a peer-reviewed journal connected to the SCMLA branch of the MLA. It's part of a special issue on Morrison.

The article is here.

The abstract for the essay is as follows: 

Toni Morrison’s fiction is replete with characters who carry nicknames, who rename themselves, or are renamed by others. Some misnamings carry the stories of histories of marginalization and oppression—as with the “drunken yankee” responsible for the naming of Macon Dead in Song of Solomon. Morrison’s characters also rename themselves to resist the legacy of American slavery and institutionalized racism. What ties Morrison’s namings, misnamings, and renamings together is the sense that there is no path to the recovery of true names for many African American people. The consequence is not powerlessness; rather, the “catachresis at the origin” that Gayatri Spivak refers to is intuited organically by many Morrison characters, who embrace misnaming and rename themselves as a mode of claiming self-ownership. Catachresis may begin as rhetorical violence imposed from without, but in Toni Morrison’s fiction, it can end as an opportunity to assert power, autonomy, and a boundless creativity.

If you would like to read this article, but don't have access to this journal on Project Muse, please let me know and I can send you the PDF. 

African American Periodical Poetry 1900-1928: a Dataset

 Presentation at the University of Washington, May 20, 2024

Spring 2024 Teaching: New Course on AI, Science Fiction w/ a hands-on element

English 386: Spring 2024

Black Mirrors: Science Fiction, AI, and Ethics

Instructor: Professor Amardeep Singh (“Deep”)

Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:10-1:25 (Drown 019)

This course will survey 20th- and 21st-century science fiction and film with an emphasis on representations of Artificial Intelligence. Though many think of this as a topic especially relevant to the present moment, in fact, writers and filmmakers have been considering AI in various ways since the late 1800s. For the present course, we will focus on contemporary science fiction representations of AI by writers like Martha Wells, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sean Michaels, and Jeanette Winterson. We'll also look closely at how AIs have been represented in contemporary media, in shows like Black Mirror and films like Her and Ex Machina. What are the ethical issues surrounding the creation and use of AIs? What tools do scientists, philosophers, and social theorists offer us to help make sense of the rapidly changing landscape regarding AI? What are some likely benefits of new AIs based on Large Language Models, and what might be some of the dangers? 

Required books

Death of an Author (Kindle ebook novella. Not available in paperback.)

Martha Wells, Murderbot Chronicles 1: All Systems Red

Martha Wells, Murderbot Chronicles 2: Artificial Condition 

Sean Michaels, Do You Remember Being Born? (2023) 

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (2021)

Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein (2019) 

Short stories, poetry, and select non-fiction reading

I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks. Poems by code-davinci-002

Ted Chiang, “The Lifecycle of Software Objects”

Joy Buolamwini, “Unamasking AI” (excerpts)

Meredith Broussard, “Artificial Unintelligence: How Machines Misunderstand the


Emily Bender, “On the Danger of Stochastic Parrots” (2021)

Lee et al. “Do Language Models Plagiarize?” (2022)

Films and Media

Black Mirror (selected episodes dealing with AI)

Her (2013)

Ex Machina (2019)

M3GAN (2022) 

Goals and Outcomes: 

  • Students will read and analyze a body of contemporary fiction that engages with themes of AI and ethics directly. Students will also watch a certain number of films and television show episodes on this theme. These texts and films help us imagine how we might use AI in our everyday lives, how our lives might be changed by it, and what some of the dangers are. 

  • Students will gain familiarity with contemporary conversations about artificial intelligence, including especially generative AI. A particular area of interest is the ethics entailed in the construction of large language models (which frequently use large volumes of copyrighted materials), and the possible dangers entailed in the misuse of AI, especially for women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color. 

  • Students will consider how people in the humanities, including scholars of literature as well as creative writers, might use generative AI productively and affirmatively, and in ways that assist the labor of thinking and writing – not replace it. 

  • Students will gain hands-on experience using various new generative AI models based on accounts given by successful published writers who have used generative AI in their writing process. An additional possible outcome: we will attempt to create fine-tuned versions of open-source chatbots that are trained on limited corpora that we create. (We may get help from folks outside of the English department to do this last one.)

Scholarly Activities: 2023 in Review

1. I was on a grant. Last year, the most interesting news for me was probably the grant I am a part of, "Responsible Datasets in Context."

The grant is split between five different universities and is funded by the Mozilla Foundation. The total grant award is $150,000, of which Lehigh University will be getting around $25,000. The lead PI on the grant is Melanie Walsh of the University of Washington. We'll be working on the grant outputs this coming spring (2024), so expect to hear more about it soon. 

2. I wrote a new article. I also wrote an article for a journal that was accepted for publication after peer review. The article will be appearing in spring 2024. The article is called "Catachresis at the Origin: Names and Power in Toni Morrison's Fiction." The article will be appearing in South Central Review. This will be my first ever published article on Toni Morrison's fiction. 

I'm hoping it will be part of a book project -- perhaps my next book will be called Catachresis: Names and Power. The idea is to take this concept of Spivak's and deploy it as a helpful way of thinking about naming, renaming, and misnaming in postcolonial and decolonial contexts. It's a "Spivakian" book, but not necessarily a book about Spivak per se. Other chapters from it might include an earlier piece I wrote for South Asian Review on Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, and a chapter on Mahasweta Devi's stories. 

3. Article #2. I wrote a chapter called, "The Modernist Archive Gap: Black Writers and Canonicity in the Digital Era" for the Bloomsbury Handbook of Modernist Archives. This chapter builds on earlier work I've been doing for several years around a phenomenon I call the "Archive Gap" (see my earlier article, "Beyond the Archive Gap"). In my digital projects, I am strongly invested in addressing and attempting to rectify the archive gap; here, the focus is specifically on how that plays out for modernist studies and early 20th century African American writing.  

3. At the MSA conference.

I gave a talk at the Modernist Studies Association in Brooklyn in November. I was on a panel honoring the late, great University of Wisconsin professor Susan Stanford Friedman; my brief remarks for that roundtable are here. Overall, I had a great time at this year's MSA -- the conference continues to be incredibly vibrant and rich. 

4. At the MLA convention. It was part of 2024, but I just gave a talk at the MLA, as part of a Banned Books roundtable. My brief remarks for that roundtable are here

5. Guest lecture on Claude McKay. I did a guest lecture at Germantown Friends School on Claude McKay. The focus was on McKay as an African diasporic writer and as a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. I also talked a little about his novel Romance in Marseille, which was finally published in 2021. The slides for that talk are here

6. I did a guest lecture on Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! at Viola Lasmano's film class at Rutgers University in New Brunswick in October 2023. The slides for that guest lecture are here

7. In the spring I co-taught a graduate course on "Theories of Literature and Social Justice." As part of that, I wrote up a fairly comprehensive 'explainer' on Gayatri Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?"  That explainer has been read more than 1500 times on my blog, and a PDF version of it has been read 700 times on Academia.edu. 

Ongoing projects 

I continued to work on a large digital project, African American Poetry: a Digital Anthology. I had a small internal grant on the project (FRG), which I used to hire a graduate research assistant, Miranda Alvarez, to work with me over the summer. Miranda mainly worked on the Arthur Schomburg author page on the site. Schomburg is an especially interesting figure -- someone who was an Afro-Puerto Rican immigrant in New York who would come to be at the center of the Harlem Renaissance. He is a key figure in African American literary history, who also remained interested in race and politics in the Hispanophone Caribbean throughout his career, as his various writings show.  

More generally, the "Anthology" continues to grow -- it now features more than 90 full-text books of poetry, digital editions of several poetry anthologies, and a considerable collection of periodical poetry as well. 

One important new facet of the site is the introduction of some quantitative analysis -- I've begun to assemble datasets to quantify African American poetry published during the period in question. An overview of that new quantitative element is here.

In the late summer, I submitted the project as a whole to Modnets for peer-review and indexing. The peer review led to some helpful feedback, and I am working on revisions that are still in progress.  

The usage of the site is quite good -- my Analytics tracker suggests that the site has about 13,000 visitors a month during the school year (September-May), with a spike during Black History Month. 

What Would Toni Morrison Say? Censorship in the 2020s (for MLA 2024)

I'm giving a talk at this year's MLA Conference on a roundtable on "Banned Books." Below is the text of my presentation. 

 Title: "What Would Toni Morrison Say? Censorship in the 2020s" 

The most commonly censored speakers and writers in the U.S. are people from marginalized groups whose voices and arguments threaten state authority or the status quo.  Books by Toni Morrison, especially The Bluest Eye and Beloved, regularly appear on the American Library Association’s annual “10 Most Challenged” Lists, with The Bluest Eye in particular catching the attention of ban-oriented groups over the past few years. (The Bluest Eye, a book published in 1970, was on the 13 most challenged books of 2022, alongside very contemporary recent books like Gender Queer and All Boys Aren't Blue.)

As I have been teaching courses on Toni Morrison's fiction to undergraduates at Lehigh, I've wanted to bring the ban campaigns to their attention, and possibly construct assignments inviting students to investigate the claims against Morrison's novels. It's a pretty familiar English paper assignment structure: what is the argument against Morrison in these complaints, and how would you respond? This has proved to be difficult, as the complainants don't actually present arguments as such. One of the people who filed a complaint against The Bluest Eye, Amber Crawford of the St. Charles Parents’ Association in Wentzville, Missouri, simply listed “pediphilia [sic], incest, rape” as a sufficient reason. Not an argument -- just some bullet points. Crawford’s objection, like many others that have appeared around the U.S. in recent years often following cookie-cutter formulas pasted from the same lists online, reduces Morrison's complex narrative to these three words as evidence of its "obscenity." Since none of the complainants in the thousands of school board censorship events have actually read any of the books they’re censoring, their complaints don't really constitute teachable moments.

If they did read the novel, they might after all be troubled: what’s troubling in The Bluest Eye is actually its portrayal of young Black girls coming of age in a midwestern town at a time of total mass media and institutional erasure of Black bodies and experiences. What’s really unsettling about the book is the way it tells the story of a child desperate to be loved, to be cared for – and who never finds that love. What is the impact of these painful messages on young people? What is the right age to read The Bluest Eye? That might be an interesting conversation to have; too bad we can't have it.

Dana A. Williams historicized the present wave of censorship as part of a backlash against African American progress: “After the Black Lives Matter movement, after the 1619 Project, after the election of Barack Obama, any major moment in history where you see progress of people of color—Black people in particular—backlash will follow…” Morrison herself thought there was a connection. As she put it in her 2009 essay, “Peril,” “Efforts to censor, starve, regulate and annihilate us are clear signs that something important has taken place.” 

As we see a flood of right-wing censorious legislation, it is hard not to think that any indications that “something important has taken place” in recent years have been overwhelmed by that backlash. Arguably, the wave of local school districts banning particular Toni Morrison books has been superseded by a massive wave of state-level laws banning any potentially sensitive topics related to race, gender, or sexuality at all. Ten states have passed such laws, and there have been more than 100 separate bills introduced across 33 different states. The language of state laws like the one passed in Oklahoma remains vague (“not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex”), but they are interpreted by local school districts in very specific ways that lead to the banning of books by Black authors or that deal with race or racism from the curriculum.  

Morrison was consistent throughout her career in supporting the rights of writers to be controversial, and to leave the reader troubled and unsettled. In her essay “Peril” from 2009, from the collection Burn This Book, she talked about the way censorship aims to impose statist language on the population:

Writers—journalists, essayists, bloggers, poets, playwrights—can disturb the social oppression that functions like a coma on the population, a coma despots call peace; and they stanch the blood flow of war that hawks and profiteers thrill to. (Toni Morrison, "Peril")

It is hard to read this and not wonder what Morrison would say about the “blood flow of war” of our own era, of the vast curtain of censorship that has been descending on college campuses over the use of certain words or phrases related to Palestinians. Here’s more from Morrison:  

The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films—that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink. (Toni Morrison, "Peril")

Back in 1996, Morrison also wrote a powerful defense of a novel she clearly felt ambivalent about, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. As is well-known, that novel has sometimes been banned or pulled from curricula on account of Twain’s language. For Morrison, the use of the n-word in the book was never the problem, and she clearly condemned the efforts to have the book banned for that reason:

It struck me as a purist yet elementary kind of censorship designed to appease adults rather than educate children. Amputate the problem, band-aid the solution. A serious comprehensive discussion of the term by an intelligent teacher certainly would have benefited my eighth-grade class and would have spared all of us (a few blacks, many whites — mostly second-generation immigrant children) some grief. ("This Amusing, Troubling Book")

All of this sounds like an incredibly apt description of what state legislatures are doing in their own ham-fisted censorship efforts. (One does wonder, again, what Morrison would think about the idea of new editions of Twain where racial slurs have been swapped out – where the word “slave” is used instead of the word Twain himself used?) 

Morrison's most profound discussion of the perils of censorship was perhaps her moving, challenging Nobel Prize speech from 1993. Here she tells a parable of a blind woman and young people who come to her to test her – is the bird in our hands living or dead? Her response, as many of you will remember, is: “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.” Morrison goes on to interpret the bird in the inquisitors’ as language – what will we do with it? Will we let it live? Will we kill it just to win the rhetorical point? 

Some of Morrison’s most thoughtful and moving arguments against censorship from her entire career follow. For reasons of time, here are just a few of the best lines: 

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. . . . Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas. (Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture, 1993)

I’ve often wondered what prompted this ferocious critique of censorious language at the moment when Morrison was at the pinnacle of her career. I haven’t found that point of inspiration – but perhaps Morrison was speaking to us, 30 years in the future? Today’s school board book banners and state legislators banning discussions of race as “divisive” are doing exactly what Morrison describes. They are enacting, through erasure, the violence of a statist narrative in which racism and slavery were minor historical incidents, not a defining story. What would Toni Morrison say? Well, in this case, we know – because she said it all too plainly in 1993. 

Slides: Claude McKay -- a Diasporic Writer in the Harlem Renaissance

I'm doing a guest lecture at Germantown Friends School this week. Here are my slides for the event. 

In Honor of Susan Stanford Friedman

Susan Stanford Friedman passed away this past spring at the age of 79. She was an inspiring figure and I considered her a friend and mentor, particularly in my work on modernism in South Asia. If you're unfamiliar with her career, a look at this brief obituary at the University of Wisconsin might be a place to start. I'll be speaking at a roundtable at this year's Modernist Studies Association conference in her honor. Below is a draft of the text of my brief talk.

A Transformational Figure -- Brief Remarks for Susan Stanford Friedman Roundtable, MSA 2023

Amardeep Singh, Lehigh University

The work of Susan Stanford Friedman’s that has been most widely cited according to Google Scholar is not one of her many books focused specifically on Modernism, but her 1998 book on transnational feminism, Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter. Mappings has an astounding 1200 citations on Google Scholar, as compared to 460 hits for Planetary Modernisms, and about 300 citations each for her two books on H.D. Admittedly, the number of citations is one among many indications of influence; given that, what might it tell us? While we are here to honor and recognize Susan Friedman’s extraordinary contributions to modernist studies, to my eye, the success of Mappings might be evidence that the MSA as a conference and professional organization only represents a small slice of the conversations with which Susan Friedman was engaged. She was also committed to the community of broadly interdisciplinary, transnational feminist scholarship, where she will also, I suspect, be thought of as a generational figure.  

I spent some time revisiting both Mappings and Planetary Modernisms while thinking about my comments for this roundtable. One immediate observation is that both are first and foremost definitional explorations. Mappings aims to test whether and how feminist scholarship can assimilate what were then about two decades of postcolonial and intersectional thought, and still be understood as feminism. Here's a brief passage:

“In its advocacy of dialogic negotiation, Mappings polemically suggests that the time has come to reverse the past pluralization of feminisms based on difference, not to return to a false notion of a universal feminism that obliterates difference but rather to reinvent a singular feminism that incorporates myriad and often conflicting cultural and political formations in a global context.” – Susan Stanford Friedman, Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter (1998)

Friedman’s answer, as the passage above indicates, was emphatically yes – and what’s more, she believed feminists should continue to use “feminism” in the singular, even as they radically expanded their field of engagement and challenged their unthinking Eurocentric biases. Among other things, insofar as patriarchy and the domination of cis-men remain a fact of life worldwide, we will continue to need transnational feminism, even if articulated along the lines of strategic essentialism. 

Will we also continue to need “modernism”? In the Introduction to Planetary Modernisms, Friedman references how the method and aims of Mappings informed her subsequent attempt to perform the same transformational redefinition of “Modernism” – and also notes that it turned out to be a much more difficult project. Her first engagement along those lines was the 2002 essay “Definitional Excursions,” but there were many more: over the course of the subsequent fifteen years, Friedman published dozens of essays and chapters, and gave many, many talks that attempted to articulate a truly inclusive, non-Eurocentric planetary modernism. To follow the entirety of her train of thought is beyond our scope for this brief presentation, but suffice it to say that Friedman did not replicate the rhetorical gesture of assimilation and accommodation she confidently asserted in Mappings.

Planetary Modernisms rejects an additive approach to global modernisms and promotes instead a transformational one, a fundamental rethinking on a planetary scale in the longue durĂ©e as a necessary framework to fulfill the transnational turn in modernist studies and to prepare ourselves to survive and thrive in the still-unfolding modernities of the twenty-first century.” –Susan Stanford Friedman, Planetary Modernisms (2015)

Friedman ended with “Modernismsin the plural. And, judging by the complex and frequently open-ended discussions of the problems of expanding modernism across both space and time in the book (especially visible in “A Debate With Myself” at the end of the book), she was nowhere near as confident about the universal applicability of “modernism” as a marker of periodization across an expanded chronology or as an aesthetic linked to a limited set of literary forms and styles in an expanded map. That said, as my second quote above indicates, she never gave up on the term (or the MSA as an institution), even as she seemed to recognize that the radical transformation of the field she advocated was in the category of “Not there … not yet.” (A little Passage to India reference she would most certainly get!)

The expanded map has mattered to me personally, as the kind of modernism I have often wanted to discuss is part of that expanded map, specifically modernism in South Asia. It's a complex problem, as avant-garde and formally experimental writing movements generally emerged a bit later in South Asia (the 1950s and 60s), and sometimes appeared to be operating on a 'diffusionist' emulation of Euro-American modernism. South Asian writers of the 1930s tended to be much more committed to social realism -- under the umbrella of the Progressive Writers Movement. Then you have towering late-Victorian Bengali figures like Rabindranath Tagore (and his sister, Swarnakumari Devi) -- were they modernists? And of course the small number of Indian writers like Mulk Raj Anand and Ahmed Ali who spent time in the UK and published books with the support of London editors and publishers. When was modernism in South Asia? How would we define it? Are we sure we need to use the word modernism at all, since South Asian writers themselves rarely did? Susan Friedman’s work didn’t necessarily answer all of these questions, though it did make them legible to the broader modernist studies community, and I'm grateful for that. 

I first met Susan Friedman in the fall of 2002. I was a first-year faculty member at Lehigh University, and I had the temerity to organize a conference on H.D. in the author’s hometown of Bethlehem, PA, on a shoestring budget and with little in the way of administrative support. Working with my colleagues in my home department and with support from folks like Madelyn Detloff and the H.D. Society email list, I invited Susan Friedman to be the keynote – and she actually came! I quickly brushed up as much as I could on her work to write the introduction for the keynote, and to have semi-intelligent things to say over meals in Bethlehem. I'm sure in retrospect that that introduction was not terribly impressive, but I was so relieved when she acknowledged it later with characteristic terseness: "You're a quick study."

Susan Friedman came to Lehigh to speak twice more over the years, first as part of our Literature and Social Justice speaker series in 2012, and then for our considerably fancier second H.D. conference in 2015. In subsequent meetings at those events, and in our many meetings and meals over the years at the MSA and the MLA, I started to feel less like an upstart "quick study" and more like a middle-aged peer. I started to think of Susan Friedman as a forever colleague -- someone I could expect to stop and talk to at MSA and other conferences every year, no appointment necessary. I'm sad those conversations are now over, but I'm very glad to have gained so much from her over the years.

Slides on "Salaam Bombay!" for guest lecture

I did a face-to-face guest lecture for a film class at Rutgers in October. 

Mapping India’s Indigenous (Adivasi) Communities

Some Basic Background about India’s Indigenous (Adivasi) Communities

I have long been interested in the amazing project, Native-Land.ca, which shows approximate maps of indigenous communities, mostly in North and South America, but increasingly in other regions, including Australia/New Zealand as well as Taiwan. I've been curious about the prospect of having them add indigenous communities in South Asia to the list of maps. I've been in touch with people at the project, and have sent them the following document as a primer oriented towards producing a viable map of Adivasi communities in India.

Below, I am including some basic background information as well as a list of a few of the larger Adivasi communities, along with links to maps that could serve as starting points for mapping areas where these communities live. The focus, for now, is on India specifically, though some of these communities have populations in neighboring countries in South Asia (especially Bangladesh and Pakistan). 

A Note on Names: 

India’s indigenous communities are known by a number of different names – Tribals, Adivasis, Scheduled Tribes (a government name), Denotified Tribes (since 1952; another government name), and the British colonial government’s rather ominous Criminal Tribes (1871-1952).  

The most respectful, politically empowering term in use is probably the term Adivasi, which is a Sanskrit word that means “Original Inhabitants." The term has been in use by activists since the 1930s (the term is thought to have been coined by the Gandhian activist Thakkar Bapa). Below, we will use the term Adivasi in most instances to describe these communities – though there are some historical and ethnographic complexities in doing so (see our note below).  

The British passed a law called the Criminal Tribes Act in 1871, that officially designated (“notified”) 150 Tribal groups throughout British India as “Criminal Tribes.” These were generally autonomous indigenous communities that hadn’t really been ‘ruled’ by any local governments or authorities. Some historians have claimed that the British use of the word ‘Criminal’ was a shorthand to mark the ‘outsider’ nature of these communities. 

After independence, the Indian government reversed some aspects of the Criminal Tribes Act, but in effect kept the designation – and the Adivasi communities became “Denotified Tribes” (i.e., “Tribes formally known as Criminal Tribes”) Starting in the 1950s, the Indian Government dramatically expanded the number of communities it recognized as "Scheduled Tribes" -- there are at least 750 such communities now. Unfortunately, many urban and educated Indians continue to believe that Adivasi communities are inherently ‘criminal.’ Adivasi people are subject to ongoing discrimination, harassment, and organized violence at the hand of other communities as well as the police and military. A number of communities have also seen their languages and cultural practices under threat.

Size of population: 

The Indian census of 2011 estimated about 8% of the country’s population to be Adivasi, meaning that the population is 100 million or more. There are also indigenous/Tribal communities in other South Asian countries. I saw an estimate that 1% of the population of Bangladesh is also Adivasi. And about 600,000 Bhils reside in Pakistan; there could be more.

There are certain regions that have particularly high concentrations of Adivasis, and I'll be focusing most of my attention on those in the initial phases of this project. The following map from Wikipedia shows population concentrations per capita. 


The area that runs through the central part of the country is often referred to as the “Tribal Belt.” The regions in the north (Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh) and the Northeast have high proportions of the population understood to be “Tribal,” but these are much more sparsely populated areas overall. So it's that middle region of the country -- the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Bihar, and West Bengal that I'll be starting off with.

Historical and ethnographic complexities

The Adivasi populations around India are quite heterogeneous, with some communities likely with ancient roots in certain regions of India that might predate other settlers (such as the Indo-Aryans) In other cases, linguistic and ethnographic evidence suggests the communities might have migrated from other regions of Asia, including Southeast Asia (this is especially likely to be true for Tribal communities in Northeastern India); some of these communities continue to be nomadic, hunter-gatherer societies to the present day. So these communities may not ‘predate’ other (dominant) groups, but they nevertheless have been treated the same as the others historically. Also, the communities can be quite diverse, even internally, with several different sub-groups of the Gond, Bhil, and Munda communities (to name just three of the larger Adivasi groupings). Sometimes those subgroups have their own names, and there are some inconsistencies regarding whether and how they are marked as separate from the larger groups.

One important point of clarification – the communities listed below are specifically understood as indigenous “scheduled tribes by the Indian government. In the list below, I am not including communities known as “Scheduled Castes” (i.e., Dalits); my focus is specifically on communities that have been included under “Scheduled Tribes.”  

Larger Adivasi Communities: 

There are a number of sources that indicate populations of Adivasi Communities (or Scheduled Tribe communities). The Indian government records extensive Census data every ten years, though analysis of that data sometimes lags, and it can be difficult to find visualizations or maps based on that data.

Below, I give a list of a few of the larger Adivasi communities, indicating population size for a sense of scale. I also am linking to Wikipedia as well as a source that features nice maps. (Warning: the source I am linking to for maps is a Christian Missionary project, so it should not be considered entirely reliable. That said, most of their information aligns with what one finds on Wikipedia and other sources fairly well.) 

There is also an Indian government-funded project called the Illustrated Atlas of Tribal India (2002) that also contains much of this information. I have put a number of maps from that project into a Google Drive folder. However, the maps are much less easy to interpret (and would probably be more difficult to convert to GIS data). They are also kept entirely separated by state, making it harder to see the regional concentrations across state borders (for instance, the Bhil community has large populations in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh...)

Bhil (approx. 15 million people)

Map: https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/16414/IN


Gond (approx. 10 million people):


Santal (approx. 9 million people):

Map: https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/14743/IN


Oraon [they call themselves Kurukh] (4-5 million people):

Oraon is an exonym used by neighboring Munda people. They themselves use the name Kurukh…


Khond (~1.6 million people):

Map: https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/19065/IN


Munda (~4.4 million people)



Bhumij (~1.4 million people) (connected to Munda)



Banjara (~7.2 million people)



Bodo [Boro] (~1.9 million people)



Domar [or Damor]  (~2.5 million people) (connected to Bhil)



Kokna (~1.3 million people)

Map: https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/17238/IN


Saora (~1 million people)



Andh (~600,000 people)



Baiga (~700,000 people)



Ho (~1.3 million people)



Kharia (~900,000 people)



Kol (~2.1 million people)

Map: https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/17239/IN