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Terre et parenté, Inde 19ème
Autour de la «communauté de village»

La thèse selon laquelle ce n’est pas la généalogie qui constitue les liens de parenté, mais le rapport à la terre, est très ancienne, dans l’histoire de l’anthropologie, car elle fut pour la première fois articulée dans toutes ses implications par Henry Sumner Maine dans Ancient Law en 1861, à partir de l’Inde.

Je suppose connue l'œuvre et la personnalité de Henry Sumner Maine (1822–1888), l'un des pères fondateurs de l'anthropologie sociale.

Dans la Bibliothèque Ganapati:
Jurists and historians > Maine (Henry)

Pour les administrateurs anglais au milieu du 19e siècle en Inde, dont le plus perspicace est George Campbell, au sein de la communauté de village, les membres de la caste dominante possédaient en indivision les droits sur le sol. L'indivision était le fait des dominants et s'accompagnait de la sujétion des autres habitants.

Louis Dumont, The 'village community' from Munro to Maine, Contributions to Indian Sociology 9 (1966): 67-89; repr. in L. Dumont, Religion, Politics, and History in India. Collected Papers in Indian Sociology, Paris La Haye, Mouton, 1970, Chap.6, pp.112–132. Spécialement p.123.

George Campbell, Modern India. A Sketch of the System of Civil Government, London, 1852, pp.85 et suiv.

(85) Where the democratic element prevailed, viz. in the North, and in many parts in the South, the constitution of the communities so far differed from those in other parts, that the proprietary members were all equal, and considered themselves masters of the village, of all the lands attached to it, and of the other inhabitants — the watchmen, priests, artificers, etc., being their servants rather than village officers.

(86) Each village then is one community, composed of a number of families, claiming to be of the same brotherhood or clan; and generally most of the villages in the same part of the country are of one tribe or subdivision of a tribe [une caste dominante]. […] These then form a community, /87/ who assume and possess the strongest proprietary rights in the soil, and are not to be, nor almost ever are, dispossessed by any native government. They are, in a perfect village, almost the only professional cultivators.

(87) The government officers do not interfere directly in village matters, so long as the proprietors agree among themselves, but invariably treat with the communities as a body corporate, and as such transact all business 'vith them through their representatives. They have a machinery by which they distribute all burdens, and are enabled to make engagements in common. Yet they do by no means "enjoy to a great degree the community of goods," as Mill supposes. I never knew au iustance in which the cultivation was carried on in common, or in which any of the private concerns of the villagers were in any way in common ; and I very much doubt the existence of any such state of things. [Corps constitué donc de co-possesseurs, mais non pas communisme.] The whole land is the common property of all and they have certain common responsibilities in return for common rights. But things are managed in this wise: every village is divided into a certain number of fixed portions called ploughs, but a plough is rather like an algebraical symbol to express a fixed share than a literal plough. The arable land then is divided into, say for instance, sixty-four ploughs, and every man's holding is expressed in ploughs; he may have one plough, or two ploughs, or a plough and a half, or three-quarters of a plough ; all imposts [impôts], whether of government demand or of common expenses, are assessed at so much a plough, and each man pays accordingly.

Louis Dumont, Homo hierarchicus (Paris, Gallimard, 1966), §74.1 (La communauté de village), fait ressortir l'essentiel (p.203): «Là où elle existait, l'indivision était en rapport /204/ avec deux faits: la parenté ou plutôt l'organisation des lignées dans le groupe dominant d'une part, de l'autre l'unité structurale de ce groupe en face d'autres qui auraient pu lui disputer sa position ou l'amoindrir peu à peu.» Cette communauté de village était instituée au sein de la caste dominante qui disposait du droit supérieur sur les terres. Et §74.2 (La caste dominante), p.205: «Droit supérieur s'entend ici par rapport aux autres villageois, le droit du roi, lui-même supérieur au précédent, n'intervenant pas au niveau du village. […] L'indivision qui, pour Maine par exemple, donnait sa plus grande force à /206/ la communauté de village était en réalité l'indivision des occupants de droit supérieur, l'indivision à l'intérieur de la caste ou lignée dominante.»

Maine, Ancient Law (1861), au chapitre consacré à The Early History of Property, définit la communauté de village en Inde comme un corps constitué de co-possesseurs des droits fonciers, sans voir qu'ils sont des dominants. Néanmoins, il fait ressortir mieux que tout autre observateur le lien entre parenté et droits sur le sol.

Bibliothèque Ganapati:
maine_ancient_law_property.pdf

(153) The Village Community of India is at once an organised patriarchal society and an assemblage of co-proprietors. The personal relations to each other of the men who compose it are indistinguishably confounded with their proprietary rights, and to the attempts of English functionaries to separate the two may be assigned some of the most formidable miscarriages of Anglo-Indian administration.

(154) [Chaque famille indivise est] an assemblage of joint proprietors, a body of kindred holding a domain in common [et aux dimensions du village qui rassemble plusieurs familles indivises apparentées entre elles] the Community is more than a brotherhod of relatives and more than an association of partners. It is an organised society…

(155) The Village Community then is not necessarily an assemblage of blood-relations, but it is either such an assemblage or a body of co-proprietors formed on the model of an association of kinsmen. The type with which it should be compared is evidently not the Roman Family, but the Roman Gens or House.