As an archaeologist Shereen Ratnagar has been long involved in studying the enigma of early kin-organized, small-scale and non-specialized societies which lack private landed-property and are free of a money economy; societies that we call tribal. Having conducted ethno-archaeological research amongst the tribal people in eastern Gujarat, she spent a few months living with them to investigate how, in spite of their miniscule land holdings, they are able to raise cash crops, year after year.
Far from being abject or 'primitive', tribal people schedule their subsistence in a rational way, which is diversified in more ways that one, and families are self-sufficient to a considerable extent. That households think years ahead, is also abundantly clear from their provisions for the storage of food.
Being Tribal attempts to define tribal society, traces tribal migrations in history, and examines their modes of agricultural production, This book also comes to the conclusion that tribal culture is robust, and that Indian society owes it to the tribal population-repeatedly displaced and marginalized in the interests of the powerful-to give them full scope to live out their destinies in their own way.