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Unfinished Agendas


Ankita Pandey

THE POLITICS OF CITIZENSHIP, IDENTITY AND THE STATE IN SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Harihar Bhattacharyya, Anja Kluge, and Lion Konig
Samskriti, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 304, Rs. 595.00

CITIZENSHIP AND THE FLOW OF IDEAS IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION: STRUCTURE, AGENCY AND POWER
Edited by Subrata K. Mitra
Samskriti, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 356, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 3 March 2014

Book reviews make a commentary on the argument of the book they seek to review. This task however becomes difficult with an edited book (in this case two) consisting of several chapters, that address themes of varying contexts. While the common theme of citizenship does unite them, citizenship studies in themselves have become vast enough to have journals, institutes, centres and courses dedicated to it. In my opinion these books should not be seen to be making an argument but opening a domain up, for discussion. They would familiarize the readers with the various directions investigating the notion of citizenship leads to.   The Politics of Citizenship Identity and The State in South Asia explores the ‘specific meaning, nature, implications, variables of citizenship and their measurement in the complex diversity of South Asia’ (p. 13). Towards this end there are fourteen essays that look at one or more of the above themes. The essays of Harihar Bhattacharyya and Asghar Ali Engineer comment on the career of citizenship in India. Both the essays argue that the politics of group differentiated citizenship in India has cemented the religious divide and strengthened identity politics based narrow citizen grievances. Having examined preferential policies in India Bhattacharyya too feels that the space for secular, individualized, civic sphere of citizenship has diminished in India over time. While there may be a case to examine the impacts of government policies in India, surely that is not the only contributing factor resulting in the rise of identity politics.   Several innovations in the theory of citizenship are a result of various voices that highlight exclusion and marginalization of various sections from the experience of citizenship. Many essays in the book highlight various kinds of exclusions from citizenship. Subrata Mitra’s essay documents the voices of people from Tripura, many of whom do not identify themselves as citizens. It highlights their subjective experience of not being represented. Lion Konig argues that a ‘cultural citizenship’ is very important in contemporary media driven societies. It highlights the importance of feeling represented in the popular culture, for all sections of society. Economic liberalization has deepened this existing divide with its unevenly distributed benefits. Binda Sahni for instance mentions the divergent ways in which liberalization has affected PIO’s and Tribal groups. Christian Strumpell notices ethnic politics reflected in the State governments’ policies of preferring their people and excluding various minorities. Anja Kluge looks at the ...


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