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Belonging, Indentity and Power

Sushila Zetlyn

Edited by Nira Yuval-Davis, Kalpana Kannibiran and Ulrike Vieten
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 231, price not stated.

By Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik)
Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2007, pp. 135, Rs. 175.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

  These are both exciting and thought provoking books. The Situated Politics of Belonging includes contributions from 17 authors, whereas In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia is a relatively slim collection of works by one author. The common themes running through these works are: belonging, the formation and increasing fluidity of new national, social and religious identities, citizenship, discrimination and social exclusion. Some of the papers describe the ways emerging multiple identities and constituencies are being used to contest excluding boundaries. Although globalization affects all parts of the world these effects are not homogenous, people are not affected by the politics of belonging in the same way. In their introduction the editors of The Situated Politics of Belongiong, Yuval, Kannabiran and Vieten make the point that ‘intersecting and intermeshing social locations along different power grids in society’ such as class, race, gender, caste and religion affect the way different projects of belonging are constructed and represented. They argue that the politics of belonging is all about ‘boundary maintenance’.   Many of the papers in The Situated Politics of Belonging show how social identities and boundaries are being constructed or deconstructed. These are increasingly issues of global relevance. The Introduction makes the point that citizenship has not always been related to a nation-state. Citizenship, it suggests, relates to the participatory part of belonging while identity relates to the ways people define themselves and each other. Citizenship and identity play a central role in the politics of belonging. A central question many of the papers address is; ‘how can people live together in difference?’ The papers illustrate what Alice Feldman describes as the importance of moving beyond ‘static, essentializing categories of ethnicity, nationalism and citizenship associated with modernity and nation building, to a focus on belonging as an act and a process’. Space only allows me to discuss a few of the papers that I found most interesting and personally relevant but the collection as a whole is well worth reading.   The contributions to The Situated Politics of Belonging are extremely rich, varied and readable. Floya Anthias argues that globalization is creating new forms of migration, exclusion and racialization as well as new forms of violence and boundary making. She highlights different forms of exclusion and violence. She finds the concept of identity problematic, stressing processes context and positionality rather than the essentialism inherent in the concept of identity. Like Meeto in In ...

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