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Engaging with Geography and Space

Rupal Oza

Edited by Saraswati Raju , M. Satish Kumar and Stuart Corbridge
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 368, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Colonial and Post-colonial Geographies of India, a collection of fifteen essays by scholars from India, western Europe, and the U.S., is a pointer to emerging critical geographical work on India, though it is not, as the editors point out in their introductory essay, the first time that geographers have invested in India. Colonial ‘technologies of governance’ mapped India through gazetteers, district reports, surveys and the census. The departments of geographies established during the colonial period were tasked with the discursive and literal mapping the country for imperial rule (p.14). Despite these rich documents, there is much that remains to be understood and revealed about both the colonial mapping of India as well as postcolonial geography of opposition. The editors for example point out that Gandhi’s strategies of resistance employed a profoundly geographic politics of opposition to imperial rule which has received little attention. While much has been written about Nehru’s vision of India, the imaginative, discursive, and material geography of modern nationhood mapped through dams, canals, roads, and industrial centers, has in comparison been neglected.   The neglect of critical geography, to which this collection is a much needed corrective, derives from the lineage of geographical departments in India. Post independence a ‘new’ generation of geographers focused on economic development and national integration (p.17). During this period regional development received particular focus based on priorities established by the Planning Commission (p.17). Research and pedagogy in Geography Departments therefore were predominantly focused on applied and economic geographical research. Critical geography of the sort that this collection explores was rarely if at all engaged with during this period. Since then however, scholarship began to change with evidence of interesting work on geo-politics of location, environmentalism, globalization in south Asia, and an atlas of men and women in India all of which point to an emerging trend in critical geographical research (p.18). This collection of essays is an important part of this emerging intellectual domain.   As one of the first of its kind to map an emerging field, the essays are disparate covering a wide range of topics, as would perhaps be expected in a collection covering research on a vast area as ‘colonial and post-colonial geographies’. Yet the essays coalesce around five broad themes: mapping cities and spaces, neo-liberal political economic formations, boundaries, territoriality, and the linkages between the global and local.   Geographers have long engaged with spatio-political formation of ...

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