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Ritu Menon

Edited by Navnita Chadha Behera
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 310, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 10 October 2006

Pakistani scholar, Tayyab Mahmud, speaking of the “spectre of the migrant” that haunts the modern world, says that immigration in public debate and political rhetoric is presented as a “problem to be solved, a flaw to be corrected, a war to be fought, and a flow to be stopped.” The immigrant, he says, hovers at the edges of her adopted society: As a non-citizen, she is to be marginalized in the distribution of legal rights and political protections. As a cultural signifier, she is to be erased. As a violator of borders she provides the rationale to ever strengthen the territorial divides. The threat perception triggered by the immigrant traverses two fields: that of the state and that of the nation. The immigrant puts at issue the inviolability of borders, territoriality of sovereignty, particularity of jurisdiction, and uniformity of citizenship—fundamental characteristics of the modern state.   As Navnita Chadha Behera says in her cogent and comprehensive Introduction to this volume, the world refugee (or migrant) map tallies almost perfectly with the world conflict map; what is also remarkable is that the first map is predominantly female. This is what makes the publication of this volume so timely and so important. Earlier studies of refugees and migration (and there have been plenty) have, by and large, fallen into what Mahmud characterizes as the problem—flow-war-unwelcome flow syndrome; in other words the usual IR, demographic, neo-realist, state-centric understanding. This collection of papers eschews this mechanical and gender-blind consideration and it focuses sharply on gender/women migrants across South Asia, for two important reasons: Conceptually, being alert to the power relations of gender enables us to see features of migration that are otherwise overlooked. Empirically, it has led to new topics of concern: transnational identity, health and human rights of migrant women, and forced migration as a result of conflicts and political violence.   The volume considers both internally, as well as externally conflict-induced displacement in the region. It is significant that not a single country in South Asia is free from this kind of migration—the Karen, Shan, Mon and others in Burma; Chakmas and Hindus in Bangladesh; Afghans in Pakistan; Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka and India; Kashmiri Pandits in India: Bhutanese in Nepal, and so on. Equally significant is the fact that women make up 42-50 per cent of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons in the region. Rita Manchanda ...

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