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A Contested Issue

Padam Nepal

By Nandana Dutta
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. XXXIV 270, price not stated.


The question of identity vis-à-vis migra- tion in Assam is a much debated, highly complex, thoroughly contested issue. The issue is enmeshed in the cauldron of contending views and is delivered differently by intellectuals, administrators, media, and various elements of the Assamese social structure, including individuals both natives and the migrants. The volume under review is couched in dense theoretical premises on the one hand, and, the lived experience of the author, on the other.   The Introduction has six different yet organically linked sections: subject position: personal and professional; reading in location; the discipline and the location; responses to violence; rationale; and texts. The author discusses the personal and the professional subject position in the development of her arguments in view of the disciplinary practices of her profession, and her personal experience involving her hybrid identity, its covert or overt deliverance, both at home and outside and the (dis)comforts associated with such deliverances. She explores the various hierarchically placed dyads across geographies of territories and knowledge frameworks and establishes ‘contexts’ as ‘determining’, justifying the necessities to probe deeper into the process and power relationships and associated violences as imperatives in comprehending such issues as the one being addressed in the book.   The chapter ‘The Conditions of Knowledge: Location, Migration, Hybridity’ consists of ten self explanatory sections and begins by approaching critically the valorization of the outsider position on the nature and production of knowledge, turns towards object-focused approach in justifying the author’s ontological and epistemological stances taken in the light of the problem undertaken for study and the resources incorporated as study materials, and uses the personal experiences as a filter to minimize the possibilities of misrepresentation.   In ‘The Assam Movement: Thirty Years On’ the author begins by reinterpreting critically the Assam movement as a ‘critical occasion for understanding contemporary Assam’, contextualizes the renewed violences associated with it in the recent past and the politics of violence and its media representations, and relates it to the quest for an Assamese identity. In this chapter, the author excavates the competing and multilayered identity narratives and the modes of protests articulated during the movement and the layers of overt and covert violence associated with it, transcending the movement and seeping into the social behaviour, social relations and the cultural life of the people. The practices of violence and the associated process of its appropriation, naturalization and demonstration in their ...

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