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Of Seperations and Identities


Urvashi Butalia

DIVIDED COUNTRIES, SEPARATED CITIES: THE MODERN LEGACY OF PARTITION
Edited by Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes and Rada Ivekovic
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2003, pp. 192, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 7 July 2004

For several years now, Ghislaine Deschaumes has worked from her small office in the heart of Paris, producing the bilingual journal, Transeuropeennes, which focuses on issues of fragmentation and exclusion, identity based politics, exile, displacement and on the converse processes of coming together of nations and peoples. Transeuropeennes, both for its editor, and for its many, and prestigious, contributors, is more than just a journal, it is a political engagement that is carried through into their work, into meetings, seminars and discussions, the most recent of them being an ongoing discussion on Partitions compared, of which Ghislaine Deschaumes, and her co-editor in this particular volume, Rada Ivekovic, have both been a part.   Herself a child of a partition, Ivekovic, now based in France, is a philosopher-historian-writer from the former Yugoslavia who was forced to leave her home and country because she refused to submit to the ways in which new identities were being constructed and forced upon the peoples of this diverse country. “I refuse to subscribe to identity politics,” Ivekovic has always said, “in fact, I believe one has to de-identify oneself, to divest oneself of all these identities that are thrust upon you.” Having lived and experienced partition, Ivekovic has remained concerned with what it does to peoples and nations. Apart from being interested in and preoccupied with the subject of partitions and nationalisms, Ivekovic has also had a long and abiding interest in India, and has written a fair amount on it, including a yet unpublished fictional work.   In the year 2000-2001 Deschaumes and Ivekovic together decided to work on compiling an issue of Transeuropeennes which would focus on the subject of partition, but placing it within a comparative framework. They looked at the many examples of partition as a mode of conflict withdrawal—something that has been offered over the years, but something that has often resulted in leaving behind further conflict, rather than providing a way of ‘managing’ it. Can people’s lives really be settled into modes of peace by simply drawing a line that separates them and keeps them apart ? What is the quality of peace that grows out of Partitions ? How do partitions deal with questions of marginalization and social exclusion ? Does the creation of borders actually help to polarize identities or to ‘settle’ them ? Are partitions perceived differently from the two sides—as, say in India-Pakistan or East and West Germany? ...


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