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Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion


Chetan Singh

THE POLITICS OF BELONGING IN THE HIMALAYAS: LOCAL ATTACHMENT AND BOUNDARY DYNAMICS- GOVERNANCE, CONFLICT, AND CIVIC ACTION (VOLUME 4)
Edited by Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka and Gerard Toffin
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2011, pp. xxxviii+346, Rs.850.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 3 March 2012

Escalating demands for the recognition or reordering of territories and people characterizes popular movements in several parts of South Asia today. This political volatility is, in some measure, the result of a larger, but uneven, advance of economic globalization. But it is not for the first time that new social identities have arisen from the differentiated manner in which large scale socio-economic change has taken place across the sub-continent. South Asia's contentious engagement with 'modernity' and methods of enumeration fashioned new groups and communities in colonial times. These were also partly the product of 'orientalism' as it is now commonly understood. Somewhat different have been the subsequent efforts at state-sponsored social engineering through nationally inspired 'development' programmes in newly independent countries. During most of these societal transformations, the northern mountainous fringe represented by the Himalaya has remained peripheral but certainly not insulated. Many of the issues examined in this volume are implicitly connected with how the larger changes occurring in the subcontinent played out in the mountainous region. The Politics of Belonging in the Himalayas is a collection of fourteen essays that explore the varied connotations and articulations of the concept of 'belonging' in the region. More than half the chapters pertain to Nepal which stretches across an extensive part of the Himalaya. The remaining essays explain how this idea has been expressed and used for different purposes in Nagaland, Assam, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. While recognizing the complexity of constructing of identities, the discussion here is carried further by situating the idea of 'belonging' in the context of notions of religion, inclusion/exclusion and tradition/modernity. It is suggested that if simplistic polarities between these notions is avoided, the concept of 'belonging' could become increasingly relevant for scholars engaged in understanding how boundaries are created and altered. These are obviously not merely boundaries of space, but multiple other forms of delineation. For this reason, the three parts of the book follow conceptual not geographical lines. 'Territoriality and Indigeneity' looks closely at 'primordial' loyalties and particularistic forms of belonging. 'Socio-Religious Bonding' delves into the 'realm of the sacred', 'Commitments and Conflicts' provides an 'interface between cosmopolitan, metropolitan and vernacular processes'. Chapters in the first part of the book look closely at the relationship between geographical space and community identity. The mountain villages of Nepal, it is suggested, contend with lineage and ethnicity for recognition as primary locations for developing a ...


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