ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Formation of Cultures

Does identity-based mobilisation express a pre-existing cultural logic? Conversely, does it form the cultures it claims to represent? In seeking answers to these questions, this paper takes up for discussion, a range of identity-based movements that have influenced and continue to play a major role in shaping the historical trajectory of south Asia. As it emerges, identity-based political forces aim to promote cultural change in two ways: (i) those that 'instrumentally' deploy cultural banners to help build broad social coalitions, as for instance, the movement for Pakistan, and (ii) the other 'purposive' type of identity movements that prioritise cultural change, specify group norms precisely and equate these with the practices they value, as seen in the instance of the Sikh movement in the 1970s and 1980s. This article is based on the text of the Sixth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture, delivered at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo in July 2005.

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