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

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Beyond Territorial and Jurisdictional Confines

Introduction to the set of seven articles

This collection of articles on borderlands in South Asia is a historical and ethnographic exploration of borders and frontiers in the region. Taking the contemporary ­iteration of South Asian borders as a point of departure, they invite the reader to think beyond the territorial and jurisdictional confines of states, nations and academic disciplines, and to reflect instead on how concepts like mobility, negotiated sovereignty, and affect enable us to disrupt the modern idea of sovereignty as absolute and the state as sole arbiter of borders and frontiers. These articles offer densely textured and histori­cally grounded readings of particular borders in the region. Attention to historical depth and geographical spread reveals the difficulty of a retrospective reading of borders from ­present-day naturalisations of territory and identity in nation states and their borderlands. They also caution us against the dangers of homogenising a discourse on borders, for each of the borders under discussion here speaks with and against each other in productive ways. In the articles, borders are territorially defined limits, as borderlands, but they are also relational entities that reach over and beyond themselves despite mandates to contain, divide and delimit. Borders are, of course, also structural conditions that can be separated from their territorial manifestations (Piliavsky 2013). In this sense, the ­border is a conceptual tool that opens up discussions on ­nationality, statehood, jurisdiction, identity and belonging ­beyond the trope of the nation state, for too long naturalised as a unit of analysis by academic disciplines. Today, we are at a moment in history where once again there is a turn to the “border question” even as many have begun to acknowledge that solutions cannot always be found at the level of the nation state.

Globally, refugees are pushing across state borders seeking homes away from sites of conflict, genocide or climate disasters, in the process creating new borderlands. In resettlement, they once again become enmeshed in borders of other kinds, as fear, rumour or suspicion serve to configure their ­relationship with their new neighbours. Within India, the casting of the Muslim citizen as the “outsider” or the “internal ­enemy” is spatially instantiated with areas within cities being referred to as “mini-Pakistans” (Ghassem-Fachandi 2012: 231). The nation state’s external political borders are thus transposed onto internal spatial, sociopolitical and cultural borders within the geographic heart of the nation. Borders are thus not about territory alone; they allow us to raise questions about internal jurisdictions and about marginality, also about affect and desire.

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Updated On : 20th Apr, 2017

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