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Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia by David N. Gellner

Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia

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Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia by David N. Gellner

Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia provides valuable new ethnographic insights into life along some of the most contentious borders in the world. The collected essays portray existence at different points across India's northern frontiers and, in one instance, along borders within India. Whether discussing Shi'i Muslims striving to be patriotic Indians in the Kashmiri district of Kargil or Bangladeshis living uneasily in an enclave surrounded by Indian territory, the contributors show that state borders in Northern South Asia are complex sites of contestation. India's borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma/Myanmar, China, and Nepal encompass radically different ways of life, a whole spectrum of relationships to the state, and many struggles with urgent identity issues. Taken together, the essays show how, by looking at state-making in diverse, border-related contexts, it is possible to comprehend Northern South Asia's various nation-state projects without relapsing into conventional nationalist accounts.Contributors. Jason Cons, Rosalind Evans, Nicholas Farrelly, David N. Gellner, Radhika Gupta, Sondra L. Hausner, Annu Jalais, Vibha Joshi, Nayanika Mathur, Deepak K. Mishra, Anastasia Piliavsky, Jeevan R. Sharma, Willem van Schendel


Although the history of Partition, antagonism with neighboring states, and the rich ethnic diversity of border regions make India's borderlands a unique case, the essays in this volume speak to wider, comparative issues. The book would be significant for undergraduate and graduate courses on South Asia and India, anthropologies of the state, and comparative border studies. -- Chad Haines * Journal of Anthropological Research * Readers from a variety of theoretical and geographical orientations will appreciate its challenge to nation- and state-centric theorizing about borders. In this, the volume offers a most welcome addition to the literature on life where political and scholarly areas meet. -- Sarah Besky * American Ethnologist * Anthropologists working on any issue of contemporary identity or politics would be well served to study this volume, as well as van Schendel's original essay and the literature it has inspired. I expect that, armed with this perspective, researchers will find more borderlands than we anticipated while also finding the entire concept of borders and the entities allegedly bounded by these borders increasingly problematic. -- Jack David Eller * Anthropology Review Database * The ubiquity of borders makes them key sites for comparative social research. . . . If there is one thing that the contributions to this book demonstrate, it is that borders vary locally in terms of regulatory regimes, symbolic significance, permeability, social advantage, and change over time. . . . Until recently . . . social scientists showed very little interest in studying [the borders of Northern South Asia]-let alone in studying them comparatively. As this book shows, that neglect is now a thing of the past. -- Willem van Schendel, from the afterword How better to transcend received wisdom about boundaries than by examining the tangled, puzzling, and mind-boggling variety of the 'frayed borders
between South Asia and its northern periphery

? Originality, conceptual daring, and penetrating ethnographies undergird both the idea behind this volume and its execution. Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia marks a new stage in the scholarly literature on borders, puts the nation-state in its (modest) place, and will serve as an inspiring and reflective point of intellectual departure for the field. -- James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia is an excellent collection of essays. It not only provides new empirical detail for comparative studies of borderlands globally, but also contributes to South Asian studies broadly conceived, to Indian border studies, and to local social, cultural, and political histories of all the constituent border regions of Northern South Asia. -- David E. Ludden, author of * Where Is Assam? Using Geographical History to Locate Current Social Realities *

About the Author

David N. Gellner is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. He is the editor of Varieties of Activist Experience: Civil Society in South Asia and Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia and coeditor (with Krishna Hachhethu) of Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratization in Nepal and Its Neighbours.

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Book Info

Publication date

20th December 2013


David N. Gellner

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Duke University Press


320 pages


Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography



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