Saturday, January 7, 2012

‘US’ versus `THEM’

When European settlers in America were encroaching upon the land of native Red Indians, the white man had asked the Red Indian King, ‘Does this land belong to you? The response was not only rooted but innocent, ingenious and reflective. The King had replied, ‘No Sir! This land does not belong to me, I belong to this land.’ Since that day, the colonial masters carefully reversed the concept of ownership such that it could be financially transacted.

The Politics of Belonging in the Himalayas is based on a conference proceeding which had drawn anthropologists, political scientists, historian and geographers to piece together many facets of societal formations through recorded history and capture its relevance in the context of changing contours of social and political development in the Himalayas. Organized in three sections, 14 papers in the book are an experience in commonality, connectedness and cohesion.

The concept of ‘belonging' is ephemeral in the present world, ‘economics’ having been the driver of ownership and control. ‘To belong is to be accepted as part of a community, to feel safe within it and to have a stake in the future of such a community of membership’ may have little bearing in real life. Belonging, as a reflection of identity, has long been bargained for material gains. No wonder, rehabilitation and resettlement have replaced the idea of belonging.

Packed with interesting case stories from across the Himalayas, the rich discourse offers interesting insights on addressing emerging conflicts by applying the idea of ‘belongingness’. The authors argue that belonging in many ways is a ‘thicker’ concept than of collective identities. While collective identities are often political in nature, belongingness makes apolitical distinction from the social perspective of inclusion and exclusion.

Without belonging, one suffers alienation and rootlessness. Across the Himalayas, such alienation of communities has been the trigger for social maladies and political conflicts. The Politics of Belonging in the Himalayas is an academic treatise but its messages are subtle and relevant to those who have viewed the ‘mountain crises’ from a ‘deficit development’ perspective alone. There is more to the Himalayas than just marginality, fragility and remoteness....Link

The Politics of Belonging in the Himalayas
by Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka & Gerrad Toffin (Eds) 
Sage, New Delhi
346 pages, Rs 850

No comments:

Post a Comment