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(Im)Probable solutions? Space and place in Thinking Territory: Some Reflections.

B.P. Giri and Prafulla C. Kar (eds.), Thinking Territory: Some Reflections, New Delhi: Pencraft International, 2009, ISBN 81-85753-96-2, Pages 268.

On Aug 27, 2010, an article in Austin Post commented on how Kashm India is being pummeled by "sangbazan" (stone pelters), grou of young people in jeans and hoodies clamoring for independence via violence, aggressive graffiti, and social networks like Youtube and Facebook. Issues of terriorialization, de-territorialization, cyberspace politics, displacement, community, and religious affiliations surfacing in such fresh outbreaks of violence in Kashmir squarely validates the urgency/practicality of crossdisciplinary studies engaging in current socio-cultural and political issues via historical parameters of ontology. Divided into five sections comprising essays on territory, space, and landscapes (both imagined and physical, local and global), Thinking Territory: Some Reflections (2009) does exactly that and couldn't have been timed better, given the simmering crises in the triumvirate region of Afghanistan-Taliban-Pakistan with America at the helm of affairs and India's current domestic socio-political quagmire involving ugly disputes over space and territory in Kashmir.


The book's overall fabric, however, is only slightly undermined in using spatial/cultural transcendence of American exceptionalism and Marxist proletarianism as segue into South Asian territorial issues; this strategy belies the raison d'etre of this compilation in the first place-examining "Affect and attachment towards land in South Asia" (9). Isn't the lens of current global politics of space/territory turned towards Asia and the Middle East? The book's structure would have been stronger if South Asian geopolitics preceded and accorded currency to the dominant western ideology and not vice versa. This contestable framework is partially I offset--by Donald Pease's refreshing commentary on American studies in the context of American exceptionalism and its quasi-imperialistic ascendancy across the globe. Donald correctly sees the future of American studies as rooted in a "non-conformist Americanist practice," an exercise that would effectively counter dominant discourses of imperial exceptionalism.

Some essays curiously balk at proposing any specific direction for the spatial/territorial crises under discussion. B. P. Giri's "Imagining South Asia" explores the region's complex cultural and trans-cultural politics and the difficulty in ascertaining the entity's viability unto itself and in the larger international context. Giri's solution to this conundrum is anything but pragmatic: falling back onto 'hope against hope' and 'best instincts' for a better future (148), though commendable, can be questioned its pragmatic. Since no closure purportedly exists for such stalemate ("it is not clear as yet"), such discussion briefly exorcizes the demons of spatiality/territoriality and nothing more. Pramod Nayar's essay on Cyberculture, exploring the confluence of cyberspace and material world to show how space is redefinable and not homogeneous, contributes the least to the collection through a veritable output of common knowledge that hardly proposes any new avenue of tackling this cyber-immanence.

"Cinematic Strategies for a Porno-Tropic Kashmir" fittingly critiques Bollywood's sometimes misplaced/misguided enthusiasm about issues of national crises involving Kashmir and Islamic fundamentalism. But Huma Dar's distrust of Indian cinema (which purportedly feminizes Kashmir and neglects Kashmiri muslims' real problems), while not without some foundation, is perplexing and quite biased at times. She overlooks the dominant politico-social drives of movies like Mission Kashmir and Fanaa. Kashmir is a Janus-faced body politic; while engaging in realistic explorations of the Kashmiri musalmaan's perpetual conundrum of misguided loyalties and politics of fundamentalism, these movies acquaint Indian (and the larger international) audience of the other Kashmir that is non-threatening and idyllic, conducive to tourism/habitation. Readers/audience of such cinematic texts ought to reterritorialize their imaginative bearings to embrace the emerging cognitive dissonance instead of reading it as feminization of Kashmir. However, the collection re-familiarizes readers with the global politics of place, territorialization, de-territorialization in tandem with mind's potency to transform/transcend temporal constructs. Thinking Territory: Some Reflections effectively demonstrates how current normative cultural tropes are but means to an end, how imagination is key to and can transform, for instance, a kitchen into a cauldron of social kinesthetic, thereby questioning institutionally received notions of place, space, and territory.

Reviewed by Dr. Satwik Dasgupta, Victoria College
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Author:Dasgupta, Satwik
Publication:Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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