Global war, fragmented worlds: culture, coercion and co-option in a ‘political vaccum’ after WWII (Indo-Myanmar frontiers), Aditya Kiran Kakati (IIAS, Leiden)

Atelier « Asie du Sud-Himalaya – Sud-Est asiatique »

Jeudi 25 Novembre 2021 17:00 - 19:00
Salle 308F du LESC (3e étage)
MSH Mondes (bât. Ginouvès)
21, allée de l’Université, Nanterre


The Second World War (WWII) was a globalising force which fomented new discourses of belonging and modes of political leverage in the imagined national futures of borderland minorities like the ‘hill’ tribes across Indo-Myanmar (Burma) frontiers. Competing political loyalties were represented under different labels – both by state actors, former colonial officials and the various local collaborators and competitors to negotiate political futures for ‘tribal’ groups such as the Nagas spread across India and Burma. Cultural metaphors (like head-hunting) and competition for sovereignty often came together to create a peculiar premium on violence as leverage. State and nation-building occurred through selective developmentalism and bordering to accommodate or exclude minorities in new nation-states.

Such ambiguous policies securitized border-zones and created exclusionary spatial enclosures where conditions for armed resistance could emerge. Both ‘coercion’ and ‘development-like’ activities resembled characteristic features of state-making though negotiations with borderland societies, and resistance to this has resulted in uneven relations of intimacy with the state. Ultimately, these reified some geographical spaces as ‘dangerous’ and ‘remote’ on the map after a global war, while over-looking the negotiated nature of the production of closures at a time when new international borders emerged around India’s Eastern Himalayan fringe. The Naga political insurrection also indicates modes of seeking legitimacy through mimetic competition in order to be represented and resemble, a sovereign nation-state. Rather than resistance to states, what emerges are alternate claims that sought to fill ‘non-state’ spaces and ended up becoming subsumed within minoritisation processes.

Articles conseillés :

  • Bodhisattva Kar, “Heads in the Naga Hills,” in New Cultural Histories of India, ed. Partha Chatterjee and Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 335–69. 
  • Tarak Barkawi, “Peoples, Homelands, and Wars? Ethnicity, the Military, and Battle among British Imperial Forces in the War against Japan,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 46, no. 1 (January 2004): 134–63, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0010417504000076
  • Aditya Kiran Kakati, “Guns, Gifts, and Guerrillas: Knowledge and Objects during World War II in the Indo–Myanmar (Burma) Frontier,” in Objects and Frontiers in Modern Asia: Between the Mekong and the Indus, ed. Lipokmar Dzüvichü and Manjeet Baruah (Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2019), 132–53.
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