'Kashmir is a Palestine no one talks about'.
I recorded this remark by a friend sympathetic to both struggles almost a decade ago. She knew enough to realise early on as to what was prevalent and what would be unfolding for the Indian occupied Kashmir in the future. As I discuss in my Identities article, ‘"Their wounds are our wounds": a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir’, while the political histories of both regions are different, broadly speaking, they ‘seem’ very similar and separated only by continents. Strong overlaps exist in having been midwifed by the waning British Empire in 1947, UN intervention and internationalisation, and in their resistance movements, that are undermined by what the current global politics lumps erroneously as 'Islamic terrorism'. The 'suffering' of people due to the heavy military presence is one of the most visually gripping hallmarks of both struggles. While these overlaps exist, settler colonialism as a fatal project of the Indian occupation of Kashmir has not been very easy to picture, especially for the international community.
It has taken scholars of Critical Kashmir Studies, an emerging subdiscipline in South Asian Studies, several decades of scholarship to manifest how India, first and foremost, is an occupying power in Jammu and Kashmir, and how since 1947 it enforced policies that eroded the region’s territorial autonomy and in time paved the way for settler colonialism. The policies put into place by India, which the UN admonished in the early 1950s, have enabled all the subsequent Indian governments to curb Kashmiri dissent and create a scaffolding for 'electoral politics'. Thus, India got away with playing the politics of democracy (Zia 2019) in a region that is both an internationally recognised dispute and an occupation. Subsequently, a stream of client governments and rigged elections paved the way for legal rulings directly handed down by India, which pared down Kashmir’s autonomy. This process of legal incorporation of Kashmir that was made operational through courts constitutes what Duschinski and Ghosh (2017: 34) call occupational constitutionalism.
On 5 August 2019, the entire world witnessed the culmination of this process by the current Indian government, run by the right-wing Hindu nationalist outfit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a broader neocolonial context, the erasure of Kashmir’s autonomy is also the fruition of the Hindu indigeneity ideology based on which Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are cast as invaders and foreigners, and Kashmiri Muslims are doubly marked as the Other: first as Muslims and second, as Kashmiris who are committed to an irrepressible struggle for a UN-mandated plebiscite and democratic sovereignty. The BJP unilaterally and militarily de-operationalised Kashmir’s autonomous status and territorial sovereignty. For the people in Kashmir, a Muslim majority state, their longstanding fear of settler colonialism and its attendant evils of dispossession and cultural imperialism were openly put into motion. Nearly all the 8 million Kashmiris were imprisoned in their homes under a curfew and communication lockdown. There was complete communication blackout, which meant no phones, no Internet and not even basic cable TV. While curfews, communication bans and lockdowns are not new to Kashmiris, the intensity and the duration of the siege became a shock. India broke its own record in the longest internet shutdown – over 8 months. Even today as the world faces a pandemic, Kashmiris only have partial access to mobile phones and the internet, which is slow and text based.
On top of the COVID-19 quarantine, relentless war, counterinsurgency tactics, and facing the dearth of healthcare and information, Kashmiris had to face yet another assault from the Indian rule through the unilateral amendment to the domicile act. After the forceful abolition of Kashmir’s territorial sovereignty, the amendment in the domicile act manifests the active beginning of Indian settler colonialism, which according to some Kashmiri scholars, constitutes a form of demographic terrorism. Furthermore, Indian authorities have designated categories of people from India who can claim domicile in Kashmir and acquire the right to franchise, property and employment. If the issuing authority does not issue the domicile paperwork within 15 days, they would be fined to the tune of 50,000 India Rupees. This is the first time that a bureaucrat will be individually penalised for not providing paperwork within a time stipulated by the government, which is relatively fast. If anything, it shows the urgency which the government of India is imposing to ensure faster processing of settlers. This is a settler colonial plan on steroids being imposed when Kashmiris are doubly quarantined and unable to lodge protest of any kind. These policies only underline the sheer intensity with which the policy of settler colonialism, dispossession of indigenous people and rampant exploitation of resources that India is putting in place in Kashmir. The echo of 'going the Palestine way' is no more a fear but a fearful reality.
Duschinski, H. & Ghosh, S. 2017. Constituting the occupation: preventive detention and permanent emergency in Kashmir. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 49 (3): 314–337.
Zia, A. 2019. Resisting disappearance: women’s activism and military occupation in Kashmir. Seattle. Washington University Press.
Blog post by Ather Zia, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Read the full article: Zia, Ather. “Their wounds are our wounds”: a case for affective solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1750199
In the 1950s, the world famous American-born entertainer Josephine Baker, who lived in France, toured the US. She was refused in 36 hotels in New York because she was black.
Back in France, Baker adopted twelve children from 10 different countries in order to prove to the world that people of all ‘races’ and religions could live together. She organised tours through the castle where she lived with her ‘rainbow tribe’ and made the children sing and dance. In the 1920s and 1930s the popular novelist Pearl S. Buck adopted seven children, four of whom were labelled ‘mixed-race’. By doing so she flaunted American restrictions on mixed-race adoptions. In the 1950s, Buck said she did so because she wanted to show that families formed by love – devoid of prejudices based on race, religion, nation, and blood – were expressions of democracy that could counteract communist charges that America’s global defence of freedom was deeply hypocritical.
The adoptions by Baker and Buck were political statements that illustrate that intercountry adoptions were frequently about much more than saving a child, as many people who defended adoptions claim. My Identities article, ‘Parenting, citizenship and belonging in Dutch adoption debates 1900-1995’, explains why debates on this issue continued, without ever reaching a conclusion. Celebrities (including Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) followed in the footsteps of Baker and Buck. Non-celebrities copied behaviour and arguments. Adopters tried to show that children and adults not connected by blood ties could form a family, and that single parent adoptions or adoption by same sex couples could work. Critics pointed to child kidnappings, trafficking, ‘baby farms’ and a profit-driven industry based on global inequality. Adoption was not a solution to poverty, nor in the best interest of the child, in their view.
Adoption was and is a popular subject in women’s magazines and (children’s) literature, starting with the biblical story of Moses in his basket. It features in large number of TV sitcoms (e.g. Modern Family, Sex and the City), movies and books (Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Superman). Ancestry.com offers DNA tests to find ‘your liberator granddad’, there are numerous TV shows about searching birth parents, and heritage tours to birth countries are popular.
Overall, the public and media are fascinated by adoption stories, while the issue torments authorities. This has been the case for over a century. My Identities article tackles this question of continuity by placing intercountry adoption within the context of migration, to which it legally and administratively belongs. This is an uncommon approach. By placing it in the migration context, and addressing it from a historical and comparative perspective, the interaction between discourses, policies and practices are analysed, and the continuity explained.
Making children adoptable is a discursive as well as a legal process. My article bridges the divide between the private sphere (the intimacy of the family) and public sphere (of policies and treaties), and pays systematic attention to how colonialism, persistent global inequality, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion were important to the debates about belonging, failure, saviour and good/bad parenting. Children are made adoptable by emphasising that their parents, family, community and country of birth have failed them. A Janus-faced construction – saving the child, condemning its origin – explains the continued challenges for policy making.
Blog post by Marlou Schrover, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Read the full article: Schrover, Marlou. Parenting, citizenship and belonging in Dutch adoption debates 1900-1995. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1757252
Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im)possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir
'Ayse wasv Dargah Brasvaareye Shabas Asye Mangove Rabas Azadi’ ('We will go to the Hazratbal Shrine on the auspicious Thursday night, we shall pray for our Freedom').
For someone growing up in Kashmir during the time that the 1989 uprising broke out, this song was all too familiar. Witnessing and participating in Azadi rallies in which men, women and children would gather in huge numbers singing and chanting such verses turned the rallies festive. The young generation in 1989 that was moving out for studies in different cities of India saw that in the dominant discourse the 1989 uprising was being portrayed as religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
In addition, both scholarly and popular discourse on Kashmir was by and large overshadowed by the Indian and Pakistani national narratives. The regulated access to Indian archives buttressed the official narrative on Kashmir’s past that described the 1989 uprising as an outcome of the grievances that people of the region had vis-à-vis the governance. In this narrative, the aspirations for self-determination and the cyclic collective expressions of right to self-determination in the form of huge Azadi rallies were dubbed as incitation by the Pakistani state.
Like many young Kashmiris from my generation, while growing up in the region during this period I attempted to answer the question as to why and how the whole of Kashmir was out on the streets in 1989 participating in huge Azadi marches. For my research participants, I was a fellow Kashmiri to whom they could entrust the privileged role of keeper and conveyor of their stories. In my Identities article, ‘Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im) possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir’, by drawing from my ethnographic field work in the region, I describe how embodied stories of Kashmiris punctuate the past often silenced by dominant Indian narratives.
In the article, I also highlight how presence or absence of documents in official repositories informs the present and future politics in the region. I argue that there is a politics to the restrictions on access to materials in official repositories, and such restrictions reflect the effects of power. I describe how Kashmiri narratives about certain key political events in the region’s past co-exist with other forms of memory. I also describe how the embodied experience of the Kashmiri people belies the official Indian narrative about Kashmir’s past.
The people of the region weave these stories, building an archive based on their lived experiences. Such archives are often informal and fragmented and reflect the precarious contexts in which they are produced. They also reflect the commitment, passion and desire of the communities to document and record their own histories. For my research on the 1989 uprising, I accessed a diversity of material that included novels, anecdotes and underground literature written by different political activists who were affiliated with the uprising. I argue that such material is a part of an embodied archive and is a rich resource for recovering stories silenced by the official archives.
Blog post by Farrukh Faheem, Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, India
Read the full article: Faheem, Farrukh. Doing research in a ‘conflict zone’: history writing and archival (im) possibilities in Jammu and Kashmir. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1738099
Understanding fear of the ‘Other’, to know and to heal: perceptions of refugees in forced migration contexts
Othering processes are inherently complex, and in forced migration contexts, national public discourses tend to reverberate with anxieties over antagonism, discrimination and increasing tensions.
As an alternative to this public discourse, which ultimately tends to associate migrants and refugees with social threat, we might examine pockets of private and semi-private spaces from which quieter voices – women’s voices, perhaps – could catalyse more positive attitudes and better informed perceptions with a gender lens. One space where such voices might emerge is in all-women ‘gün’ (or ‘day’) groups. These are periodic, informal gatherings of relatives, friends and/or acquaintances, usually hosted in one member’s home, and are crucial spaces for women’s interaction and socialisation in Turkey. In fact, in my Identities article, co-authored with Hatice Mete, ‘The afraid create the fear: perceptions of refugees by “gün” groups in Turkey’, we analysed conversations from several of these groups in Mersin in order to investigate local women’s perceptions of forcibly displaced Syrians.
What we found, however, were a set of recurring discursive patterns mirroring the public discourse – stereotyping, biased perceptions, ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, scapegoating, and discrimination – which were, if anything, more energetic in the private context. ‘We hate them’, fumed one participant, describing her Syrian neighbours’ apparent disregard for her apartment building’s rules and Turkey’s embattled norms of secular dress, and her circle exchanged approving looks.
What can explain this hostility for those ‘we’ deem as ‘different’ from ourselves? How deep is the declared lack of ‘compassion’ for the vulnerable? To what extent are expressions of contempt literal reflections of reality, or attempts to overdramatise narratives of imaginaries shaped mainly by fear of the ‘other’?
Everyday conversations in private settings enable a flow of emotions which we express as we feel them. Yet the intensity of the expression may not always reflect the sincerity of the intention. Especially if, as in the case cited above, it comes from a woman who we know is, like ‘us’, actually compassionate, decent, law-abiding. Indeed, our research suggests that the tropes in the stereotyping and exclusion may have their source in the speakers’ anxieties about the spaces and relationships on which their lives are focused. Hence, Syrian women were criticised as ‘dirty’, threatening the home’s hygiene, as ‘greedy’ and ‘materialistic’, straining generosity, as ‘immoral’, tempting Turkish husbands to take an (illegal) additional Syrian wife, as ‘too fertile’, effortlessly replacing sons lost to national service and foreign interventions, as ‘disrespectful’ of their seniors, contrasting with (idealised) Turkish youth, and – perhaps most often – as ‘noisy’, advertising rather than minimising their disturbing presence. But underneath the noisy prejudice lay, perhaps, an anxiety about powerlessness: ‘It does not matter whether you’re a guest or a refugee’, declared someone triumphantly, ‘you have to observe us and abide by our rules. We don’t have to live in accordance with your rules’.
When we have limited contact and difficulty in communicating with ‘others’ whom our societies have identified as a source of concern, our real individual neighbours can easily become faceless instances of a category; a blank canvas onto which we give ourselves permission to paint our least palatable emotions. Granted, suspicions remain, and are not helped by the persistence of the language barrier (on both sides) and the intersecting uncertainties in forced migration contexts. Yet if we carefully study these smears on the canvas, we may come to see how the fear of those who create and perpetuate fear can be healed and, perhaps, common ground discovered on which actual relationships could be built.
Blog post by Saime Ozcurumez, Bilkent University, Turkey
Read the full article: Ozcurumez, Saime & Mete, Hatice. The afraid create the fear: perceptions of refugees by ‘gün’ groups in Turkey. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1723311