Barren Frontiers, Pristine Myths: Imagining Nation, Nature and Nomads on the India-China Border

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A story in The New York Times, published on May 3, 2013, mimicking Nehru’s sentiment after the India‐ China war in 1962, assumes it to be inexplicable that why Chinese and Indian military are on loggerheads over a “barren moonscape” of Ladakh, especially since 2009. Also declared as a conservation site by the Indian state in 1987, the India‐China border continues to remain a customary pastureland to rear the rare cashmere goats by the local nomadic groups. India’s response to bolster military and also declaring it a conservation site represent those intricate political processes which might escape the usual scholarly fascination to observe the defense of nation by military and protection of nature by conservation as two opposing discourses. In this research, I am persuaded to critically evaluate the ideological commonalities present in both these discourses trying to define India‐China border. These national imaginations, mostly elite in its character, not only assigns what and who belong within the national borders or national parks but also constitutes a complex terrain where inequities and exclusion are constantly produced and reproduced. In this research I draw these parallels between the territorial nature of statehood and conservation on India‐China border and explore the mutuality present in both the discourses in eschewing the powerful narratives defining the local, a culturally productive site where both these ideological discourses are ultimately interpreted and accomplished. Through focusing on the everyday lives my paper demonstrates how the specifics reveal an eminent presence of multiple actors and contingent conditions shaping the border between India and China. And it is the domination of this ‘space of subjectivity’ that informs us how the India‐ China border come out to be a site where the relationships between and among natures, nations, individuals and institutions are constantly negotiated and contested.


ConferenceActivated Borders: Re-openings, Ruptures and Relationships
CityHong Kong
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