Getting to know you or the formation of inter-Asian identities
The Inter-Asia cultural studies project is the most appropriate platform from which to debate and draw the contours of another world, which goes beyond the binaries of first and third, eastern and western, and tries to form other ways of relating to, and forming bridges between cultures and nations. In contemporary times, reformulating the world, imagining other ways of ‘worlding’ has acquired a new significance. This paper would like to see how a project such as the Inter-Asia cultural studies contributes to that effort, based as it is on a desire to draw activism and academic enquiry into a common platform. This paper is also driven by concerns of drawing regional boundaries, and of the ways that regions are defined. Written from a South Asian perspective, it also seeks to see how different regions of Asia relate to each other.
Modern-day South Asia forms a distinctive region based on a history of colonialism. As such, it is within the aegis of post-colonial studies that the recent scholarship from the region has tried to visualize its place in the world. However, this concentration has led to an obfuscation of many other movements and connections that have historically contributed to the making of the nations that comprise South Asia today. Identity formations within these nations have drawn on linguistic, geographical and as we see today, most crucially on religious lines, fragmenting images of the nation in diverse ways. Hence, contemporary politics in South Asia continues to be marked by religious strife, to which has been added the growth of Islamist and other religious movements, and along with the movements on the left, such as the Maoist (Nepal) and Marxist (West Bengal) this region remains a political hot bed for ‘extreme’ movements. Nation-making continues apace, as evinced by ethnic disputes in Sri Lanka, and the disputed status of Kashmir.
Firdous Azim is professor in the department of English and Humanities, BRAC University.