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The Past Is A Foreign Country: The Politics Of Reterritorialization In India, Post-1945

Abstract: This dissertation focuses on the sovereignties that are lost when postcolonial nation-states are formed. It is a historical ethnography of the aftermath of the Indian annexation of the State of Hyderabad in 1948, part of a series of mergers of sovereign principalities that went on to constitute the territory of the Indian nation-state. Violence in contemporary India is seen as a postcolonial failure of the anticolonial project in which Dalits remain the absolute Other, and Dalit revolution for emancipation is seen as a politics of radical democracy. Anti-Dalit violence is thus the founding violence of the nation. Taking the asynchronous temporality of the nation as its starting point, the dissertation opens with a description of the 1978 Dalit demand for renaming Marathwada University located in the territory of the former state of Hyderabad. This enables an examination of the links between political violence in the present and the project of territorial sovereignty that comprises decolonization. My work draws on and contributes to three distinct sets of literatures: on political subjectivity and historical traumas; on nation-state formation; and on Empires. It reframes political violence directed against minorities through long-durée histories. It bridges postcolonial and memory studies by showing how the records of the postcolonial state continue and deepen the singular colonial project of archives. It moves beyond the history/memory binary to argue that a region is both a geographical landscape and a historical product. Finally, this study challenges the paradigmatic status of South Asia in the discourse of nation-state formation, and its linear narratives of transition. From the perspective of places like Hyderabad, Nagaland, Manipur, and Kashmir the nation-state project is one of foundational violence. The study seeks to de-exceptionalize South Asia and rethink the links between territory, sovereignty, and freedom in other regions across the world.
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