Imperial Pleasure and Anxiety: The Production of Kashmir and the Making of Modern Frontiers

Authors: Reema Cherian*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Kashmir, territorialization, frontiers, security, colonial intelligence
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Balcony K, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Often called the ‘unfinished business of Partition’, the ongoing Kashmir Dispute highlights the processual nature of border formation. Moving beyond territorial concerns and a consideration of Partition as a historical event of rupture, postcolonial historiography has illuminated the key role of social scientific inquiry and emerging political formations in the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir in shaping both early 20th century ideas of frontiers and postcolonial modes of governance. Building on this scholarship, this paper examines the historical development of modern security regimes in borderland regions prior to decolonization. Through archival examination of the development of British colonial intelligence via geographical knowledge production and the expansion of the Maharajahs’ rehdārī system of containment and exit permits, I discuss the discursive and spatial production of Kashmir as a frontier space jointly characterized by imperial pleasure and anxiety since the mid-nineteenth century. By investigating how British colonial authorities and the Maharajas of the Princely State took Kashmir as a site for elaborating the idea of borders and security by experimenting with surveillance, leisure and travel policies and technologies, this paper highlights how these complex ways of seeing and knowing Kashmir came to inform the militarization of the region in the decades following decolonization and into the present. In doing so, this paper seeks to explore how the epistemologies, technologies, and policies of colonial and monarchical intelligence intersected with modern leisure practices and structures of pleasure to shape modern security regimes and borderlands in South Asia and beyond.

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