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Jason Cons: Territorial Corrosions: Unstable Lands and Symbolic Developments at the India-Bangladesh Border

How is rule accomplished in sensitive and ambiguous spaces such as border zones, upland areas, and disputed territories? This paper offers an ethnographic exploration of this question in Dahagram, an enclave—literally a piece of Bangladesh territorially bounded by India—at the India-Bangladesh border. Dahagram has been a sensitive space in relations between the two countries throughout much of South Asia’s postcolonial history. Because of this, it is subject to a large range of projects attempting to regulate both its boundaries and its residents. I offer a reading of the outcomes of these often-contradictory attempts to define territory through an examination of border policing, cartographic surveying, and economic development in Dahagram. I argue that these outcomes are best understood as “corrosions:” of the projects themselves; of the imagination of territory that they represent; and of rights, of property, and of land for enclave residents. Projects of rul at the India-Bangladesh border rarely produce the various forms of territory and governance that they are intended to produce. Rather, they do open up new configurations of power and opportunity for some and exploitation and expropriation for others.
Jason Cons works borders in South Asia and on agrarian change and rural development. He has conducted extensive qualitative research in Bangladesh on a range of issues including: disputed territory along the India-Bangladesh border, the social impacts of shrimp aquaculture in coastal areas, and recipient experiences with microcredit. He is completing a manuscript titled Sensitive Space: Anxious Territory at the India-Bangladesh Border. In 2014, he is initiating a new project on climate refugees.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015. 12:00 PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208


Center for South Asia




Free and open to the public.