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Of nomadology: A requiem for India(n-ness)1

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Despite the statist imagination of the ‘nomad’ pitted against an overtly instrumental understanding of space, ‘modern’ techniques of statist demographic control, and increasing surveillance on mobility, the trope of nomadology in the context of India often characterizes ‘the return of the repressed’. The Buddhists in the Ancient, the Bhakti‐Sufi practitioners in the Medieval, and certain anti-imperialist ideologues in the Modern have perpetually latched on to the trope to articulate political dissidence. Thinking in these terms, the invocation of nomadology in Critical Theory ‐ by Deleuze and Guattari, Rosi Braidotti, Michel de Certeau and Edward Said, among others ‐ alluding to non-conformity, non-linearity and political subversion, has an intellectual history that is often purportedly grounded onto ‘India’. My article will explore how the dichotomy between the ‘good’ wanderer and the ‘bad’ wanderer in the ‘Indian tradition’ was premised upon a highly contingent process of religio-political partisanship and struggles over territorialization. Using the nineteenth-century Orientalist discourse on the Romani community and the Beats’ obsession with ‘India’ (cf. the Beat Movement) as case studies, this article, from the postcolonial vantage point, demonstrates how the impulse to assume nomadology as characteristic of ‘India(n-ness)’ ‐ to have perpetually existed in the ‘Indian’ cultural repertoire ‐ is symbolic of an ahistorical and essentialist notion of ‘India’.
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Keywords: Beats; Buddhist; India; Nomadology; Orientalism; Romani

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Institute of Technology Silchar

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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