ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

The Postnational ConditionSubscribe to The Postnational Condition

Postnational Location as Political Practice

Taking postnational location to be a form of political practice, this essay is a response to the emancipatory promise of a postcolonial nationalism turned grotesque and a postcolonial feminism gone awry. It outlines the complexities and tensions that transformed early feminist interventions against militarism and ethnic chauvinism in Sri Lanka, turning them into fragmented projects and programmes on "women's empowerment", "gender sensitisation" and the like.

Empire, Nation and Minority Cultures: The Postnational Moment

A closer look at many contemporary movements and struggles will show that they operate without the luxury of the Manichean imaginary of a world divided into two camps. These struggles respond to a world that is messy; where the oppressor could be on any side of the Left/Right divide. In a manner of speaking, such contemporary struggles operate under the unstated assumption that there is no "outside" to power - either of the state or of Empire. If that be the case, as these movements appear to be telling us, then all struggle is about operating in the interstices of power.

South Asia? West Asia? Pakistan: Location, Identity

While Pakistan's geographical location has not shifted in the last 38 years, there has been a marked shift in terms of its identity and associations. In the past, what is now Pakistan was closer to, and more part of, the larger south Asian or "Indian subcontinental" identity, but it has now "corrected its direction" (apna qibla durust kar liya hai). In some ways, the Pakistani identities of the Muslim and the south Asian/Indian are competing identities, often mutually exclusive. A secular India with a Muslim minority would not wish for a stronger Muslim south Asian identity while a Muslim Pakistan may not want to belong to an idea or union, in which it would be marginalised and subservient to a power which it sees as its nemesis.

Reframing Globalisation: Perspectives from the Women's Movement

This is a feminist invitation to rethink the nation-to-globalisation narrative that structures prominent approaches to India's post-independence history. Exploring the question from different vantage points, it argues that the long history of the women's movement in India from the 19th century onwards has been fundamentally international in scope within which the "nation" occupied a troubled position. The more recent challenges of caste and sexuality are further reasons to question a unidimensional conceptualisation of the present. The very pressing uncertainties besetting the future of the women's movement in India - and elsewhere - would be better appreciated within a "post-national" as against a "global" conjunctural analysis.

The Postnational, Inhabitation and the Work of Melancholia

Sri Lanka today is a postnational location, the uncomfortable home of a nation that never was, and never will be. If anthropology has been concerned with the particularity of "other" cultures defined as a "moral elsewhere" beyond the comprehension of universal reason, then anti-colonial nationalism has sought to claim a universality for the particularities of national culture. This essay sketches a preliminary description of the double loss imposed by the impossibility of the nationalist project, a loss that cannot be mourned in an ordinary way.

Nation Impossible

Given the impossibility of the nation-form as an enabling political arrangement of our times - after all, we have experimented with it for over two centuries - the work of imagination and the work of politics need to seek newer, pluralistic and enabling forms of politics beyond the nation-form. The thought of Tagore and Periyar offers us at least two premises to re-imagine politics beyond the nation-form. First, politics has to be a perennial contestation of different forms of power by acknowledging and addressing difference as the fundamental reality of the social. Second, a politics beyond the nation has to be based on a de-territorialised imagination that surpasses the territorial parochialism of the nation-form and embraces the world as a terrain of possibilities, alliances, and constraints.

Thinking through the Postnation

A well-known opposition in globalisation debates is "the national versus the postnational" in which the static nation, defined forever by symbols of identity produced in the now-irrelevant era of nation states, is counterposed to the dynamic postnational corporation, located everywhere and nowhere, resisting the parochialism of national pride and national symbols. The term "postnational" is developed here in a sense different from that promoted by corporations and the self-defined "global civil society", which conceives of it simply as spaces above and beyond the nation state. Moreover, in a world in which dominant discourses valorise "flows", "fluidity" and "translatability", the term postnational may offer us a vantage point that insists on location in the face of translatability, while simultaneously insisting that "location" is autonomous of the nation state.

The Practice of Social Theory and the Politics of Location

Concerned with the ways in which "globalisation" seems to be undermining "the politics of location", this essay argues that the latter is both possible and necessary. However, a contemporary politics of location must be articulated from a "postnational" standpoint that opposes the essentialisms of yesterday without being indifferent to place. Locations matter not because some places are superior or inferior to others but because places differ. These differences do not need to be celebrated, museumised or protected from contamination, but they must be allowed to survive. If social theory is partly shaped by its contexts, then "we" - no matter who we are or where we are located - are better off with a multiplicity of such contexts.
Back to Top