Borders, Citizenship, and the Local: Everyday Life in Three Districts of West Bengal
Borders have been considered essential to understanding the self and the other, with identities on either side established through functions of exclusion and inclusion. These processes, initially considered to be the preserve of the state as exercised through its policies of border management, also exist in tandem or in an asynchronous manner at the local level. Constituted of processes of identification and networks of interdependences, localized construals of the borderland and subsequently positioned engagements, comes to shape notions of accessibility and restriction as well as perceptions of the “other”. These engagements are not always reflective of statist positions on the border which are often uniform in the conceptualization of its capacity to contain. They subsequently come to reflect the variations of divergent historical and locational realities. There is a need to further extend the analysis of borderlands beyond statist framing as passive recipients of policy as well as recognize the critical positioning of local adaptive processes as antithetical to state demarcations of territoriality and sovereign authority. Based on a survey of three districts in the state of West Bengal, India, this study posits an analysis of the multiple perceptions both within and outside of statist framing of borderland identity and territoriality, which color its inhabitants’ understanding of the border and perceptions surrounding and interactions with the communities that lie beyond it.