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Territory of Desire

Representing the Valley of Kashmir

2009
Author:

Ananya Jahanara Kabir

Territory of Desire

Moves beyond traditional analysis to understand the conflict over Kashmir

Territory of Desire asks how, and why, Kashmir came to be so intensely desired within Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri nationalistic imaginations. Literary historian Ananya Jahanara Kabir finds an answer to this question in the Valley of Kashmir’s repeated portrayal as a “special” place and the missing piece of Pakistan and India. Linking a violent modernity to the fantasies of nationhood, Kabir proposes nonmilitaristic ways in which such desire may be overcome.

Territory of Desire presents a fresh approach to the question of Kashmir, and its examination of the ‘symbolic capital’ associated with the Valley’s landscape and products is fascinating. By examining the responses of Kashmiri artists and poets to this collective desire for their homeland, Ananya Jahanara Kabir provides a less destructive site for conversations between Kashmiris and Indians regarding this politically charged region.

Chitralekha Zutshi, author of Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir

A result of territorial disputes between India and Pakistan since 1947, exacerbated by armed freedom movements since 1989, the ongoing conflict over Kashmir is consistently in the news. Taking a unique multidisciplinary approach, Territory of Desire asks how, and why, Kashmir came to be so intensely desired within Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri nationalistic imaginations. Literary historian Ananya Jahanara Kabir finds an answer to this question in the Valley of Kashmir’s repeated portrayal as a “special” place and the missing piece of Pakistan and India.

Analyzing the conversion of natural beauty into collective desire—through photography, literature, cinema, art, and souvenir production—Kabir exposes the links between colonialism, modernity, and conflict within the postcolonial nation. Representations of Kashmir as a space of desire emerge in contemporary film, colonial “taming” of the valley through nineteenth-century colonialist travelogues, the fetishization of traditional Kashmiri handicrafts like papier maché, and Pandit and Muslim religious revivalisms in the region.

Linking a violent modernity to the fantasies of nationhood, Kabir proposes nonmilitaristic ways in which such desire may be overcome. In doing so she offers an innovative approach to complex and protracted conflict and, ultimately, its resolution.

Territory of Desire

Ananya Jahanara Kabir is senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Leeds.

Territory of Desire

Territory of Desire presents a fresh approach to the question of Kashmir, and its examination of the ‘symbolic capital’ associated with the Valley’s landscape and products is fascinating. By examining the responses of Kashmiri artists and poets to this collective desire for their homeland, Ananya Jahanara Kabir provides a less destructive site for conversations between Kashmiris and Indians regarding this politically charged region.

Chitralekha Zutshi, author of Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir

Territory of Desire is then a book that helps understanding the politics of Kashmir in their least ‘political’ form, but from perspectives that are absolutely necessary to understand the politics affecting Kashmir. This book is a must-read.

Political Geography

The book is valuable because it points out a realm of cultural production and representation that is neglected in other scholarly works on Kashmir. . . . Territory of Desire provides a remarkable perspective on Kashmir.

Contemporary South Asia

Kabir’s book is a careful and insightful exposition of how the multiple entanglements of the
postcolonial public sphere have been engendered and now compete for hegemonic representation.

Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory