The South Asian Studies Council Colloquium Series presents:
David Ludden, New York University: “The Structural Violence of National Territory in South Asia.”
Today’s Rohingya crisis began abruptly with the combined Japanese imperial and Burmese nationalist conquest of Arakan, in 1943. It now stands alone for its horrific brutality and legal intractability; but it can also be understood an extreme example of coercive processes – operating various scales and levels of violence – which have produced national state territories in much of the world, and very visibly in South Asia, where they are still at work. The nation is still taking shape in South Asia, and military violence has been a basic feature of its territorial development since the nineteenth century, when territories that became naturalized as “India” came together for the first time under British imperialism. India’s national story can be told as though Partition was merely a sad event on the way to a people’s idealistic creation of the world’s largest democracy. Partition can also be seen, however, as part of on-going national processes of coercive territorial exclusion – the national expulsion of people deemed foreign to the nation – and forced territorial inclusion, which together constitute the structural violence of national state territorial sovereignty. The exclusion of Muslims from Hindu India and Buddhist Burma, the murder of Tamil territorial aspirations in Sri Lanka, India’s military incarceration of Kashmir, and Pakistan’s coercive control of Baluchistan – all these and more suggest the structural violence of nationalist idealism as it translates practically into secure integration of national state territorial sovereignty.
David Ludden is Professor and Chair in the NYU Department of History. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1978. He served on the Penn faculty from 1981 until 2007, when he chaired South Asia programs at Penn, the Social Science Research Council, and Fulbright Senior Scholars program (CIES). In 2002, he was President of the Association for Asian Studies. Until 1995, his research focused on southern India; then he moved his work into Bangladesh, northeast India, and adjacent regions. His publications include four edited volumes, three monographs, and dozens of articles and chapters; their overarching theme is the comparative history of capitalism inside long-term spatial processes of globalization, particularly in agrarian settings and as they concern inequality, poverty, conflict, and social movements. He is now completing a book entitled Global Asia: Making Space for Modernity, which concerns the connective histories of mobility and territorialism in Asia from ancient times to the present.