ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Cultural memories of the 1962 Indo-Sino War: making meaning of a borderland space through narratives from two Himalayan villages


Kar Tania - The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, Cultural Studies, Hyderabad, India


16 – Re-orienting Borderlands:Beyond spatial fixations in South Asia


 Territorial borders in pre-modern Himalayan sovereignties were not experienced as concrete or fixed like in the plains, but porous with easy flow of bodies and goods. Only through the colonial encounter in the nineteenth century did the Himalayan region come to be conceptualized through western discourses of modern state formation and bordermaking practices. But this was only on paper with no real-life everyday implication. In the Indian context, the northern Himalayan borderlands are geographically distant from the centre of power. In some of these areas, spatial materialization of national borders and the nation-state itself happened through border conflicts designed in the centers but implemented at the margins. For the people of the two Himachali villages of Kaurik and Namgia, the realization that they inhabit borderlands came only through the 1962 Indo-Sino War. To them, the Indo-Chinese border was made visible through the movement of the Indian troops, mobilization of local youth for deployment in the army, and road building activities. But how did they make meaning of their new reality as Indian subjects, as borderland people, the spatiality of the border itself? Following a cultural studies methodology and through group and individual memory works, and person research, I will engage with the emplaced memories of bordermaking and inter-state border conflicts, of displacement and migration, of identities and aspirations in these two Himalayan villages.