Nehru, Ghosh, and the Enchantment of Lines
This chapter explicitly treats geopolitical and fictional drawings of the boundary line—a fundamental yet strangely ephemeral component of the territorial nation-state. It first examines the debates surrounding the proposed partition of the Indian subcontinent that was to follow British decolonization, including writings and speeches by Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Jinnah, Mulk Raj Anand, and A. M. Ambedkar. In these debates partition emerges as the final stage in the metageography of the nation-state, implying that cultural differences can be prescribed by the drawing of boundary lines. In response to what would prove to be the tragically violent process of partition, Amitav Ghosh's novel, The Shadow Lines, presents a critical and ironic treatment of the fetish of the boundary line in the partition of India and Pakistan. Through a narrator who attempts to make sense of partition decades later, the line is rescued from its image as a border, a space of cultural and metaphysical difference in the politics of partition, and reimagined as a space of connection, able to link histories and geographies arbitrarily sundered through the metageography of national form.
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