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Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir

Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Territory of Desire
    Book Description:

    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._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6791-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction: The Valley and the Nation
    (pp. 1-28)

    Territory of Desireis about Indian desire for the Valley of Kashmir, and Kashmiri responses to that desire. Bereft of mineral wealth, locked within inhospitable terrain, but professed by all to be a singularly beautiful place, the Valley has, in the course of the twentieth century, emerged as a bone of contention for three nationalisms, Indian, Pakistani, and aspirant Kashmiri.¹ The entangled trajectories of these nationalisms have led the Valley, and the wider region of Jammu and Kashmir of which it is part, through a turbulent and tragic history. It is my contention that this history is not merely to...

  2. Part I The Making of Paradise

    • One Masks of Desire
      (pp. 31-53)

      In 2001, when Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan was riding a wave of adulation, the filmMission Kashmir(dir.Vidhu Vinod Chopra, 2001) hit the screens with his portrayal of Altaaf, a Kashmiri whose life is a battleground between good and bad father figures. Witness to the decimation of his family during a crackdown, the orphaned Altaaf is subsequently fostered by the same police officer, Inayat Khan, who had commandeered that operation, and whose own son has died because of Kashmiri militancy. Haunted by recurrent dreams of a man in a balaclava, Altaaf discovers the same balaclava in Khan’s bedroom. Khan thus...

    • Two Framing Fantasy
      (pp. 54-79)

      “Speak, Shafika,” prompts an off-camera voice. And Shafika, a young and very pretty Kashmiri woman, begins her story: how her husband Muhammad (“Hammeh”), an auto-rickshaw driver, was arrested on 22 October 2000; how she and her children keep waiting for his return; how she has no idea whether he is dead or alive. For Hammeh is one of Jammu and Kashmir’s “disappeared,” and Shafika, one of the countless Kashmiri “half-widows” who dwell in a limbo defined by emotional turmoil, the Indian State, and Shariat law.¹ As Shafika speaks in Kashmiri-accented Urdu to the makers ofWaiting(dir. Shabnam Ara and...

    • Three Modern Nation, Antique Land
      (pp. 80-104)

      Incarcerated in the Ahmadnagar Jail during the 1940s, the future first Prime Minister of independent India and architect of its postcolonial modernity turned to Kashmir to “discover” his “native land” (here, a phrase that moves ambiguously between India and the Kashmir of his ancestors).¹ If, as has been commented upon in the context of postcolonial Egypt, “for a state to prove it was modern it helped if it could also prove it was ancient,”² then Nehru’s articulation of modern-yet-ancient India pivoted on the image of Kashmir in springtime framed by the snowcapped Himalayas. As we have seen in chapter 2,...

  3. Hinge Toward Unmaking

    • Fetish of Paradise
      (pp. 107-132)

      In August 2005, I was in Srinagar, investigating the production of papier maché handicraft. The previous summer I had met at Government Art College in Srinagar a Kashmiri artist, Masood Hussain, who makes large bas-reliefs of papier maché.¹ Hussain’s imaginative grappling with this Kashmiri craft tradition spoke to my desire to critique, through handicraft, the relationship between Kashmir, tourism, and the postcolonial nation. In Delhi the following year, a comprehensive exhibition of Hussain’s works helped me to begin conceptualizing the Kashmiri souvenir as the nation’s fetish. I arrived in Srinagar a few months later with some theoretical understanding of fetishism...

  4. Part II Poetics of Dispossession

    • Four Conscripting Silence
      (pp. 135-158)

      “I wrote you a letter in such ember-hot words . . .” with this line by Rahman Rahi, a Kashmiri poet, writing in Kashmiri, I had opened my first chapter: what, in the light of the sociolinguist’s pronouncements on the epistolary unsuitability of Koshur, can we make of this letter-withina-poem, refashioned into an epigraph? Is this doubly purloined letter hallucination, wish-fulfillment, or, through the magic of the performative speech-act, itself that declaredly elusive object—a “letter in Kashmiri?” Koul and Schmidt’s survey, carried out in 1983, reported their sample group of 201 middle-class Kashmiri adults as being overwhelmingly bilingual in...

    • Five The Other Possibility
      (pp. 159-184)

      In chapter 4, I examined how contemporary Kashmiris have mobilized voice, both metaphoric and real, within a poetics of dispossession. It concluded with the suggestion that the impact of such mobilization depended on the subjectivity and self-positioning of the voice’s bearer: What kind of a Kashmiri was being constructed thereby? I now explore this question further by turning to one of the Kashmir conflict’s most discomfiting consequences, the departure of almost Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley during the early 1990s. I do so not in order to take sides or even, as one Kashmiri Pandit author in Jammu demanded of...

    • Six New Maps of Longing
      (pp. 185-210)

      In April 2002, one of India’s leading artists began executing a series of miniature paintings on the subject of Kashmir. These paintings were the first realizations of a long-term wish to, in Nilima Sheikh’s own words, “rework my fairly confused or at least mixed feelings on Kashmir.” Although Sheikh had “planned a bigger, more ambitious take, wanting to read and refer to various accounts of Kashmir historical and contemporary,” it was the “incredibly moving and also extremely visual” poetry of Agha Shahid Ali that galvanized her into beginning this “formidable” project.¹ Sheikh’s Kashmir paintings have continued to evolve beyond that...