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Lecture 4

Week 4 Ferguson&Gupta article notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Girish Daswani

Week 4 Beyond Culture: Space, identity, and the Politics of Difference James Ferguson & Akhil Gupta 6 - Representations of space in the social sciences are remarkably dependent on Images of break, rupture, and disjunction The distinctiveness of societies, nations, and cultures is based upon a seemingly unproblematic division of space, on the fact that they occupy naturally discontinuous spaces 7 - Of course, the geographical territories that cultures and societies are believed to map onto do not have to be nations. We do, for example, have ideas about culture-areas that overlap several nation-states, or of multicultural nation nations. On a smaller scale, perhaps, are our disciplinary assumptions about the association of culturally unitary groups (tribes or peoples) with their territories: thus, the Nuer live in Nuerland and so forth. The clearest illustration of this kind of thinking are the classic ethnographic maps that purported to display the spatial distribution of peoples, tribes, and cultures. But in all these cases, space itself becomes a kind of neutral grid on which cultural difference, historical memory, and societal organization are inscribed. It is in this way that space functions as a central organizing principle in the social sciences at the same time that it disappears from analytical purview This assumed isomorphism of space, place, and culture results in some significant problems. First, there is the issue of those who inhabit the border, that narrow strip along steep edges of national boundaries boundaries. The fiction of cultures as discrete, object-like phenomena occupying discrete spaces becomes implausible for those who inhabit the borderlands. Related to border inhabitants are those who live a life of border crossings-migrant workers, nomads, and members of the transnational business and professional elite Finally, there are those who cross borders more or less permanently- immigrants, refugees, exiles, and expatriates. In their case, the disjuncture of place and culture is especially clear: Khmer refugees in the United States take Khmer culture with them in the same complicated way that Indian immigrants in England transport Indian culture to their new homeland
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