Author: Ananya Jahanara Kabir
A result of territorial disputes between India and Pakistan since 1947, exacerbated by armed freedom movements since 1989, the ongoing conflict over Kashmir is consistently in the news. Taking a unique multidisciplinary approach, Territory of Desireasks 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.
Analyzing the conversion of natural beauty into collective desire—through photography, literature, cinema, art, and souvenir production—Kabir exposes the links between colonialism, modernity, and conflict within the postcolonial nation. Representations of Kashmir as a space of desire emerge in contemporary film, colonial “taming” of the valley through nineteenth-century colonialist travelogues, the fetishization of traditional Kashmiri handicrafts like papier maché, and Pandit and Muslim religious revivalisms in the region.
Linking a violent modernity to the fantasies of nationhood, Kabir proposes nonmilitaristic ways in which such desire may be overcome. In doing so she offers an innovative approach to complex and protracted conflict and, ultimately, its resolution.