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"Plural Affinities in Contested Borderlands"

Dr. Antía Mato Bouzas

The borderland dividing the former Kashmir related territories can be considered as one of the most conflictive nodal points in the expanse covered under the Crossroads Asia research framework. The LOC represents the most contested (symbolic and material) element in this dispute because it divides the territories that were part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (1846-1947), and that now have become the peripheries of the large states of India and Pakistan. Despite being a de facto and not de iure boundary, the LOC functions as an international boundary and in that way produces institutionalisation and spatial socialization. It discourages formal mobility and contact across it, but ties between people on both sides of the boundary still exist. The recent establishment in 2005 of bus services and trade relations between some specific towns on both sides of Kashmir has created new expectations for further mobility and exchange. Conflict in the Kashmir related territories is manifested in multiple ways and involves many issues and aspirations. Thus it cannot only be understood in relation to political claims of specific groups (Kashmiri, Indian or Pakistani nationalism) and to the product of competing identities. 
The sub-project focuses on forms of self-identification of social groups living in concrete locations on both sides of the LOC. In this sense, the use of the concept of ‘identity’ is largely regarded as “membership”, that is, as shared (secured) affinities related to a place (Taylor 1993, Habermas 1998) but it does not necessary entail a bounded sense (Bauman 2006). Forms of self-identification are studied in relation to border people’s experiences of the past (the Kashmir dispute) and to current developments that point at important transformations in the region: incipient mobility, building of great infrastructures, economic and social transformations, etc. The Kashmir related territories are here examined from a borderland perspective, historically constructed through different territorialisation processes that have affected the ways local groups conceive the space they inhabit.