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Can a Muslim Be an Indian?

  • Gyanendra Pandey (a1)
    • Published online: 20 October 2000

I want to begin this paper with two simple points. One is that nations are established by constructing a core or mainstream—the essential, natural, soul of the nation, as it is claimed. The other is that minorities are constituted along with the nation—for they are the means of constituting national majorities or mainstreams. Nations, and nationalisms, are established by defining boundaries. However, these are not always—or perhaps, ever—sharply or easily defined. Nationalisms have therefore commonly moved along the path of identifying the core or mainstream of the nation. Alongside this emerge notions of minorities, marginal communities, or elements,Brackette F. Williams makes the point as follows in her discussion of ethnicity in the context of territorial and cultural nationalism. Like tribe, race, or barbarian, she notes, the label ethnicity identifies those who are at the borders of empire or nation. “Within putatively homogenous nation-states, this border is an ideologically produced boundary between ‘mainstream' and peripheral categorical units of this kind of ‘imagined' social order.” Williams, ‘A Class Act: Anthropology and the Race to Nation across Ethnic Terrain,' Annual Review of Anthropology, 18 (1989), 439. the fuzzy edges and grey areas around which the question of boundaries—geographical, social, and cultural—will be negotiated or fought over.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at seminars organized by the anthropology departments of Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; the Committee on South Asian Studies, University of Chicago; the School of Social Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia; and the Subaltern Studies conference on “Fractured Societies, Fractured Histories” held in Lucknow in January 1997. I am grateful to the participants in all these meetings for their comments and questions.
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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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