Accepted Paper:

Remote peripheries: making of the Monyul border   


Swargajyoti Gohain (Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper focuses on the Monpas, a borderland people of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India, to show how remoteness is a construct of colonial and national border-making practices. What makes a place remote is not given, but is dependent on particular spatial practices of the state.

Paper long abstract:

Is remote that which is geographically distant from the centre of administrative, political and economic power? Or is remote a construct of connectivity issues? In the case of the Monpas, a borderland people of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India, remote denotes multiple aspects: lack of material infrastructure and transport, improper communication and geographical isolation. Living far away from New Delhi, the national capital, in a mountainous region on the Himalayan slopes, which remains cut off from other areas by snow or rain for a large part of the year, Monpas consider themselves to be backward, disempowered. Yet, Monyul, the traditional homeland of the Monpa communities, is of high strategic importance in the protracted India-China border conflict. Its present remoteness is woven in with politics of borders and frontiers. Through a focus on Monyul, I intend to show how colonial and postcolonial policies transformed the region into a remote periphery. While colonial boundary practices began the transformation of the region - from a cross-border trade route to an enclave zone, the policies of the postcolonial Indian state have led to the continuation of such spatial features. In this paper, I interrogate the notion of remoteness through the particular history and politics of Monyul.

Panel P016
The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder