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The Nation's Tortured Body: Violence Representation, and the Formation of a Sikh Diaspora [Paperback]

Brian Keith Axel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2001
In "The Nation's Tortured Body" Brian Keith Axel explores the formation of the Sikh diaspora and, in so doing, offers a powerful inquiry into conditions of peoplehood, colonialism, and postcoloniality. Demonstrating a new direction for historical anthropology, he focuses on the position of violence between 1849 and 1998 in the emergence of a trans-national fight for Khalistan (an independent Sikh state). Axel argues that, rather than the homeland creating the diaspora, it has been the diaspora, or histories of displacement, that have created particular kinds of places-homelands. Based on ethnographic and archival research conducted by Axel at several sites in India, England, and the United States, the text delineates a theoretical trajectory for thinking about the proliferation of diaspora studies and area studies in America and England. After discussing this trajectory in relation to the colonial and postcolonial movement of Sikhs, Axel analyses the production and circulation of images of Sikhs around the world, beginning with visual representations of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Sikh ruler of Punjab, who died in 1893. He argues that imagery of particular male Sikh bodies has situated - at different times and in different ways - points of mediation between various populations of Sikhs around the world. Most crucially, he describes the torture of Sikhs by Indian police between 1983 and the present and discusses the images of tortured Sikh bodies that have been circulating on the Internet since 1996. Finally, he returns to questions of the homeland, reflecting on what the issues discussed in The Nation's Tortured Body might mean for the ongoing fight for Khalistan. Specialists in anthropology, history, cultural studies, diaspora studies, and Sikh studies will find much of interest in this important work.

Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (1 Jan 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822326159
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822326151
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,470,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Axel poses new questions regarding regarding the relation between the diaspora and the nation - state. Focusing on the representations of bodies and cultures in cyberspace, academia, cartography, and colonial portraiture, his is the first work to use recent cultural studies and cultural anthropology approaches to intervene in transnational studies." - Inderpal Grewal, San Francisco State University "Historical Anthropology at its best, The Nation's Tortured Body explores the history and politics of the Sikhs in a complex, and contested, transnational context. Axel's book evocatively charts the ways in which the crossing and marking of boundaries have shaped the foundational identities of a diasporic community, providing a graphic illustration of the multiple meanings of the idea of 'homeland' in our contemporary postcolonial world." - Nicholas B. Dirks, Columbia University " ... makes an important and timely contribution to the masculinity and embodiment literature, and will provide a useful resource for those interested in issues of Sikhism and diaspora."--ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING D: SOCIETY AND SPACE, 21

About the Author

Brian Keith Axel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Swarthmore College. He is the editor of "From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and Its Futures, " also published by Duke University Press.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-93) is remembered by Sikhs all over the world as the last Sikh ruler of Punjab. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Rights Review 29 May 2004
A good study of the Punjab stuation in the 80's and 90's. The author has written in detail which often some studies in this area lack
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original topic, needs some more work 1 Jun 2006
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
In this brilliantly conceived study the author tried to parse through Sikh history, memory and identity especially in relation to space and homeland. The view is towards examining the Sikh diaspora and its connection and use of pictures and imagined identitites to create the need for 'Khalistan' and the representation of Sikhs, from the last Sikh rulers to the tortured bodies fo Sikhs who were victims of the Indian police during the troubles in Punjab leading up to Operation Blue Star and desecration of the Golden Temple.

This is a very interesting and original book and that is why it deserves not only to be read but to be praised. However it lacks many things that although not pertinent to the subject could have been finally brought out here. THere does not exist one book in all the world in English that deals witht he millions of refugees caused by Pakistani ethnic cleansing in 1948, not one book on their fate and what that means to the Sikh nation, which was torn in half and had all its people cleansed and depopulated from Pakistan.

This is an understudied phenomenon, and becuase the Sikhs are not considered 'white' by the western-european world they get no attention the way the Palestinians do. However this book could have delved deeper into this important issue.

Seth J. Frantzman
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fair review but not in depth analysis of the root causes and problems 25 Dec 2007
By Jalawataan - Published on
Good try by a Western writer but not as good as Dr. Joyce Pettigrew who has given a in-dept analysis of the causes and the problem of the Sikh nation's struggle for Independence.
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