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The Power of Rhetoric and Reviving Democracy

In the wake of the killing of two Indians, which some of us would rather turn a blind eye to and not label hate crimes, civil society in the United States needs to be more vigilant than ever.

The rhetoric and tactics deployed in the US presidential campaign and election have exposed the underbelly of American society, which a lot of us would rather deny. True reform will happen only when those of us who claim to be progressive are willing to acknowledge that the various legislations over the decades and veneer of civility haven’t been enough to eradicate this seamy, unpleasant side. Democratic institutions cannot be take for granted; on the contrary, they must be protected, refurbished, and reinvigorated periodically by watchful citizens.

Does Globalization Often Lead to Cultural and Religious Fanaticism by Emphasizing a Conception of Identity Between the “Authentic” and the “Demonic”? Are we seeing that phenomenon world-wide, particularly in the wake of the recent presidential election?

Many scholars are of the opinion that contemporary transnationalism helps usher in a new post-national era. But such transnationalism does not necessarily weaken nationalism; on the contrary, it can at times operate to reinforce an ultra-nationalist agenda. Despite the creation of a global order, has not transnationalism led to the politicization of identity in the form of fundamentalism, xenophobia, and a fanatical espousal of tradition, as many critics observe? It is increasingly doubtful that transnational practices are generally counter-hegemonic.

According to Michael Peter Smith and Luis Eduardo Guarnizo, transnationalism enables the fortification of nationalist ideology in two ways:

“The expansion of transnational practices has resulted in outbursts of entrenched, essentialist nationalism in both ‘sending’ and ‘receiving’ countries. In receiving nation-states, movements aimed at recuperating and reifying a mythical national identity are expanding as a way to eliminate the penetration of alien “others.” States of origin, on the other hand, are re-essentializing their national identity and extending it to their nationals abroad as a way to maintain their loyalty and flow of resources ‘back home” (10).

Thus the formation and reconstitution of the nation-state is frequently bolstered in a transnational/ globalized realm. Transnationalism implies a process in which formations that have traditionally been perceived as restricted to well-defined political and geographical boundaries have transgressed national borders, producing new social formations.

Yet transnational politics often lead to cultural and religious fanaticisms by emphasizing a conception of identity between the “authentic” and the “demonic.”

In this greatly polarized world in which the rhetoric of hate is being mainstreamed, people forget that South Asian immigrants in the U. S. are a part of the group that caused a brain-drain in the country of origin when it shifted its geographical location.

Jane Singh et al. provide some interesting statistics regarding the movement of South Asian labor and capital to the U. S., “In numerical terms, South Asian did not register a significant demographic presence in Anglo-America till the 1960s, when the Canadian government removed racial and national immigration restrictions . . . And President Lyndon b. Johnson signed the Act of 3 October 1965 . . ., which eliminated race, religion, and nationality as criteria for immigration and phased out the quota system in the United States” (18).

The scrimpy presence of South Asians in the U. S. prior to that era was transformed by the creation of new vistas of communication between peoples of the globe. Theses vistas of exchange and communication were the spaces in which various modes of representation and cultural praxes grappled with and influenced one another.

The dangerous resurgence of cultural, national, and religious fanaticisms obliterates those realities.

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Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

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