ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Three Planes of Space

Examining Regions Theoretically in India

There are three ways of looking at the question of regionality in India: “generalisation,” “fragmentation” and “composition.” Generalisation means gathering primary information from a determinate region, and assuming that all parts of India possess identical or similar characteristics. Fragmentation means believing that, since the regions are so fundamentally real, nothing existing beyond the regional level has any serious, compelling historical reality. Composition asserts that regions are historical and remain bound together within one single frame of some kind: political, economic or cultural.

Just like the concept of the dog that does not bark, the concept of a region does not exist on the material ground of space. It is a concept and exists historically and, like any other social concept, is subject to the basic rules of historicity. It is always legitimate to ask when and why it came into existence, and what people were doing with it and to themselves in devising a concept exactly like that.

To think fundamentally about something is a paradoxical act—simple in some ways, hard in others—of thinking of our categories, even the most elementary among them, as provisional, fallible and corrigible. These three characterisations are separate types of activities. To treat a concept as provisional—the most profound task of historicisation—is to acknowledge, as an a priori rule, that ideas, which we think through to describe, analyse and evaluate social objects, are historical and may not have existed at all times. This implies that they appeared at a particular time, and will disappear presumably. But this also imposes a responsibility on us to try and determine when and why a concept emerged. Concepts can be fallible in many ways. It could be that academics use a concept unproblematically, which ordinary people do not either use, or use in a different way. Corrigibility naturally stems out of this prior task. If we find that either our concepts do not do their referential work, or actors use others, there is a demand for correcting them. Any historical study of social science or historical thinking will discover quickly that much of the history of social science consists precisely in this—how the categories through which analysts see and examine their social objects have changed in history, and with what consequences. Here, we are concerned mainly with two concepts, namely India and its regions. I suspect that India is in some ways the much more problematic concept, and therefore more interesting to examine; but, historically speaking, regions are no less challenging.

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Updated On : 17th Nov, 2017
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