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

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Ontology of Being and Becoming

Subjectivities of Migrants in India

Home, Belonging and Memory in Migration: Leaving and Living edited by Sadan Jha and Pushpendra Kumar Singh, London and New York: Routledge, 2022; pp 312, `1,595.

Since the subject is subjectivity, it is tempting to turn a few leaves of a seemingly unrelated discourse, as a point of departure. Anna Freud, the prodigal daughter of Sigmund Freud, renowned for her contributions and deve­lopment of child psychology, emp­hasised the psychic movement of ego in response to the conditioned experiences in childhood. A dynamic psyche is, however, a picture of conditioned mobi­lity vis-à-vis a living fraught with leaving and vice versa! Such psychoanalytic insights were bound to emerge, speculating along the biographical experiences of the Freuds (father-daughter duo), given their own emigrations to a non-native land (London). Adding more historical-sociological complexity to the pheno­menon, wedding psychoanalysis with sociology and anthropology, Erich Fromm underlined a psychic movement in which home and the world have manifold and chequered inter­actions. Expl­oring the reasons behind why a troubled psyche fears freedom and slips to authoritarianism, Fromm emphasised the perpetual breaking and making of relationships qua psychic movement in/from the family and kinship to the formal world of actions.

Such an unseemly commencement of a review of a book is appropriate given the concurrence of the underlying nua­nces. Aimed at the complex experiences of migrants, the informal–formal, primary–secondary, living–leaving, home–world, the book under review is orga­nised under five key themes pertaining to human migration in South Asia, that is, labour, gender, folk, the self and religiosity. A rare work of its kind, with wide-angled discursive panorama, the book not only provides explanation and understanding of the issue(s) on the anvil, but also enables for sharpening questions, some direct and some oblique. Even though the book does not centralise it as a question, the migrant subjectivities of scholars, researchers and writers play a considerable role in the way they understand home and the world, and living and leaving. One shall wonder with this very important book, how much of migrant subjectivities of the scholars qua authors in this book underpinned by psychic freedom-unfreedom play a role in their attempts to narrativise the migr­ant subjectivities? Could one write about migrant experiences without factoring in the ordinary—everyday—biographic acc­ounts of the self? The editorial pronouncement has conscientiously put the self as a refrain, more in terms of promise than in delivery. The self as the second or third fiddle in the larger dramatics of narrativising, however, serves the same perfunctory role as does the visual testi­monies in the age of Photoshop. One wonders whether the idea of subjectivity is orientalised. Such an ominous tacit assumption—the subjective self of the “other,” while the objective self of the scho­lar—even after the worldwide pandemic that humanity experienced in the last few years!

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Updated On : 13th Mar, 2023
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