Scars of Partition: Postcolonial Legacies in French and British Borderlands

Scars of Partition: Postcolonial Legacies in French and British Borderlands

Scars of Partition: Postcolonial Legacies in French and British Borderlands

Scars of Partition: Postcolonial Legacies in French and British Borderlands

Excerpt

“Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?”
—Paul Gaughin

Who are we? Several years after commencing my career-long comparison of indigenous peoples previously partitioned into French and British colonies, a psychologically astute colleaguefriend made me realize that, at heart, my subject matter was identity. Now, identity is a topic that transcends several intellectual disciplines and paradigms. It is also a very personal matter—which is why I had ostensibly camouflaged my personal quest for it by conducting fieldwork in remote locales and among exotic peoples throughout the developing world. And I did so as a political scientist! That tension between scholarly research agenda and subconscious preoccupation was ultimately resolved (at least on paper) with the publication of my Zion in the Desert, a study of American Jewish baby boomers who, in the 1970s and 1980s, opted to become Israeli kibbutzniks in the Negev Desert.

But every one of us has reason to ponder the randomness of being bequeathed a particular society, culture, and nation. Relatively few on this planet enjoy the luck of acquiring at birth the nationality and support system of a developed, high-income nation. That existential puzzle has nagged at me ever since a two-year Peace Corps stint revealed both the unmerited luck . . .

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