Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Cross-Fertilising Roots and Routes: Ethnicity, Socio-Cultural Regeneration and Planetary Realisations

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Cross-Fertilising Roots and Routes: Ethnicity, Socio-Cultural Regeneration and Planetary Realisations

Article excerpt

The Asian maritime networks of the pre-colonial era ... involved a wide variety of merchant communities at different points who did not speak the same languages or trade in the same currencies ... In many ways, contemporary Asian regional interdependence resembles the maritime Asian trade networks, because of the separation of political, economic and military levels and power ... Although the actual products flowing through the Asian maritime networks were miniscule compared to today's figures, the cultural flows they enabled - packaged in Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Islam - were nothing short of world-transforming ... Nonetheless, the older Asian models of cultural circulation without state domination of identity presents us with a historical resource to explore new possibilities.

Prasenjit Duara (2015: 277).

Herkunft aber bleibt stets Zukunft

But origin always meets us from the future.

Martin Heidegger (1971: 10)

Introduction and Invitation

'We are now living through the undermining of national communities and strengthening of ethnic communities' writes Alain Touraine (2007: 145) in his A New Paradigm for Understanding Today's World. This process is a multidimensional process of resistance, struggle, creativity, destruction and transformation which calls for deeper probing of, and meditative co-walking with, our existing conceptual categories and modes of engagement. As ethnicity cannot be understood either as a static category or in isolation from other categories and realities such as nationality and citizenship, as T.K. Oommen (1997) argues, we also need to understand the limits of these categories themselves as well as the inner and mutual transformations that these are going through both internally as well as in their inter-relationship.

All these categories and life-worlds have a complex relationship to tradition, modernity, postmodernity and an emergent modernity called transmodernity where, as Enrique Dussel (2017: 226-227) argues, 'unsuspected cultural richness' rises up like the flame of fire of those fathoms buried under the sea of ashes from hundreds of years of colonialism. Transmodernity refers to 'a process of rebirth, searching for new paths for future development'. If the reality and production of ethnicity are linked to both modernity and colonialism, leading to what Oommen (1997) calls ethnification, transmodernity challenges us to understand both historical and contemporaneous processes of deconstruction and reconstruction, resistance and creativity anew.

While ethnification is a process of marginalisation, ethnicity is not just produced at the disjuncture of home and the world as Oommen argues. Contra Oommen, we do not become an ethnie when we leave our home and come to a foreign land. Ethnicity is an aspect of both home and the world, and understanding it as a dynamic process as well as the related categories and histories of nationality and citizenship, challenges us to understand ethnicity as well as nationality and 'citizenship not only as nouns but also as verbs' (Giri 2012, 2013). As verbs they embody multiple and multi-dimensional processes of genesis, ongoing dynamics and reconstitution. Oommen's phrase ethnification points to this verbal dimension of the category of ethnicity. At the same time, to these categories of nation, ethnicity and citizenship we need to add the category of soul - self, social as well as cultural - as well as creativity. We need to bring to our existing discursive and practical landscape the dynamics of generativity and regeneration of soul, culture and society.

Ethnicity is linked to mobilisation of many kinds and ethnic mobilisations are engaged in struggle for power, identity and resources with other ethnic groups and the nation-states. But ethnic mobilisations are not only confined to socio-political and socio-economic struggles for power and resources where they are fighting against both the dominant logic of state and market in favour of more autonomy, control over local resources and sometimes creation of new states. …

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