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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Monopolising a Statehood Movement: Gorkhaland between Authoritarian Parties and ‘Aware Citizens’

Responsible for the doctoral project: Dr. Miriam Wenner (doctorate 2015)
Funded by: Humer-Foundation for Academic Talent
Project duration: September 2010 – August 2013
Doctoral committee: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müller-Böker, Geography, Department of Geography/URPP Asia and Europe; Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; Dr. Urs Geiser, Department of Geography, University of Zurich


Ethno-regional movements that demand more autonomy in form of separate states in the Indian Union have so far mainly been analysed alongside questions of identity, ethnicity, or developmental aspirations, thereby neglecting the space-related aspects of these movements. In contrast, I attempt at viewing these ethno-regional movements basically as expressions of contestations about and in space, where conflicting actors struggle as well about boundaries, forms, functions, and affiliation as about the control of the claimed areas. These “contested spaces” are not only subject to negotiations between governmental representatives of the movement. Also within the movement different regional parties struggle for political authority leading to a complex micro-politics of the statehood struggle. The aim of this study is to analyse the strategies of those involved in the space-related conflict. Drawing on the concepts of “region”/”regionalization” and “territory/territorialization” I aim at assessing the various processes that constitute the relations between power and space within the conflict. The region of Darjeeling in northern West Bengal was selected for a case study. Here “Gorkhas” are struggling for an own state called “Gorkhaland” to be created within the Indian Union.

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