Since the nineteenth century, a succession of states has classified the inhabitants of what are now the borderlands of Northeast India and Bangladesh as Muslim frontier peasants, savage mountaineers, and Christian ethnic minorities, suspecting them to be disloyal subjects, spies, and traitors. In Jungle Passports Malini Sur follows the struggles of these people to secure shifting land, gain access to rice harvests, and smuggle the cattle and garments upon which their livelihoods depend against a background of violence, scarcity, and India's construction of one of the world's longest and most highly militarized border fences.
Jungle Passports recasts established notions of citizenship and mobility along violent borders. Sur shows how the division of sovereignties and distinct regimes of mobility and citizenship push undocumented people to undertake perilous journeys across previously unrecognized borders every day. Paying close attention to the forces that shape the life-worlds of deportees, refugees, farmers, smugglers, migrants, bureaucrats, lawyers, clergy, and border troops, she reveals how reciprocity and kinship and the enforcement of state violence, illegality, and border infrastructures shape the margins of life and death. Combining years of ethnographic and archival fieldwork, her thoughtful and evocative book is a poignant testament to the force of life in our era of closed borders, insularity, and illegal migration.
Jungle Passports is a wonderful book, combining theoretical sophistication with ethnographic richness. While a lot has been written on borders and borderlands lately, Malini Sur offers novel insights. She is also a great storyteller and writer.--Bengt G. Karlsson, Stockholm University
Malini Sur's prose is always clear and often lyrical. Searing insights from many years of indefatigable and intrepid research shine through as Jungle Passports makes contributions to the study of gender, development, human-animal relations, kinship, ethnic strife, and solidarity. Sur shows the enactment of nation-states as tenuous yet brutal entities in the borderlands of South Asia. Her work offers valuable lessons for understanding such phenomena anywhere in the world.--Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan, Yale University