Yazi?d: Configurations of the Self around Interests and Identities


  • Abdul Aijaz Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington


Sartre, subjectivity, cultural and political ecology, water resources, Manto, Yazīd


In this paper, I argue that in resource struggles neither subject nor object is fixed with natural and essential qualities; rather they are potentialities which are materialized co-constitutively in the process of struggle. In this way, struggle is simultaneously internal, as it involves reimagining interests and identities, and external, as it informs the actions and processes which reconfigure the material articulations of the contexts. The three processes – identity, interest, struggle – are simultaneously instantiated and co-constituted. Most political ecological narratives frame resource struggles within an already totalized nature, presupposing the structural totality of capitalist production and appropriation, taking interests and identities as fixed and pre-given, and emphasizing the material use and nature of the resources at the expense of their symbolic value. Alternatively, the cultural politics of natural resources emphasizes the specificities of each struggle and ethnographic approaches to understand the everyday ways in which interests and identities are (re)constituted and the narratives of struggles are (re)framed. This paper adds to cultural critiques of political ecology first by providing a theory of subject-formation in the context of struggle building on existential phenomenology of Jean-Paul Sartre, and second by making a case for reading literary texts as the sites of symbolic conflict in a move towards a nuanced understanding of resource struggles.


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