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Ranjan Gosh

Problems of (I)dentity and (Re)presentation: reformulating several sites of contestation in Medha Patkar and the NBA

Authenticity grows amidst various acts of 'bad faith' (mauvaise foi); authentic identity grows amidst inauthentic modes of existence, efforts to 'flee' it. Authentic identity builds on a 'truth' of its own; more than objective sincerity that demands truthfulness to an ideology it is a demand on personal authenticity. Quite apart from Hegel's vita contemplativa it is Kierkegaard's vita activa. And through authentic action, the people are not just allowed to sit on objective knowledge but are made to realize their subjective and existential concerns - identity, genuine selfhood andauthenticity. However, since absolute power never actually exists and since there is no creation ex nihilo, powerful and authentic individuals need each other, and need society and culture as the vital working framework within which they create themselves and their objects. So chiasmatically, authentic identity and social identity foreground a complex matrix under promotional interdependence that engages other paradigms of identity formation, identity recovery and identity growth. This paper chooses Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) as a complicated site to theorize on the issues involved with authentic identity instancing Medha's development in relation to the movement and its people, the personal-social interplay, group beliefs as an expression of social identity and aspects of social creativity. It also looks at the possibilities of glocalizing this authentic-local-social identity within these conflicting and intersecting perspectives. 

Authentic identity for her develops in a somewhat Kierkegaardian fashion with the opposition to 'overreflectiveness'. Despite a carefully planned approach Medha at several occasions confesses of fighting the coils of 'reflection' to launch into the passion of 'action'. Medha, indeed, infuses a 'passion' (Kierkegaardian sense) into the movement and combines sincerity of intention with it - the amalgamated force of pathos with the ethos of sincerity. In fact Medha confesses that questioning the project has been an enormous task. Encountering the governmental status quo and the inauthentic life modes of the native people, she commits the 'leaps of enthusiasm' by accepting that nothing activates without the compelling passion to act. She blurts with a glint of aggression: 'They think we will run away when the water comes. The forces we are facing are so rigid that we have to adopt a certain tenacity, a certain rigidity. At the same time, I feel if Gandhiji had been here today, his strategies would have been different' (296-97). The people milling around the movement are made to realize how the 'levelling process' in the existential, social and political sphere annihilates all striving towards the 'higher' and the 'meaningful'. She in Kierkegaardian terms is like 'a plain-cloth policeman' (1962:82) who infuses greater substance into their living where all antithetical processes are harnessed to thrash out progress. So Medha attains 'truthfulness' by accepting the contingent circumstances in its harshness and complete immanency. The inevitable extraneous resistance posed a threat to her unconcealment and reactivation of creative powers. The Government and its Narmada valley project demand  conformity to the prevailing ethic and objective validity and thereby encourage Hegel's 'honest individual' to subject him/her to a framework that disclaims 'real freedom' and promotes self alienation. Medha, however, fights out the 'alienation' generated through such repression. For her as Sartre puts it: Authenticity consists in having a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks that it involves in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror and hate (1965:90). She had undergone several fasts, the monsoon satyagraha on the banks of Narmada in spate; her inveterate sacrifice was rooted to the uncompromising right to live and livelihood, drawing the global attention to the fundamental issues of natural resources, human rights, environment and development. Having served as the Commissioner to the World Commission on dams, Medha brought all her knowledge and insight to enquire on the water, power and alternative issues related to dams. Combining the dupleix of struggle [almost like Camus's rebel she asseverates: ' I think now we just have to fight this battle to the last' (296)] and constructive envisionment [' As we have gone along, we have developed the premises, principles and practical criteria of the alternative paradigms in a very systematic manner. This was because. we went ahead discussing, first demanding right to information, then when it was never doled out to us we had to dig out information ourselves, analyse it and then reach our conclusions (280)] she roped in the community groups to foster alternatives in energy, water harvesting and education for tribal children. 

So through a planned approach Medha initiates the Ubermensch, the process of unmasking, that brings the tribals face to face with the real crux of the issue through a succession of dead selves. Vacuous generalization and internal deception are relinquished to gain access to the 'veiled' self. The people are made to believe that they are at liberty to shape their own identity and ideals by freely choosing their educators (for Nietzsche, 'educators can be only our liberators'). Medha is the liberator in the Nietzchean sense who promotes a perpetual movement of self-overcoming, a free creation of one's own perspectives. She candidly admits the trainer's role 'since a trainer brings with him or her certain perspectives and knowledge along with analysis and ideology but who also has to take the trainee with him' (279). Medha marshals her developmental programme with changing perspectives, modes of progress and institutional 'resistance' that border on Nietzsche's Versucher and Versuchung (temptation), an enticement that directs one's efforts towards one's power. Each stage in the movement is made to go through a crystallization and reactivation. In a near quasi-Hegelian dialectic, Medha uses both direct and indirect enticement to uncover and intensify her own life and the life of her community members ('You just have to ignite a spark and then leave it and it will burn on its own' 293), stroking at the hidden and implicit sources of their authentic selves ('.let metell you, there was a potential which was already there in these tribal communities' 275). Within Nietzschean enticement, Medha's originality operates on the inherent sources of the self where the existing values and ethics are defined authentically towards the realization of proposed objectives. The distribution of power and the involvement of the people contribute to the consolidation of the authentic identity. Medha's abundance of positive power and firm authentic self-hood manifest the rights and freedom of her people and it is the self affirmation of her power and virtues that psychologically enables the affirmation of the 'other' and her authenticity - 'But you have to really reach out to them, build a faith in them, and give them that feeling that you will be with them throughout the fight' (276). Egoism and the stamp of authentic identity do not contradict the moral order of the movement; rather, it creates conditions for its proper functioning. Without the Sartrean nausea, authentic identity is socially bound and situation specific - 'Authenticity is the real connection with others, with oneself and death' (1958:xi) What grows to the credit of Medha is her aversion to what Heidegger would call 'tranquillity' or Nietzcshe as Verfuhrung. The governmental way of thinking would have ensured a full and tranquil life. Authentic modes of decision defy it. It is a mode that cannot be determined and defined by 'others' (in this case the government both at the state and the centre). Her authentic identity is reinforced by her authoritative investigation into the fundamental inabilities of the whole project. She questioned the rationale behind the plan to ensure water supply to only sixteen percent of the districts in Kutch and Saurashtra and swamping vast areas of forest and agricultural lands. She convincingly argued the infeasibility of the rehabilitation programme with the Morse commission of the World Bank. Her researches provided a clearer scenario of the non-viability of the project from the technical and the financial perspectives. In fact within the dynamics of the movement, since its very inception, Medha did not allow the 'real dictatorship of the anyone' to level her identity down to the 'averageness' that is 'ready-to-hand' for institutional manipulation and be 'seduced' by the dominance of the establishment's way. Her ownness in no way cannot become 'otherness'. The indigenous people's initial meek acceptance of the state of affairs where the belief that what the establishment plans to do is true and unquestionable and any effort to change would come to naught created a 'positive' inauthenticity in the Heideggerean sense. The 'hidden'  n such positive inauthenticity foregrounds a new structure of existentiality. This new structure is being-with' and not 'being-beside' for authentic identity has a hyphenated intentional existence with the society that forms around her and also exclusive of her. She maintains: 'It is important to establish a relationship with the people one works with. I have always considered that as a very important factor (286). The mineness of her identity cannot formulate itself in vacuity; it cannot grow estranged from the world. So an understanding of the Being-in-the-world s essential to a successful 'homecoming' (the Heideggerean way). In fact it is a probe into the relation the authentic identity can have or should grow with societal forces and institutional power networks. She admits: 'You are working in tandem with a human process (287). Authentic identity thereby needs to stress the sociability of existence that opens up situational intricacies, myopic institutional  mbroglios and inauthentic self-defeating inertia as a consequence of which the principle of 'caring for' (Fursorge) surfaces with considerable conviction. Medha undergoes the 'anxiety' to sustain authenticity ('I had to be careful all the time - about where I sat, what I did' 290-91) that disallows the mind from becoming an institutional property that is manipulated, maneuvered and mastered.  At a different level, Medha's researches into the various paradigms of the movement comprise not just the problems presented by the 'present' but also the heritage, the 'past', involved in the civilized build up of the particular locale. Her authentic identity cannot connive at the temporal ramifications of the irrepressible past and thus owes its making to the historical truth of the movement. The 'active' Dasein of Medha's identity reappropriates and reinterprets the history of the past and the present to surface a moment of vision that gains ascendance over the 'everydayness'. This proposes the interwining between the authentic identity and its socio-historical context. Here Medha's identity is unKierkegaardian andunNietzschean for it interlocks authenticity with ethos, history and society. So most often the 'governmental ethics' becomes anti-authentic ethos. Her project treats the possibilities of human existence as genuine possibilities when past potentialities interrhymes with future potentialities. This owes to a resolute decision that antagonizes the 'das Man-seldsh' to evolve a truer conception of oneself, a truer perspective on 'responsibility' that power the ground project. The everyday temporality of the project surface the constitutive experience that builds itself on a past-present-future complex (in Heideggerean terms repetition-blink of an eye-anticipation) where the future is letting-oneself-come-at-oneself. Within Heideggerean conception of responsibility we have Medha as source f action and 'responsible' for action at the same time. We have Medha as person in the Roman notion of ersonal identity. Her initiation and conceptualization of the movement speaks of her personal identity in the Lockean sense but the authenticity in figuring the importance of selfidentity bespeaks a Heideggerean note. Medha createsthe socio-cultural space that promotes enabling conditions for self-assertion. It sponsors the need for attachment, for participation in group life and he fear of being depersonalized or subjugated beyond  identity under the monolithic mass of the Government. In fact the authenticity of her identity is unsolipsistic as the resoluteness goads her into a solicitous Being-with-others. This makes for a distinctive reciprocal distance (Abstandigkeit) between Medha and others of her movement-community. Medha exhibits what Iris Marion Young calls 'openness to unassimilated otherness' (1990:119). Her  authenticity lies in understanding the politics of inclusion that cultivates an approach to the space of heterogenous public in which persons stand forth with their differences acknowledged and respected. She respects the identity of the individual, group or community voices whose social perspectives, experiences and affiliations are different. The assimilation of the group identities foregrounds a  tructure-preserving routine that counterrhymes with a structure-transforming conflict. The implications for personal identity is to extend the consciousness to the domain of concrete social and political actions So authentic identity plays its part in free sociability where the tribals, non tribals and the rest make themselves available in a space where we know  urselves as originals with a clearsightedness on the 'cause' at hand and not primarily as placeholders in a system of group contrasts. The group identity promotes the conception of 'solidarity' which with its ethno-centric origins foregrounds 'we-intentions' that circumscribes social identity. This is the process of testing 'consistency' in approach where arbitrariness  is evaded and justification is accomplished by cohering multiple commitments to aset of 'well-principled' credibility. So moving from Heidegger the critique of authentic identity imbues the conceptual positionalities of Sartre's idea of reflection and action. The authenticity of her identity creates social action and diffusion of new 'ideologies', new group characteristics which have a positively valued distinctiveness. The state of becoming' is signaled within a dynamic comparative frame of reference. So with the decimation of inauthentic modes of existence and a redefinition of local and social identity that borders on national identity, Medha and her workersare on a path to glocalize their reformulated status with obvious motivational significance. It is the processural changes that refigure the search for identity; it is the quest that needs to be understood within the philosophy of a developmental process. The individual voice gets respected as the collective reflection encourages a process of sustaining and extending the ocial   reality on the road to predetermined telos. Within a reflective space, the authentic identity of Patkar, the ethnic and social identity of her followers and the personal identity of the locals cannot escape the picture of 'inquiry' where one is forced to know who one is. The self representation contributes to the understanding of one's immediate social world. So the micro level of eco-cultural-political defiance pushes at the macro level of institutional initiative. Medha's authentic identity engages with an aesthetic that embraces 'self diversification' and the interactive locus of identity tussle and gratification. 

Rallying the people into a consciousness of social  identity, Patkar not only 'entices' but contributes to a process of internalization that make for an important part of the individual's self-concept. Indoctrinating each member of the movement into realizing a positive self-image helped the movement for it brewed a tendency to view one's own group behaviour favourably. This falls within the self-categorization theory where the heterogeneity within the movement comes to a site of intra-category correspondences, the we-ness. This points to the fundamental group belief that authentic identity could inculcate. And the way they faced the reality at the local, social, and the national level we arrive at the structuration of 'in group' and 'we-experience'. Under the self-categorization theory, Medha identifies with the ingroup prototype; but her authenticity is something that works beyond social identification to social progression. The specific social identity of the movement promotes self conception and self perception in a positive orientation towards the group. Medha clarifies: 'It will not be a self-sufficient community but it can be self reliant and self confident' (284). But for Medha the authentic patterns of existence forbid any normalization to group prototypicality. Her authentic identity is consonant with the cognitive clarity concomitant with social categorization. So within social identity theory, both Medha and the ingroup members generate 'promotional interdepencence', a subjective interdependence in a judgmental context. Medha made the tribals realize community as a unit; the communitarian ideals made them realize the right to know everything about the project. Within the philosophy of community or group ideals and identity, they read the studies and plans related to the project which took them from the tehsil level to the district, state and then to the centre. Medha points out, 'Once the local representative group was formed, after detailed organizational work with even hamlet as a unit, the representatives always came out of the community, many of them who had not even seen the tehsil ever before. Once they went through this process and had a kind of a dialogue with the government, they understood reality themselves' (276-77). The tribals and the non tribals involved in the process were left to observe and analyse 'the information giving agents - who were the agents in favour of the project, the builders, the decision makers, the executors and so on' (277). This group consciousness worked within broader conceptual framework and each individual identity merged with a consciousness that bore common appreciation for knowledge and information. Within the philosophy of authenticity we can identify the stages of forming, storming, norming performing and adjourning. However, the norming-performing complex does not guarantee a unified theory of community development. The authenticidentity contributes to the group character and the developmental approach argues for reciprocity where personal authenticity interlogs with group action in the fructification of a socio-ethical motive and an overarching authentic identity-formation encourages 'individuation' and group productivity or self-caregorization with community-building schemes. Distributive justice and sustainable development out of an authentic group/community identity is, thus, pressed on by the authentic identity of Medha. No doubt recontextualization can reformulate our identity and attach separate value to our social reality.  Within the context of the changing stages of the movement authentic identity promotes new modes of existence and with it the consequent reperspectivization of ingroup identity, the social and community identity. The ethnocentricisms of the movement come to be revised under what Tajfel would ascribe as CIC theory (categorization-identity-comparison) and under sustainable development (the developmental process that flourishes on continuity) the movement stamps out the need for transcendence. The group behaviour and the social identity of the movement form its own religion that concentrically strokes at the borders of national identity. Medha's authenticity encourages a subjective control that legitimizes her position and the worth of the event within the context of the needs  nd demands it purports to honour and fulfill. The subjective 'group dynamics' redefines socio-ethical-existential identity in proper perspective. The truth of the matter is that the road to social identity, even if it produces depersonalization of self-perception, has the authenticity of personal identity hooked on to it. The categorization of this movement within such forces is dynamic and context-specific with the principle of metacontrast. The metacontrast principles can complicate our understanding of identity withinseveral strata of our existential schema. It is not exclusive to this movement but true in the context of globalization. Medha's authenticity coupled with the planned approach to the 'issue' activates concentricidentities (local-social-national-global), a transcendence in stages, with metacontrast ratios, empiricalizing each recontextualized status. The glocalization process is not as smooth as one would imagine; the identity-transition process is a difficult one and one need not harbour any misconception about homogenization tendencies. The bristling interaction with the World Bank, the international funding involved in the project, therole of the government vis a vis its international image and sovereign identity, the speculative danger as envisaged by the Green Movement and Medha'a authentic identity call for a 'glocalization'. Medha's authentic identity can make a claim to global homogenization for the leader whether she be in Narmada or the Amazon rain forest or the fight to save the gorilla, assumes authentic modes of action that compel her 'enticed' acolytes to rethink theirinauthentic weather-beaten paths. Medha's authentic identity is here convincingly globalized. However, with such globalized entitisation comes the context-specific, socially categorized, locally rooted phenomenon that stands to be glocalized. My thesis here proposes such a marriage between universalism and particularism, the global-glocal problematic. The pressures of glocality foreground a 'neo world' for the movement where it is no longer grounded in thesingular cohesion of ethno-national location or environmental site. There is a clear (ex)tension and ramification of the representative space that engender fresh circuits of operation. Re-presented thus, thethoughts and actions are re-framed glocally. With transnationalized identity the movement-members mark out their space and value in the glocalized pluripotent neoworld. The problems of the NBA in this newly coded milieux relive the ecologies of domination and resistance and in their reformulated discourse of power and ideology map out the new socio-economic and cultural spaces. The movement faces new dictional entities with separate spaces of operation and different signs of authority. System formation at the local level expands with several 'representational space' in its interface with global systemic properties and most importantly globalization is not the opposite of localization. The identity formation within the purview of this movement is an interlocking apparatus that spaces out with local-specific properties and abetted by the authentic identity of the spearheader honours the impingement of the 'global idea'. What the mounting impact of NBA has done is to challenge the traditional spatial notions of sovereignty; it puts the searchlight on the non-perspectival and the antihierarchical elements that represent the state authority within the ambit of this neoworld order. The glocalizing parameters of the movement have surfaced the issue of 'informationalization' which has generated the problematic of new structural games. Joining the global web, the movement has grown its own formations of telematic territory and this transinformationalizing process has evolved many different sites of power and knowledge and polyvalent discursive (s)pace. The flowality in information has not just reconceptualized our notions of state sovereignty but has set new artifices of power-structure within the global-glocal problematic. Medha made sure that in the informational mediascapes the state-centralized machinery eroded before global flows. So Medha's operation swathes through the geopolitical codes of spatial sovereignty and within the glocal modes of representation she puts up a freshimage. The transnational exchanges, alliances and the polydictive matrix effected through various international forums (the lectures and seminars on various dimensions of NBA and the international perspective on major river dams) fostered attitudinal mappings and codes of thought and action. The International Narmada Campaign Japanese Symposium saw numerous letters of condemnation pouring in to compel the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, a principle investor in the dam, to pull back its support. Medha admits: 'To shake the World Bank from its rigidity I had to seek the support of international groups. I got a call from a lady in Washington and she will cover all European groups and all USA groups to alert them on the coming action. From the strictly local level I had to move to the national and then on to the international level' (295-96 italics mine). Redefining the spatiality of the operation we find the statist discourse of ideology and instrumentation meet with a revisionist challenge with new icons of authority and coils of power. So within such 'global flow' the movement comes to understand the necessity of post-statal status rather than the anti-statal position. Medha's authentic identity comes to admit within the glocal modes of operation the stratified status of the entire movement which parallels codes of culture, identity, ethnicity, gender and ecology in proliferating discursive channels. It thus becomes the contemporary site for the interpenetration of the particularism and universalism.

I thank Geeti Sen, the editor of IIC Quaterly for sending me a copy of the interview with Medha Patkar in Indigenous Vision, People of India, Attitudes to the Environment, India International Quarterly, 1992, Vol. 19, Nos 1 & 2, pp. 273 - 99. All the citations from the interview are parenthetically given in the main text. 

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