Delinquent Borderlands: Disorder and Exception in the eastern Himalaya

Mona Chettri, Duncan McDuie-Ra

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10 Citations (Web of Science)


In Sikkim, India’s model development state, the government implements wide-ranging control over its territory through laws, regulations, and coercion. As a border town neighboring West Bengal, Jorethang is a zone of transgression that blurs urban and rural space, migrant and citizen subjects, and licit and illicit activities. In this paper, we use a walking ethnography of Jorethang town and border crossings to make three arguments. First, as Jorethang has grown the Government of Sikkim has effectively abdicated enforcing the spatial order it enforces elsewhere in Sikkim, enabling Jorethang to be ruled—in effect—by commercial interests. Second, Jorethang’s growth has been fueled by migrants drawn to work on infrastructure projects, in private construction, and in illicit cross-border trade. This is an alternative story of urban growth in a rapidly urbanizing border state and is in contrast to the highly planned urban development evident in other parts of Sikkim. Third, Jorethang offers a glimpse of the bifurcated urban future of the eastern Himalayas. While model modernity is manifest in showpiece urban areas such as Namchi and Gangtok, border towns like Jorethang have become zones to supply, service, and profit from model modernity without being bound by its rules. Through these arguments we identify the internal border between Sikkim and West Bengal as a crucial division between different spatial orders, between the model development state of Sikkim and the imploding tracts of adjacent West Bengal. In Jorethang these orders merge bridging the orderly and disorderly and providing opportunities for development through delinquency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-723
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Borderlands Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020


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