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James Clifford

James Clifford teaches cultural studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is the author of The Predicament of Culture.

Looking for Bomma

James Clifford, 24 March 1994

In his novel, The Shadow Lines, Amitav Ghosh writes of an Indian family whose members cross and recross two geopolitical borders. One border joins and divides Calcutta and London, the other Calcutta and Dhaka. Toward the end of the book the narrator’s failing grandmother prepares for a return visit to the city she left, years before, when India was partitioned: Dhaka, East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. It is only a short flight from Calcutta. The old woman asks whether she will see the border from the plane. Her son tells her that it won’t look like a map, with different colours on either side of a dark line. ‘But surely,’ the old woman persists, ‘there’s something – trenches perhaps, or soldiers, or guns pointing at each other, or even just barren strips of land. Don’t they call it no man’s land?’ Her son laughs: ‘No you won’t be able to see anything except clouds and perhaps, if you’re lucky, some green fields.’ She remains puzzled:’

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

‘DULL. adj. 8. Not exhilaterating; not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work.’ But they are fun to read, and it’s good to welcome this reprint of Johnson’s...

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