Artwork about enforced disappeared at APDP Office in Srinagar, Kashmir.

Kashmir— A Neocolony Within a Postcolony


In “Kashmir’s Necropolis,” Amrita Ghosh delves into contemporary literary and cultural expressions that grapple with the enduring conflict in Kashmir, aiming to dissect the dynamics of violence and agency within this contested “postcolonial” space. Ghosh posits that these works expose the inadequacies of prevalent critical frameworks such as “postcolonialism” or “neo-colonialism” in capturing Kashmir’s reality as a necropolis—a state of living death sustained by occupation. Despite efforts to erase their voices, Kashmiris assert their humanity amid India’s oppressive regime.

Ghosh argues that Kashmir represents a peculiar “neocolony within a postcolony,” where the Indian state, bent on suppressing autonomy, subjects Kashmiris to relentless violence, particularly escalating since 2008 with renewed protests. Communication blockades, militarization, and human rights abuses have turned Kashmir into a perilous zone.

Referencing theorists like Achille Mbembe, Ghosh scrutinizes the dominant portrayals of Kashmir, which often oscillate between romanticized depictions and perceptions of disorder necessitating state intervention. Bollywood, for instance, perpetuates this dual narrative by idealizing Kashmir while silencing its inhabitants, while media and officials frequently attribute unrest to external influences, overlooking indigenous resistance. This process of “visual biopolitics” dehumanizes Kashmiris, justifying violence against them. Ghosh contends that analyzing emerging literature and visual culture unveils the obscured realities, showcasing the transformative potential of innovative artistic expressions.

Ghosh frames ‘imaginative’ work as vital sites of resistance that can countervail state “biopolitical” violence by reasserting oppressed people’s humanity. It enriches postcolonial studies around continued colonial violence in postcolonies, gendered existence amid conflict, and culture reclaiming identity against ethnic cleansing. Beyond academia, in highlighting literature’s radical power, it advocates engaged reading and global solidarity with besieged communities like Kashmiris struggling for self-determination.

The book models a decolonizing feminist praxis attentive to power relations and multiplicity of knowledge production, interpretation, and representation. Ghosh’s insightful synthesis argues forcefully that cultural works exposing violence inflicted within security states’ territorial agendas are politically consequential in expanding frames of understanding, empathy, and social justice.

Violence and Power in Kashmir

This book presents a haunting view of the violence and machinations of power that have engulfed Kashmir, once known as “paradise on earth,” transforming it into a landscape of death populated by the “living dead.” Through a close reading of two seminal contemporary Kashmiri narratives in English—Mirza Waheed’s novel The Collaborator and Basharat Peer’s memoir Curfewed Night—the author charts Kashmir’s transition from a nostalgically remembered idyll into a nightmarish “deathworld” where state-sanctioned terror and brutal repression have become tragically normalized. 

Situating her analysis within a theoretical trajectory moving from Foucault’s ideas of biopower to Agamben’s concept of “bare life” and ultimately to Achille Mbembe’s framework of necropolitics, Ghosh unravels the complex machinery of violence employed by the Indian state to dominate Kashmiri subjects. While Indian authorities seek to frame the Kashmir conflict as a territorial dispute between nation-states, the selected texts expose it as a violent negation of Kashmiri identity and agency, turning civilian bodies and spaces into sites where the state’s sovereign power is violently imposed.

Descriptions of relentless crackdowns, enforced disappearances, mass rapes, and extrajudicial killings—all covered by legal impunity—reveal Kashmir as a space of exception where the suspension of law and rights coincides with the ubiquitous threat of death. 

Traditional frameworks like “state of exception” or “bare life” prove insufficient for understanding Kashmir’s complexity. Ghosh argues for a nuanced approach, acknowledging the interplay between biopolitical control and necropolitical destruction. Despite the imposed terror, Kashmir generates forms of meaning and remembrance hinting at alternative political futures. This calls for expanding our conceptual vocabulary to grasp Kashmir’s conflicted postcoloniality, emphasizing both its violence and its resistance to silence.

The synthesis of postcolonial theory with textual analysis offers a critical lens for examining subjugation in contemporary conflict zones. Avoiding portraying Kashmiris solely as victims, opens avenues for envisioning political futures beyond nationalist ideologies. This nuanced orientation provides essential tools for reflecting on Kashmir’s violent history and present, with implications for its future liberation.


Ghosh explores Feroz Rather’s The Night of The Broken Glass, a collection of interconnected short stories to investigate the continued violence in Kashmir and its traumatic impacts on Kashmiri lives suspended in conflict. Situating her analysis within broader conversations around postcolonial theory, biopolitics, and necropolitics, Ghosh adopts Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero’s concept of “horrorism” as a framing device to examine how Rather’s stories depict the everyday horror Kashmiris face, transforming understandings of selfhood, sociality, space and time.  

Feroz Rather’s Night of Broken Glass (2018).

The stories follow multiple characters living amidst militarization, surveillance, and disappeared kin. Ghosh argues that Rather articulates a different register of violence – one that lingers, disfigures, and deteriorates. This horrorism targets not just the body, but the very ontology of the human subject through “psychic and symbolic violence.” It manifests through disturbed relationships with food, nature, sleep, prayer, and fractured communal bonds. Unlike fleeting terror that provokes panic, horrorism induces paralysis – bodies are suspended helplessly against atrocities like military crackdowns, torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings. Subjectivity is thus nullified, and ontological dignity is erased.  

Ghosh’s analysis astutely delves into Cavarero’s argument regarding the centrality of bodily vulnerability in horrorism’s dehumanization. Graphic instances such as a father force-feeding his son shoe polish or soldiers brutalizing civilians underscore the corporeal nature of violence. The trope of contaminated meat as ‘abject flesh’ symbolizes the loss of recognizable subjectivity, challenging anthropocentric distinctions between humans and animals. While representing the epitome of horrorism according to Cavarero, Rather’s narratives go beyond by blurring not only the boundaries of the material body but also the certainty of symbolic codes that differentiate humans from non-humans.

By foregrounding fragility against dehumanization, “The Night of Broken Glass” urges broader acknowledgment within and beyond Kashmir. The resistance within these stories offers glimpses of hope amid despair, emphasizing interconnectedness. While much work remains for peace and justice, highlighting shared vulnerability that transcends borders serves as a powerful catalyst for action. As Ghosh asserts, stories keep alive the flame of remembrance and refusal to forget.

Resistance and Reconciliation

Ghosh also engages with Siddhartha Gigoo’s debut novel, “The Garden of Solitude,” and Sudha Koul’s memoir, “The Tiger Ladies,” shedding light on the tales of the Kashmiri Pandit community. Through the concept of “necropolitics”, it explores how these narratives carve out spaces of solidarity and survival amidst loss and violence, envisioning fractures differently.

Moving beyond mere representation, the analysis delves into how Koul and Gigoo’s texts foster alternate spaces of collective solidarity through cultural traditions and shared experiences. This syndesis, meaning the urge to bind together, creates affective bridges amidst suffering, transcending trauma, and victimhood. Kabir’s theory of “alegropolitics” is invoked to examine this politics of collective enjoyment, highlighting resilience and togetherness.

For Ghosh, these works challenge overdetermined trauma paradigms, foregrounding ordinary affective strategies for perseverance and renewal. They underscore the importance of alegropolitical visions beyond fractured presents, encouraging a revaluation of Kashmir on its terms, and envisioning radical reconciliatory futures beyond territorial aspirations alone.

Woman On A Shikara

The book also analyses the complex relationship between visual and literary representations of Kashmiri women, agency, and conflict. By juxtaposing images from popular media, news reports, artistic works, and scholarly perspectives, the author illuminates how Kashmir and Kashmiri women have been portrayed through a limited, often orientalist lens that obscures lived realities. 

The author incisively argues such ossified representations strip Kashmiri women of subjectivity while justifying state paternalism towards this “feminized landscape” in need of control and discipline. This masculinist optic naturalizes the Indian gaze and possession over Kashmiri bodies and land. 

To expose the violence behind Bollywood’s cinematic fantasy, Ghosh juxtaposes popular cultural images alongside jarring photographs documenting the harsh effects of militarization on ordinary Kashmiris, especially women. This visual contrast—between the glamorized, tourist vision and lived trauma—provokes viewers to recognize complicity in certain politics of seeing. It also sparks critical questions about which gendered narratives dominate, what remains invisible or silenced, and how the interplay between representation and agency might open up alternative meaning-making possibilities.


Blending visual and literary analysis with perspectives from political theory, trauma studies, and feminist activism, the author insightfully probes the high stakes behind representation regimes that dominate worldwide conflict coverage. Both image and text interweave to effectively dismantle orientalist projections that circulate globally while elevating emergent practices of creative dissent – art, journalism, scholarship – that productively expand frameworks for witnessing gendered resistance amid adversity.

Any reader interested in India-Pakistan relations, visual cultures of conflict, feminist political resistance, or everyday negotiations with catastrophic violence would find this sharply compelling text profoundly relevant to our divisive times marked by mass indifference towards human disposability and suffering. Its hopeful call lies in collective awakening and refusal to keep accepting the intolerable as routine fact.

Amrita Ghosh’s Kashmir’s Necropolis: New Literatures and Visual Texts is published by Lexington Books and is an interdisciplinary book that studies literary texts, film, photography, and art to understand the different forms of violence represented in the cultural productions from and on Kashmir. Ghosh is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida.

Muhammad Nadeem

Muhammad Nadeem is a book reviewer from Indian administered Kashmir.

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