From Bob's archive: A land without people for a people without land?

Continuing my monthly post from the archive. This is from November 2008. Since then, the Maldives have not succeeded in finding a new location, and instead have invested in artificial islands and floating cities

The Maldives are one of the lands in the frontline of global climate change. A small rise in the sea level brought on by the melting of the polar ice caps will lead to 80% of the islands disappearing under water. Last month, the Maldives held their first democratic election, and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, dictator since 1978 (and a Muslim Brotherhood follower) was replaced by Mohamed Nasheed, a democratic activist imprisoned several times under Gayoom, was sworn in yesterday.
Interestingly, one of Nasheed's first public statements suggested the country's tourism income would be saved up to buy a new homeland for the Maldivian people. He mentioned a few places that might sell land - and, crucially, sovereignty over that land - but has not yet negotatiated with those countries.

In a world tightly packed with nation states, to use Zygmunt Bauman's phrase, every state needs a nation and every nation needs a state. Although people might sympathise with the Maldives' plight, how many countries are willing to transfer land? Of course, the nation-states of today were often built on the mass transfer of people in order to create ethnically homogeneous nations - the huge forced migration of Christian people out of "Turkey" and of "Turkish" people out of the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire gave way to the nation-state order, the trauma of Partition in Indian sub-continent, the much smaller scale displacement of the people who came to be known as Palestinians when Israel was created and subsequent transfer/purging of Jewish Arabs to the new state. But now the patchwork quilt is filled up, will there be room for the people of the Maldives.

It brings to mind the various utopian Territorialist hopes that flourished in the margins of the Jewish nationalist movement from the late 19th century until the creation of the state of Israel: the British "Uganda" Programme, the Galveston Project supported by Israel Zangwill, the Kimberley Project, Birobidzhan the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Manchuria, the Japanese Fugu Plot also for Manchuria, and sundry other plans for Ecuador, Suriname and elsewhere...

For a no state solution!


Popular Posts