The book by Debal K SinghaRoy provides an exquisite illustration of the situational reconstruction of new, fluid and layered identities in collective mobilizations, along the axis of caste, class, tribe, nationality, ethnicity, citizenship and social movements, resulting from the unprecedented social transformation caused by the spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs), globalization, wide flow of goods, expanding social interconnectedness and simultaneous fragmentation across the globe. Sustained collective mobilizations based on primordial identities have acquired renewed forms of reflexivity along with non-primordial considerations grounded in specific socio-cultural traditions and embedded in local-global interactions. This is to necessitate a rejuvenated self-reflexive project which oscillates between the peculiarities of social solidarity on one hand and marginalization at the other. SinghaRoy posits the complexities and theoretical foundations of the concept of ‘identity’ along with its multiple and transitional manifestations, imbued in the host of paradoxes associated with it. A strong point of the book is the Introduction wherein he states the research questions, combining in-depth empirical observation with existing body of classical as well as contemporary literature on the lived experiences of individuals so as to lay the foundation of an intersectional analysis of the dynamics of ‘identity’ construction and reconfiguration.
The author scrutinizes the location of social identities, embedded in interconnected social roles and its associated meanings, within the dynamics of power and knowledge. An elaboration of the interrelations between individual and collective identities takes into consideration the interplay between the essentialist and ‘subjective’ constructionist understandings of identity, despite the shortcomings of each theoretical strand. A critical reading of the text would explicate the author’s implicit tendencies to problematize the ideas of structure and agency; nuancing the role of choice and reason in the reconstruction of identities in contexts of plurality. It functions within various dichotomous logics, culminating in renewed forms of inclusion and exclusion. Combining with the postmodernist critiques and the relationship between individualism, self and society, is the Marxist and philosophical understanding of how identities transform from ‘serie to groups en fusion’ (p. 22). Identities become a contested reality when they transcend into the new hybrid arenas of virtual communities, thus blurring the lines between the public and the private.