Writing the Partition, Living the Border: The Journey from Partition Studies to Border Studies
A talk by Dr Debdatta Chowdhury
Event of the Partition of India in 1947 has resulted in a whole genre of studies with its own narratives and discourses. The mainstay of Partition studies/narratives has been memory—good or bad. Dystopic memories of lost homelands, violence, migration have been integral to such narratives. But Partition also left its imprint in a more tangible form—in that of the border between India and Pakistan—its materiality made effective through fences, pillars, flags and border guards. It is along and across the border that the Partition has been felt, and still being so, in not just memories and nostalgic reminiscences, but in a real, everyday form. It is the border where Partition narratives have transpired into border narratives. Border studies is still largely considered a matter of international relations and foreign policies, and less of a social space. In the Indian context, Partition narratives still dwell on memories and border studies is yet to develop as a socio-cultural area of research. Hence, the transition from Partition to border studies is yet to be seen. And unless that is so, Partition will cease to be of interest to contemporary research and border narratives will not be historicised or contextualised. This talkis about trying to understand this transition through personal experiences of the author, as a third-generation member of a Partition family as well as a researcher of the Bengal border.
Debdatta Chowdhury is, at present, an independent scholar. She served as a faculty member in Gender Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) till May 2019. Her areas of interest include border studies, partition narratives, post-memory, and identity politics. Her doctoral research on border narratives has been published as Identities and Experiences at the India-Bangladesh Border: A Crisis of Belonging (Routledge,2018).