The Coloniality and Decolonising of Memory TFDC 2.14
Jul 06, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230706T1330 20230706T1500 Europe/London 7.5. Partition at 75

The Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination (MMPI) research team at Loughborough University are proposing a panel at the 2023 MSA Conference. For the past 5 years, the MMPI team has been researching memories of the 1947 Partition of British India that circulate within British Asian communities. Building on the underpinning research of MMPI, this panel will explore the legacy of (inherited) memories of 1947 within communities of South Asian heritage in Europe, and their intersection with other significant moments in the history of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.2022 marked the 75th anniversary of the partition of the subcontinent into the two independent states of Pakistan and India. This is an event whose memories still linger on within South Asian communities, and still impact inter-community relations across national (especially between people of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani heritage) and religious lines. But for people of South Asian heritage in Europe, the Partition of British India is an event rarely remembered in isolation, as its memories are inextricably linked to memories of colonialism and are also entwined with memories of the Liberation War of Bangladesh (1971), the 1972 expulsion from Uganda and the broader migration from East Africa amid Africanisation policies. In this panel, scholars are invited to discuss the social and cultural significance of these memories for South Asian diasporic communities. In particular, we aim to explore the entanglements of these memories and processes of remembering in the diasporic contexts, and the ways in which practices of commemorating allow (or inhibit) changes within communities

Radha Kapuria

Gendering Musical Memories of 1947 in tripartite 'Punjab' 

This paper will examine t ...

TFDC 2.14 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The Migrant Memory and the Postcolonial Imagination (MMPI) research team at Loughborough University are proposing a panel at the 2023 MSA Conference. For the past 5 years, the MMPI team has been researching memories of the 1947 Partition of British India that circulate within British Asian communities. Building on the underpinning research of MMPI, this panel will explore the legacy of (inherited) memories of 1947 within communities of South Asian heritage in Europe, and their intersection with other significant moments in the history of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.
2022 marked the 75th anniversary of the partition of the subcontinent into the two independent states of Pakistan and India. This is an event whose memories still linger on within South Asian communities, and still impact inter-community relations across national (especially between people of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani heritage) and religious lines. But for people of South Asian heritage in Europe, the Partition of British India is an event rarely remembered in isolation, as its memories are inextricably linked to memories of colonialism and are also entwined with memories of the Liberation War of Bangladesh (1971), the 1972 expulsion from Uganda and the broader migration from East Africa amid Africanisation policies. In this panel, scholars are invited to discuss the social and cultural significance of these memories for South Asian diasporic communities. In particular, we aim to explore the entanglements of these memories and processes of remembering in the diasporic contexts, and the ways in which practices of commemorating allow (or inhibit) changes within communities



Radha Kapuria

Gendering Musical Memories of 1947 in tripartite 'Punjab' 

This paper will examine the musical memories of Partition through the perspective of women: as performers, patrons, and listeners. The history of Hindustani or classical music is typically dominated by the experience of male virtuosos, and is often narrated by male interlocutors, sidelining the voices, life stories and experiences of female performers. I will begin with a general background survey into the experience of prominent female musicians affected by 1947: Madam Noor Jehan, Farida Khanum, Roshanara Begum, Iqbal Bano and Malka Pukhraj, who became Pakistani citizens, and Surinder Kaur, Parkash Kaur, Shamshad Begum and Shanno Khurana, who became Indian citizens. Beyond performers, I will also focus on the narratives of Partition in the memories relayed by two women, both born in 1947, who patronised South Asian music both in the subcontinent and in Britain: Khurshid Aulia, daughter of the late Us. Alla Rakha, the famous tabla exponent of the Punjab gharana, and Dr Ghazala Irfan, daughter of Hayat Ahmed Khan, the founder of the All Pakistan Musical Conference. Finally, to contrast the experiences of these urban and elite women, the paper will also reflect on the memories of Partition songs as narrated by rural Pakistani Punjabi women in an ongoing pilot ethnographic project on 'Punjabi Women's Partition Music' funded by the University of California at Davis. Using these three disparate groups of women, representing a diversity of musical genres (classical, film song and folk) as my entry point into musical memories of the Partition in tripartite 'Punjab'–broadly understood as existing in India, Pakistan and in the diaspora–I will explore how affect and aurality have shaped a distinctly gendered mode of remembering the cataclysm of 1947.


Nathan Ritchie

'Mediating Mountbatten' The Representation of the Last Viceroy of India in the British Press since 1947

When Britain departed India in August 1947 the British press portrayed the unwinding of the Raj as the fulfillment of a long civilizing mission. The press reached a remarkably consensual verdict on Britain's decision to Partition India and struck a self-congratulatory tone in reporting the event (Kaul, 2013). The protagonist of the narrative of Partition in the eyes of the mainstream press was the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten. Through his charm and guile, Mountbatten was able to, as his daughter Pamela Mountbatten worded it, 'seduce' key politicians in India and the world's media. With the help of his Press Attaché Alan Campbell-Johnson and a complicit British press looking to represent British departure in a way that preserved national 'pride and dignity', Mountbatten enjoyed overwhelming support in the media and was actively encouraged to maintain the speed at which he carried out Britain's departure. This haste has since been criticized by many who have regarded the rapidity of Partition as a causal factor in the subsequent atrocities which befell the sub-continent.

Whilst there has been research on the media representation of Mountbatten at the time of the event (Kaul, 2008,2013; Woods, 2006) there has been little scholarly inquiry into how the media have re-presented the legacy of Mountbatten in India ever since. This research embarks to add the later chapters by viewing the representation of this prominent figure in the story of Partition as a recursive and developing process. Specifically, it endeavors to understand how the cultural memory of Mountbatten's time in India has been reshaped and reimagined over time in the British national press. This paper reveals that there has been a drastic shift in the tone of coverage about Mountbatten over time which intensified after his death in 1979. It is argued that Mountbatten continues to embody British involvement in the Partition and consequently his legacy has become intertwined with the wider post-colonial critique of the British Empire. Investigating the treatment of Mountbatten in the press, therefore,


Julia Giese

Heroines and Divisions: Muslim and Hindu British Bangladeshi women remembering the longue durée of Partition

This paper engages with the mnemonic negotiations of the longue durée of Partition, including the interconnected events of the first Partitions of Bengal, the 1947 Partition of British India, the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, and subsequent migration, among Hindu and Muslim British Bangladeshi women in London. Framing the Partitions of Bengal as an ongoing process allows for an insight into multiple journeys, homes, and memories among the female Bangladeshi diaspora in Britain today. Based on two years of ethnographic work in Tower Hamlets, London, I found that Hindu and Muslim respondents have to navigate different mnemonic landscapes. Muslim research participants often remembered the Partitions of Bengal in the vein of fantastic adventures. They portray their aunts and grandmothers as the heroines of rural Bengal and highlight stories of solidarity among different communities. The Hindu respondents share, however, more troublesome memories of the Partitions of East Bengal. Thus, the stories of heroines and solidarity among Muslim British Bangladeshi women in London are not a symptom of a shared trauma of Partition but respond to a sense that shared notions of memory and belonging started to erode during this time. The narrative of the heroine is getting even more complicated recognising the memories of the later Independence War of Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first prime minister of Bangladesh, coined the term Birangona (war heroine), to acknowledge women that were violated during the war but this quickly reversed into discrimination and silencing of women. Becoming a symbol of the barbarism of Pakistani rule, Muslim and Hindu women rarely were able to become agents in public remembrance. The contemporary investment into the narrative of the heroine in the process of navigating these complicated and ongoing mnemonic negotiations in London today can be interpreted as an expression of a desire to form coherent and meaningful memories and forms of belonging and to synthesise experiences of the longue durée of Partition with present-day realities among Hindu and Muslim British Bangladeshi women.


Assistant Professor
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Durham University
University Teacher
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Loughborough University
Research Associate
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Loughborough University
Research Associate
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Loughborough University, London
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