Accepted Paper:

Uncertain nation, uncertain stories: anthropology, fiction and a displaced Kashmiri community  


Ankur Datta (South Asian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how anthropological research and contemporary fiction of displaced Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir challenge the dominant narrative of forced migration in India. Anthropologists and fiction writers are attuned to the uncertainty of forced migrant experiences, unlike nation-states.

Paper long abstract:

Since the partition of India in 1947, the condition of forced migration has been foundational to the narrative of the Indian nation-state and a subject of scholarly and artistic interest. Yet, how do these different approaches relate to each other in contemporary India? The paper will take the case of the Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu minority of Kashmir, who were displaced from their homes and became Internally Displaced Persons with the start of the current conflict in Kashmir in 1990. The narrative of the Pandits is over-determined by the history of the conflict and contemporary state discourses which regard the displaced as both in need of assistance and as deviants to the national order. The current narrative of the Pandit exodus critically denies the voices of the Pandits, while favouring that of politicians and bureaucrats.

This paper draws upon anthropological research of displaced Kashmiri Pandits and the work of Sidhartha Gigoo, a Kashmiri novelist and film maker, to see how ethnographic and literary accounts challenge the current narrative of forced migration of the Kashmiri Pandits. The paper will then critically explore how these materials relate to each other. I argue that anthropologists and fiction writers can learn much from each other as they are attuned to capturing the 'uncertainty' of forced migrant experiences, unlike contemporary discourses on forced migration expressed by nation-states and political parties.

Panel P031
Nationalism in fiction and poetry: South Asia in conversation with the world