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Accepted Papers:

Invisible Borders: Partition and the Social and Mental Scape of the Calcutta Metropolis  


Subhasree Ghosh (Asutosh College, University of Calcutta)

Paper Short Abstract:

With the 1947 Partition of British India and the burgeoning stream of refugees as the backdrop, this paper analyses how the social and mental scape of the urban space of Calcutta came to be fractured along various fault lines that created borders--more 'felt' rather than 'seen'.

Paper long abstract:

This paper does not focus on borders or borderland per se, but seeks to flesh out the dynamics and varying equations played out in the very heartland of an urban centre, located away from the margins of the nation-state. Taking the city of Calcutta as the site of study against the backdrop of the 1947 Partition, this paper attempts to explore the psyche of the inhabitants that translated into fractured social space within the city, leading to pockets/enclaves/ghettos. Culling information from a wide array of sources, namely, oral narratives, memoirs, government documents, the paper would try to identify the fissures and fractures among the residents of the city which eventually was reflected in the re-contouring of the living pattern. Fault-lines operated at several levels—between the migrants and the local Hindu population (both sharing the same religion and speaking the same mother-tongue with variations in dialect), between the migrants (based on their original place of residence back in East Bengal), between the local Muslims and the migrants (both belonging to the same ethnic stock and often speaking the same language with variations in dialect), between the local Muslim population (both sharing the same religion but variations in economic status and language)—the borders that remain etched in the recesses of the mind and get translated in the social scape of the metropolis. Thus, though located away from the border in the physical sense of the term, the metropolis displays an uneven socio-cultural-linguistic topography with several 'zones of contestation.'

panel U04
Urban borderlands at the crossroads of anthropology and geography: spatiality, perceptions and social reproduction in a multiscalar perspective