Bharti Kher

Partition: Trauma, Literature, and Nationalism

Instructor: Amrita Ghosh
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

In August, 1947, after more than two hundred years of colonial rule, the British departed the Indian subcontinent, negotiating its partition into two independent nation states—Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. What followed was a vast, harrowing, and deadly mass migration, with nearly twelve million uprooted and forced to flee, Muslims to West and East Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs to India. The ensuing violence—massacres, rape, abductions, and forced conversion on a massive scale—was as unexpected as it was unprecedented: how, in a culture where shared languages and traditions had for centuries linked rather than divided religious communities, could such a catastrophic disintegration have happened so abruptly? The rupture that was Partition continues not only to shape geopolitics in the region—as evinced in cross-border politics, mobility, migration, and competing, even virulent, nationalisms—but has also generated a rich body of cultural production, in literature, film, and the visual arts. In the view of Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal, Partition is the defining historical event of 20th-century South Asia, with indelible impacts on the ways that its peoples and states “envisage their past, present, and future.” How has Partition imprinted itself upon the lived reality as well as the imagination of the region, and what are its cultural and political legacies today?

This course will serve as an introduction to the history, critical scholarship, and cultural production that emerged from the catastrophic founding of three nation states: India, Pakistan, and, later, Bangladesh. Alongside critical and historical scholarship from the likes of Gyandendra Pandey, Yacoobali Zamindar,  Kavita Daiya, Suvir Kaul, and Urvashi Butalia, we will read writers from the Partition moment, including Qurratulain Hyder and Bapsi Sidhwa; from the 20th-century anti-imperialist Progressive Writers’ Movement, such as Sadaat Hasan Manto, Joginder Paul, and Intizar Hussain; as well as contemporary writers whose literature is focused on the enduring legacies of Partition, among them Amitav Ghosh and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. We will also approach Partition’s knotted legacy through the medium of film, including Bollywood productions as well as films made in so-called “parallel” Indian and Pakistani cinema industries. How do visual and literary cultures process, assimilate, and contest the narrative of Partition—and reflect the geopolitical conditions that it generated? How might an understanding of Partition shed light on the ultranationalist politics that characterize wide swaths of the region today? 

Course Schedule

Sunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
June 09 — June 30, 2024
4 weeks

$335.00

Registration Open

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