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Fragmented Borderlands: Co-existence, Belonging & Shared Histories

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The partition of British India in 1947 has caused far-reaching geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural transitions in contemporary South Asia. These continue to haunt the present dynamics, dividing bureaucracies, armies, and territories between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It introduced and institutionalized a distinct mode of geography, landscape, and conceptual force. The semantic and material partition of these borderlands affected communities on both sides of the territorial boundary in multiple ways and caused the largest mass migration of the 20th century. As a result, previously corresponding, often hybridized socio-cultural identities, affiliations and traditions gradually transformed into means of contestation and negotiations in the borderlands. 

In that context, the seminar aims to focus on global south conceptualizations of borderlands, in particular, the case of South Asia and Partition 1947. The fragmented history of the South Asian borderlands is a complex yet intriguing space for exploration. Firstly, towards transforming postcolonial framings of borders and subsequently focusing on the specificities of cross-border movement and shared history at the frontiers of India. The contemporary implication of the ‘border-line’ drawn and the ‘border-land’ inhabited post-Partition 1947, provides scope to reconsider the borderland communities within their own emotions, histories, belongingness, political consequences and everyday lifeworld.



Jennifer Leaning, MD SMH, Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University
Jennifer Leaning MD SMH is Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, having served for nine years as Director of the Center from 2010-2018.  Retired Professor of the Practice at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, she is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School. From 2005-2010 she served for five years as co-founder and co-director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University.
Her research interests focus on issues of public health in war, international human rights and humanitarian law, and forced migration in conflict and climate change.  She has field experience in the assessment of these issues in a range of crisis situations (including Afghanistan, the African Great Lakes area, Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, the Chad-Darfur border, Israel-Palestine, Kosovo, Lebanon, Russia, Somalia, and Soviet Georgia) and has written widely on these issues, including preparation of reports and policy briefs to US and UN agencies, the International Criminal Court, and major NGOs. She is the lead editor of two books (on nuclear war and humanitarian crises) and most recently of The 1947 Partition of British India: Forced Migration and its Reverberations.  She has served on many boards in the U.S. and internationally, including now as a member of the Steering Committee of the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University, the Steering Committee of the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC), and the Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance.


Ian Talbot Emeritus Professor in the History of Modern South Asia at the University of Southampton
Ian Talbot is an Emeritus Professor in the History of Modern South Asia at the University of Southampton, where he was formerly Head of the History Department and Director of the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies. He received an MA in History from the University of Oxford and a PhD in History from the University of London.
His current research interests focus on the Environmental History of South Asia. His previous research was on British diplomacy in Pakistan. He completed the research and writing up of this study whilst holding a Fellowship at Harvard in 2018. The work was published by Routledge in 2021 under the title of The History of British Diplomacy in Pakistan. Ian Talbot has written extensively on the themes of colonial Punjab, the Partition of India, and the political history of Pakistan. His works on Partition include Divided Cities: Partition and Its Aftermath in Lahore and Amritsar 1947-1957 (OUP 2006); and The Partition of India (with Gurharpal Singh, CUP 2009). His first major publication, Punjab and the Raj (Manohar 1988) set the region’s division in the wider sweep of colonial administration of the province. The study has been republished in 2020 in the Manohar Classics series. His works on Pakistan include Pakistan: A Modern History (Hurst 2009) and Pakistan: A New History (Hurst, 2012). Recent Publications include The History of British Diplomacy in Pakistan (Routledge 2021); A History of Modern South Asia: Politics, States, Diasporas (Yale 2016) and (with Tahir Kamran) Lahore in the Time of the Raj (Penguin, 2016); The History of British Diplomacy in Pakistan (Routledge, 2021).
Srishtee Sethi, India Fellow, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University
Srishtee largely works within the ambit of Borderlands and Migration and has completed her PhD research on the same from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. As a Sociologist, she is interested in the lifeworld of borderland communities and how ‘border management’ encompasses their aspirations. Additionally, she aims to explore which specific legacies of Partition continue to affect the community as well as understand cross-border migrant emplacement within the intertwined networks of political and cultural power. Srishtee was an Assistant Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. At Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie – a civil service training institute, she completed a monograph for IAS officers to be posted at border districts of India. She was a CSDS fellow and an Erasmus plus fellow at the University of Tampere, Finland conducting doctoral research with Pakistani-Hindu cross-border migrants at the western frontiers of India and Pakistan. She has undertaken multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, Rajasthan and Lahore, Pakistan. She has steered independent and collaborative research for initiating small-town narratives on Partition beginning in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
Uma Chakravarti, historian and filmmaker
Uma Chakravarti is an Indian historian and filmmaker. Beginning in the 1980s, Chakravarti wrote extensively on Indian history highlighting issues relating to gender, caste, and class, publishing seven books over the course of her career. Apart from engaging with feminist issues, she has also worked as a democratic rights activist, participating in several fact-finding committees including the International Tribunal on Justice for Gujarat. In her most recent work, she has directed two films, one on the life of a child bride Subbulakshmi who went on to participate in the Indian independence movement and the second on the writer Mythili Sivaraman who worked with laboring men and women, documenting their oppression.