The Partition of India – Beyond Improbable Lines

full name / name of organization: 
Elisabetta Marino, Daniela Rogobete

The impressive amount of historical, fictional and analytical texts inspired by the Indian Partition makes it rather difficult for anybody to find a new angle of research that might reveal other unexpected nuances hidden under the layers of textuality the event has already gathered. The plethora of scholarly studies and anthologies focused on the Partition have tried to analyze the innumerable aspects of this historic moment from a variety of perspectives in the attempt to either recreate the event, rememorize and better understand it or to assess its socio, political, historical, national and emotional implications. However, the ethical issues the Partition continues to generate, the intricate problems raised by its multifaceted violence and the myriad untold stories still waiting to be revealed are reason enough to keep looking into the matter for further answers. "There will never be enough novels" – Shauna Singh Baldwin emphasizes – "either by Indians and Pakistanis or by diasporic Indians and Pakistanis to tell the tales of each of 17 million people who became refugees as the two countries celebrated their independence from the British. There will never be enough novels to tell the tales of those who died -- 5 million people."
From Kushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan to Deepa Mehta's cinematographic Trilogy, from Saadat Hasan Manto's Urdu Partition poetry to Butalia's memorable interviews, from Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children to Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Parsee writers and artists have sought the proper means to reveal the Partition in its complexity. Stark realism, naturalism, lyricism and symbolism have by turns been used in describing a phenomenon that engendered communal riots, massive displacement, family disruption, extreme violence and disorientation and that still traumatically haunts the memories of second generation Indians and Pakistanis.
Starting from literary texts and artistic representations, focused not necessarily on an objective assessment of socio-political circumstances and implications but on subjective perception and highlighting the idea of "improbable lines" of demarcation, this volume tries to explore Partition from the perspective of liminal people (women, children, religious communities other than Hindu and Muslim) placed on the thin edge between visibility and invisibility, between existence and non-existence, between self-imposed silence and reinforced erasure. The volume is mainly interested in the way in which these people, refugees in their own lives and caught in the intricate process of reconfiguring physical boundaries and remapping geographical, cultural, political and identitarian spaces, retrace the story of partition by activating their various types of memories (implicit, sensory, material, cultural, communicative etc).
The volume dwells on the process of remembering/re-membering Partition and of its unavoidable narrativization in the attempt to demonstrate that the multiple "truths" engendered by this crucial event in India's history lie along improbable lines randomly traced between history, amnesia and memory, between personal drama and collective trauma, loss and rupture, religion and nationalism, longing and belonging. In the end a couple of questions arise: whether the present has found more definite "lines" and metaphorical boundaries that might circumscribe all unhealed psychological wounds and unexorcised demons into an unrepeatable past, whether the present has also discovered the best means to put together the once partitioned selves of the Indian nation and, finally, whether it has managed to separate willful amnesia from conscious remembering.

Topics may also include but are not restricted to:
• redefinitions of identity engendered by the Partition
• new reconfigurations of domesticity and femininity
• the clash between memory, history and ideology
• symbolic and metaphorical representations of Partition

Deadline for proposals: 1 April
Submission until 30 August (5000-6000 words)

Send your abstract to

Elisabetta Marino
Daniela Rogobete