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Philipp Seuferling (Södertörn University)
Preconditions of refugee voice: the mediation of memory and witnessing in the refugee camp

The paper presents an analysis of media practices in refugee camps in Germany since 1945 to suggest the perspective of media history as a fruitful approach to refugee history. Archival material is used to trace media practices in the making of refugee camps’ space, time and politics, and thereby provide historical insights into circularities, ruptures and continuities of media practices and their entanglement with being and being made a refugee. The examples show how media negotiate and enable how camp space is produced, governed and controlled through media practices around media infrastructure, such as architecture, media-technological equipment, and administrational practices. Secondly, refugee camps are characterized by multiple ruptured, limbo-like temporalities, which are managed through media practices of memory and witnessing. And thirdly, media practices show to be forms of altering and challenging the othering politics of the camp, through mediated forms of resistance and protest. The paper discusses the perspective of media theory in order to showcase the historical existentiality of media practices, which regardless of media-technological environment have been employed in projects of negotiating and coping with being and being made a refugee.

Aiswarya Sanath (Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur)
Oral and material memory of refugee displacement: situating the memoryscapes of Indian Partition of 1947

The 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of the twin states, India and Pakistan led to a unique rupture in world history. The event is an exhaustive repository for meaning-making, metaphors, identity construction, and conceptions of ethnic violence in the Indian subcontinent. The study will enquire into notions of home/un-home, belonging/uprooting among the Partition refugees, and will try to understand assimilation, alienation and acculturation of Partition refugee communities to their new cultures and identities. Towards this objective, the research will try to analyze the oral narratives and the material objects (family heirlooms, photographs, journal entries, and spatial articulations) of the Partition refugees. This paper will try to comprehend how memory and forgetting were employed in the practices of settledness, and perceive the various memories of home and travel culture that the migrants carried to the host cities. It also tries to identify how the memories of Partition within the migrant communities are different from the institutionalized memories of Partition. By this process it is hoped that the politics behind the exclusion/inclusion of certain narratives in the official discourse will be brought to the forefront. In analysing the memories related to Partition, the research will consider these oral and material narratives as embedded with cultural memory production, reconstruction and reconfiguration. The paper will employ ethnographic and archival research methods to address these concerns. 

Anirban Chanda and Yashowardhan Tiwari (Jindal Global University)
The use of oral accounts in documenting refugee history: a study of the Marijhapi Island Massacre in West Bengal (1979) and the exodus of Hindu Pundits from Kashmir (1989-91) 

This paper endeavours to analyse the usage and reliance on oral accounts in retelling refugee history in India. Our aim is to focus on the plight of thousands of refugees who were victims of communal violence and state atrocities, and who continue to be overlooked by contemporary scholarship due to absence of traditional forms of material evidence. The Marijhapi Massacre is a forgotten chapter in the post-colonial history of West Bengal which saw a massive and violent state-sponsored uprooting of thousands of Dalit Refugees who had arrived from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) and sought to consolidate themselves into an independent working community in Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal. The ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pundits’ was a dark phase in the history Kashmir from 1989 onwards which witnessed a series of anti-Hindu attacks and pogroms organised by violent groups of Muslim insurgents which culminated in an exodus of thousands of native Hindu Kashmiri families. Throughout this work, we emphasise on the importance of documenting the oral testimonies of the survivors, which continue to remain a very important source of information in contributing to our understanding of the various reasons that were instrumental in begetting the occurrence of these two unfortunate incidents.

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This event is based on discussion of short pre-circulated papers. Please contact the seminar convenors to request copies: