CALLIOPE on the road: India and Pakistan: The Formative Phase

Postdoctoral researcher Esha Sil presented a paper in the conference "India and Pakistan: The Formative Phase, 1947 - c.1960" held at Senate House, University of London, on 21-22 May, 2019.

Sil's paper was titled Re-membering East Pakistan: Adda, Bengaliness, and a Materialist Contrapuntalism. The abstract of the paper is as follows:

My paper examined the entangled legacies of India and Pakistan’s ‘formative phase’ via the remembered space of East Pakistan. It demonstrated how the affective topography of a ‘quintessential’ Bengali identity came to be reified, subverted, and reconfigured, variously, in the first decade after the independence of India and Pakistan, through what Ananya Jahanara Kabir has perceptively described as the ‘cartographic conundrum of East Pakistan’ (Partition’s Post-Amnesias, 2013). My analysis of this interstitial space-time between ‘East Bengal’ and ‘Bangladesh’ was executed via the discursive medium of the popular Bengali pastime, adda, which may be best described as a long, informal talking session, interspersing intellectual discussion and debate with gossip and rumour. I deployed as my primary case-study, the adda sessions of an East Bengali grandmother, Tha’mma, in late 1950s Calcutta, on her phantasmic ‘upside-down house’ in Dhaka, from Amitav Ghosh’s 1988 novel The Shadow Lines. I thereby explicated how East Pakistan’s complex regionalization schema cryptically layers the everyday verbal transactions of Tha’mma’s addas, inflecting the rhetorical overlaps between her ‘West’ and ‘East’ Bengali self-determinations. My paper thus excavated the repressed mnemonic realm of an East Pakistani life-world, mobilising the post-Partition temporality of Tha’mma’s addas, to inaugurate a materialist contrapuntal reading of India and Pakistan’s formative histories through a ‘radical capitalist’ reinterpretation of Saidian contrapuntalism.