11 July 2019
Known for the elegance of her prose as much as for the sharpness of her insights into Indian history, Joya Chatterji’s new book will enthral everyone interested in modern India’s apocalyptic past.
She provides here a selection of her finest and most influential essays. “Partition, nation-making, frontiers, refugees, minority formation, and categories of citizenship have been my preoccupations,” she says. These are also the major themes of this book.
Chatterji’s Bengal Divided (1994) shifted the focus from Muslim fanaticism as the driving force of Partition towards “secular” nationalism and Hindu aggression. Her Spoils of Partition (2007) rejected the idea of Partition as a breaking apart, showing it as a process for remaking society and state. Her third (jointly written) book, Bengal Diaspora (2016), challenged the idea of migration and resettlement as exceptional situations. Partition’s Legacies can be seen as continuous with Chatterji’s earlier work as well as a distillation and expansion of it.
According to David Washbrook, “What emerges from these essays is often quite startling. The demarcation of Partition followed no master plan but was made up of myriad ad hoc decisions. Refugee policy, immigrant rights, and even definitions of national citizenship were produced out of day-to-day struggles on the streets and in the courts . . .”