SOAS University of London

The Familiar Stranger: Exploring Sindh- Gujarat (Dis)connections

30 January 2019

Researchers from Pakistan, India, France, the USA travelled to London to join the SOAS convenors and other UK-based researchers for this two-day conference on 18-19 January. Sixteen papers were presented in 6 panels on issues as diverse as what defines Sindhiness and Gujaritiness, to refugee resettlement and poetry of those exiled by partition. An important aspect of the conference was bringing together scholars based in India and Pakistan in the same room, who otherwise due to geopolitical concerns would not have known about each other’s work.  The conference papers attempted look beyond the tropes that have now become established in studies of the partition of South Asia, by looking beyond Bengal and Punjab, at state making process that have been referred to as the ‘long partition’ that took decades to become established. The conference took view was that the critical year for the looking at the effects of partition on Sindh and Gujarat was 1971, and not 1947.

On the Friday evening Professor Farhana Ibrahim of the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi delivered a public keynote lecture entitled ‘Remembering 1971 in Gujarat: Citizenship and (In)security across civil-military terrains’ to a packed audience in SOAS’s Brunei Gallery. The conference was also treated to a screening of a ‘Everybody needs a tribe’ a documentary film made by Doctor Sanderien Verstappen, of Leiden University about a unique gathering of Vohra Muslin families, a community of Gujarati Muslim, who travel from all over North America to meet distant relatives and make new acquaintances, and to celebrate their shared origins in the Gujarati Charotar region.

The conference was jointly organised and hosted by the SOAS South Asia Institute and The Centre for the Study of Pakistan, SOAS. It is intended that a selection of the papers presented will appear in published form in due course.