SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

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


Date: 18 January 2019Time: 9:45 AM

Finishes: 19 January 2019Time: 5:00 PM


Type of Event: Conference


Sindh and Gujarat lie either side of the border between Pakistan and India formed by Partition in 1947. Academics, novelists and artists have long shown rich historical, linguistic and cultural similarities between the regions. Existing scholarship is however largely backward looking, dwelling on severed traditions, divided populations and lost forms of commensality and culture.

The impulse to explore common humanity and shared interest to counter the hard divide of the border and subsequent international hostility has been strong and understandable. Nostalgia for a common past has been cultivated to offset the brash claims of contemporary jingoistic nationalism. The unspoken assumption seems to be that a magical return to former times is the antidote to otherwise tension without imaginable end.

It is tempting to see the international border as a line of symmetry; it is the case that in Sindh, nearly one in ten people is Hindu; in Gujarat, one in ten is Muslim. Both regions are associated with trade, diaspora and metropolitan ports. However, our premise is that Sindhi nationalism, development politics and cultural concerns have taken a very different trajectory to those seen in Gujarat, just as they have within Pakistan and India as wholes. New forms of geopolitics are transforming the direction that both regions face and to who and where their populations aspire.

The conference papers will explore the following themes 

  • Critically engage with the way the border is described, understood and imagined in each region.
  • Examine the ways Sindh is thought of in Gujarat and Gujarat in Sindh.
  • Explore how seven decades of post-independence national politics have produced different regions with different trajectories, expectations and cultural forms.
  • Ask how diasporic communities in urban spaces have both been co-opted and resisted dominant hegemonies of religion and nation.
  • Describe how minority groups such the Dalits are increasing their visibility as they carve out a space in the collective imaginings of the region.
  • Compare how monsoonic geographies created trade networks leading to varying intersection of these regions with Indian Ocean histories.

The conference will be held at the Royal Anthropological Institute on Friday, 18 January, and B202 (Brunei Building, SOAS) on Saturday, 19 January 2019. 

The event is free but registration essentail. Click here to register. 

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4390