Practices of Musealization and Archivization the Partition of India (1947)


After ruling the country for about two centuries the British left India in 1947. Before departing, they partitioned the subcontinent into three parts and two countries: India and Pakistan, on the basis of religious majority. The eventuality of the Partition was traumatic, it permanently changed the demography and geography of that region. Few millions were uprooted, several hundred thousand people were killed, uncountable numbers were raped, converted, and faced the violent outcome of this event. The wound of the Partition is still present there; this is the reason for mistrust and suspicion among the countries and communities in South Asia. The tragic history of Partition was sidelined and silenced for many decades from the official history of this event. Memories of loss, trauma, and displacement as a result of the Partition are featured in a number of films, a range of literature, and oral history – but museums have kept such memories behind the curtain for a long time.

Only very recently the museums and archives made a concrete attempt to commemorate the Partition. In 2017 the Partition Museum, in Amritsar opened its gate, and this museum aims to become the repository of Information and stories of the Partition. The city of Kolkata, India is also establishing the Kolkata Partition Museum. Delhi is also preparing to open up its Partition Museum this year. Besides museum, few online archives are coming forward to preserving and sharing the memories of Partition. Thus, in India, after a long silence, a few museums and archives are coming forward with commemorative practices of Partition atrocities. Besides India, the two other Partition-affected countries, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are not taking any notable initiative to recall the Partition, and Partition memories continue to be a side plot in the larger museal representations of national histories.

This research project combines the memories of India’s Partition with museums and digital archives. It is aimed to compare how the entangled memories of the event Partition of India are commemorated in the museums and digital archives of the three countries affected by the Partition: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. How are Partition memories expressed in the interplay of various media at the disposal of museums and archives in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh? Why were Partition memories silenced or in a state of amnesia for many decades? What are the politics of silencing/remembering the Partition in museums and digital archives? This project includes how the politics of remembering and forgetting influences the construction of nationhood in the museums in the South Asian context. By investigating all these points this study will provide a better understanding of the practices of remembering Partition memories.

Since 2019

Doctoral candidate:
Aniruddha Kar

Sonja Kmec
Hans Harder

CET members:

Monica Juneja
Frédéric Clavert