The Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 displaced Hindu-Sylhetis from their territorial home in Sylhet, which is today in Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. The circulatory movement of Sylhetis between East Pakistan and India that ensued for two decades triggered the new postcolonial nation to accommodate rehabilitation of the community within an urbanizing landscape of the regional capital of Shillong. My dissertation explores the ways in which class and caste locations of displaced Sylhetis informed their various technologies of self-making as Hindu political subjects of the Indian nation-state amidst growing anxieties of belonging, dispossession and inter-religious tension. It also utilizes the encounters of these displaced people with ‘state’ enterprises of rehabilitation while they sought to reinvent themselves as citizens as a granular look at the making of the ‘state’ of the new nation and spatial orders of urban Shillong. I use bureaucratic archives of rehabilitation, land relations and urban planning in dialogue with ethnographic fieldwork to demystify the making of the ‘state’ and register the postcolonial continuum in which novel claims about nationhood are situated.
Advisor: Mary Hancock, Anshu Malhotra
Dissertation Committee Members: Utathya Chattopadhyaya, Kate McDonald