I was inspired to take “Past Performed” by a class I took my first semester, “Hybrid Identities.” In this course, we explored contemporary conflicts of cultural identity and representation through academic writings on hybridity and authenticity, personal narratives, and self- reflection. We concluded the semester with a performance piece inspired by our own experiences of attempting to find, and maintain an “authentic” sense of self. I was particularly interested in the personal accounts we read, and the role they played in helping us understand, and ultimately creatively perform, interpretations of our own identity formation. Taking past performed seemed like a logical next step in further investigating issues of cultural identity, personal narratives, and the role of performance in the retelling of histories.
My initial reaction to the readings we discussed in the beginning of the semester was one of surprise. I came into the course with a basic understanding of partition, but I did not grasp the sheer magnitude of the demographic upheaval, and communal violence, that took place leading up to 1947. As we delved further into our research, I became acutely aware of how over simplified, and inaccurate my prior understanding of partition was. I have no memory of the conflict in India and Pakistan, the largest migration in human history, and the cause of over one million deaths, ever being brought up to me in educational setting; a fact that irked me as we read the stories of the victims of partition violence (Khan, 55).
The many factors that lead to the escalation of conflict, and ultimately to the brutal violence, and mass displacement in 1947, were hard for me to wrap my head around. I realized that the partition of India...
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...with the reality that behind all official histories, there are millions of personal stories. If we hear the voices of individuals-their tears, and laughter, and silences- we cannot remain immune to their suffering; we cannot forget they are human, and while we will never understand their pain, we cannot help but try (Jha,471).
Butalia, Urvashi. The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000. Print.
Jha, Sadan. "On Listening To Violence: Reflections of a Researcher of the Partition of India." Sarai Reader: Turbulence (2006): n. pag. Web. 1 May 2014.
Khan, Yasmin. The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007. Print.
Sarkar, Mahua. "Between Craft and Method: Meaning and Inter-subjectivity in Oral History Analysis." Journal of Historical Sociology 25.4 (2012): 578-600. Print.
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