The Bengal Diaspora
Muslim Migrants in Britain, India and Bangladesh
Routledge – 2015 – 256 pages
Recent decades have witnessed the growth of a new interest, both scholarly and political, in migration and diaspora. This book focuses on three groups of Muslim Bengali migrants. One group had migrated across international borders after partition and settled in Britain; the second had crossed borders but had settled in the neighbouring nation state of East Pakistan/Bangladesh in South Asia itself; the third had crossed no borders but had been internally displaced within West Bengal in India, or within Bangladesh after it was formed in 1971.
Based on groundbreaking new research in India, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom, this is the first study to compare internal displacees with international migrants and refugees. The analysis pays attention to the vitally important inter-connections and interactions between the different groups. The authors offer a historical perspective, exploring different phases of migration and settlement, evolving legal frameworks and the shifting formations of ‘community’. They also use the life history approach to present the diverse voices and experiences of migrants. Finally, the book describes the hidden experiences of marginalised and silenced groups, such as women, refugees, ‘infiltrators’, illegal workers and brides. The combination of these historical, sociological and anthropological methods and materials result in an interdisciplinary approach to diaspora and migration, which makes this book a unique contribution to the field.
1. Introduction Part 1: Histories of Mobile Begal 2. Mobility in the Bengal delta: a long duree perspective 3. Dispositions and destinations: ‘mobility capital’ and migrant agency in the Bengal diaspora Part 2: Borders, Border Crossings and Diaspora 4. Class, status and belonging in the Bengal borderlands 5. Brick Lane and ‘Bangla Town’: making diaspora space in London’s East End 6. Marriage as migration: brides at home in diaspora 7. Licit and illicit worlds: the joys and sorrows of Chicken Tikka Masala Part 3: Performing, Commemorating and Narrating Diaspora 8. Commemorating displacement and genocide: the Bihari Moharram in Dhaka 9. The Mela and Shahid Minar in Tower Hamlets: Contesting Diaspora Space 10. Migration myths and the mechanics of assimilation: community histories from Bengal and Britain 11. Conclusion
Claire Alexander is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics. She has written widely on issues of race, ethnicity, citizenship and community cohesion in the UK, as well as on theories of diaspora.
Joya Chatterji is is Reader in Modern South Asian History at the University of Cambridge. She is an authority on the partition of Bengal and its aftermath, and on Bengali refugees and internal displaces.
Annu Jalais is a post-doctoral fellow at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. She has worked with Bengali refugees and has researched and published on Bengali refugees.