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UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Partition of Identity: An exploration of Belonging in Bengalis in Pakistan, 1971- 2021

Disclaimer: The data for this page has been produced from IATI data published by UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Please contact them (Show Email Address) if you have any questions about their data.

Programme Data Last Updated: 23/03/2022

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-AH_T000619_1


Following the violent Liberation War of 1971 in which Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan, there was a wave of migration from Bangladesh to the more economically stable Pakistan. Often settling in Sindh province, particularly Karachi, these Bengali migrants have participated widely in the Pakistani economy. Many have been refused citizenship rights in line with the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951 and despite their Pakistan-born children and grandchildren having little direct knowledge of Bangladesh, they remain without official documentation. This can create challenges in everyday activities (around education, employment and health) and strengthen the idea that they are not 'true' Pakistani citizens as emphasised by a wider state narrative. Recently, with the arrival of a newly elected government, momentum has been building towards granting the community full rights. Moreover, with the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's creation in 2021 drawing ever closer, our project comes at a critical time. Our research takes place in 3 phases and overall, we aim to investigate how the identities and contributions of these Bengali migrants are understood within the community, and how they have they been understood by a wider Pakistani state narrative since 1971. Furthermore, we aim to understand how these two accounts influence each other. No existing record of this group exists. By co-producing a new history of identity, activism, migration memory and belonging with our interviewees and arts partners, we will ensure that the voices of Pakistani Bengalis are recorded and heard. Our sample will be diverse including Pakistani Bengali men, women and young people of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our project will: - transform academic and public understandings of how lack of citizenship influences social identity and sense of belonging, and stimulates resistance, among Bengalis in Pakistan, particularly in young people. This will be through creating written and aural records from this group, accessible for anyone to read or listen to. - expand understandings of how social representations of minority groups can influence their treatment and social positioning in the developing world - enhance awareness of the Pakistani Bengali minority group in terms of its cultural heritage and socio-economic contribution to Pakistan through the range of project outputs The project will be conducted with a series of partners based in the UK and Pakistan. These include: UCL, Where the PI is based, Lahore University of Management Science, where the Co-I is based, the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, National College of Arts, Lahore Students Union and Pakistan Institute for Education and Labour Research. Our partners will be involved to differing degrees in the 3 research phases. In Phase 1 we will conduct a strategic search through historical, policy and media documents for depiction of the community. This will inform the interview and archival elicitation work in Phases 2 and 3. It will also give information on wider state and media representation of this group. Phase 2 will involve oral history interviews and archival elicitation with 48 adults and 30 young people. We will also conduct art workshops with young people. Here we will gather information on community representation of self. In Phase 3, artists and musicians will re-imagine both state representation and also community representations to produce new outputs based on the community. By the end of the project, we will have created and developed a new oral history archive, art and music based on the research, a documentary, a website, online exhibition, museum exhibition, two output events, media articles, 3 journal articles and co-edited book. Most importantly, we will advance the field by generating important new knowledge regarding the Bengali community in Pakistan following their migration in 1971 and ensure that their stories are told and voices are heard.


Created in 1947 after the partition of the subcontinent by the British and one of the largest mass migrations in history, Pakistan only had to wait 24 years before it was divided again, this time following a Liberation War with India, and Bengali Nationalists. This saw the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. A large migration of Bengalis into Pakistan followed this event. As a result, there are nearly 2.8 million Bengalis in Pakistan today. Partition of Identity, focuses on those Pakistani Bengalis arriving in Pakistan after 1971, now in their 3rd generation. Many from this community continue to be denied citizenship rights due to state policy. This results in challenges in everyday existence, but further reinforces the sense that they are not 'authentic' Pakistani citizens. By providing the first well-informed and accurate portrayal of this migrant community, we aim through documentary, oral historical and art work to shed light on how the identities and contributions of Bengali migrants are understood within the community, and how they have they been understood by a wider Pakistani state narrative since 1971. Furthermore, we aim to understand how these two accounts influence each other. To answer this, our key research questions are: 1. How are Bengali migrants historically and culturally represented in Pakistan? 2. How do these social representations and lack of citizenship rights influence how Bengalis describe their identity and sense of belonging to Pakistan? 3. What forms of resistance have people from these groups developed in response to the lack of citizenship rights and access to resources? 4. How do members of the younger generations of Pakistani Bengalis understand the migration history and subsequent lives of their parents and grandparents, and how do they relate this to their own lived experiences in Pakistan? The project is multi-disciplinary, drawing on history, social psychology and arts-based research. Social Representation Theory (1961) will be used to explore issues of identity, belonging and migration in relation to Bengalis in Pakistan. This draws from the disciplines of History and social Psychology and is best suited for our research. Our objectives are: 1. To gain an in-depth understanding of the everyday experiences of Bengalis in Pakistan, and particularly how they describe their identity and sense of belonging; 2. To create a lasting oral history archive and use visual and textual methods to explore the social representation of Bengalis through documenting their migration histories and experiences in Pakistan; 3. To involve people from this group in the co-production of knowledge and outputs. 4. To disseminate outputs at high-profile events using a range of professional, academic, policy and community networks, and thereby to raise awareness of the Pakistani Bengali community. The proposed research will advance the field by creating new methodological skills, cross-disciplinary work through bridging history and psychology with art-based approaches, development of theory, building links with academics in the field, gaining recognition in the area of migration and minority studies and south Asia. Most importantly, we want to tell this untold story and in doing so significantly raise the profile of this minority group and ensure that their stories and voices are heard. In addition, to research objectives, the project also provides career develop objectives for the PI and Co-I, around gaining project and grant management experience, supervising and mentoring skills (with RAs), opportunities to coordinate a large network, and develop further inter-disciplinary and multidisciplinary research skills. The RAs will also gain research methods and theoretical skills, academic knowledge and contribution through writing and conference attendance and management skills in organising and conducting fieldwork.

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