ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Affective Disputes with the ‘State’: Caste and Gendered Dimensions of Narrating Displacement in Post-Partition Shillong


Bhattacharjee Tannishtha


29 – Travelling stories, bodies and genres and the making of communities


 This paper uses vignettes that bureaucratic archives of rehabilitation offer in the aftermath of the Partition in Shillong to analyze how three Hindu-Sylheti women articulate their conditions of displacement. First, my paper is a re-reading of archival logics, and the ways in which these women utilize limited templates of a ‘petition’ to narrate diverse experiences of dispossession and displacement. Second, my paper locates these diverse experiences of a mother, a wife and a daughter within the political economy of an emergent urbanity of postcolonial Shillong, paying attention particularly to how caste, class and occupational clusters designed the spatial orders of rehabilitation schemes in Shillong. In deploying these two lenses of reading the ‘story’ element of petitional articulations, I argue that not only is a bounded sense of Sylheti-self with inconspicuous caste-class boundaries constituted through the narrative economy of rehabilitation petitions. But also, that, such affective appeals are formative and constitutive of the nation’s infrastructure of care as well, particularly when posed through gendered interactions. Drawing from Veena Das’ and Vazira Zamindar’s work, this paper enmeshes new readings of bureaucratic archives with a reconceptualization of the ‘state’ as a fuzzy and contingent effect instead of as a stable and a given entity.