ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Family Portraits: Mapping the Changing History of the Bangladesh-Northeast India Border through Biographies of Different Generations


Hölzle Éva Rozália - Bielefeld University, Social Anthropology, Bielefeld, Germany


16 – Re-orienting Borderlands:Beyond spatial fixations in South Asia


 A comprehensive understanding of borderlands and how larger political events continuous to impact borderland lives in South Asia, necessitates the use of other sources than archival documents and state records. It requires the documentation of people’s narratives inhabiting the borderlands. Rather than focusing on the narratives of one generation impacted by a major political event, this paper aims to map out the changing history of the Bangladesh-Northeast India borderland through the biographies of seven siblings belonging to different generations. The siblings in the ethnographic focus are members of a War-Khasi family living in a Bangladeshi village adjacent to the Tripura border. A methodological approach recording and comparing the biographies of people belonging to different generations reveals the historical transformation of borderlands, and the changing significance of political events shaping borderland lives as time goes by. While some political events figure large in the lives of one generation, the significance of the same political event may fade as one focuses on life stories of other generations within the same family. Consequently, the history of a family not only provides insights into family events but also enables the follow-up of larger social changes that glimmer in family portraits. Thus, the family is not an isolated social form, rather, it represents a configuration that condenses major historical, political, and social changes.