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1948, the War of Partition

Tue, December 18, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 2 Complex


The paper’s aim is to relocate the War or 1948 in a transnational context of twentieth century partition politics, and to rethink it as a War of Partition. Such a reframing would allow us to situate it in a global context, in par with the Irish partition of 1922 and side-by-side next to the contemporaneous violent South Asian partitions resulting in the creation of modern India and Pakistan in 1947. Tracing back to idea of partition to interwar years and locating it in a British imperial context, pushes us to scrutinize some conventional narratives about the road to national sovereignty. Above all, the pre-1948 history of partition politics shows that it has emerged first and foremost as one piece of an imperially sponsored restructuring of the global order along ethno-national lines. Partition was part of a new, sophisticated arsenal of political tools of indirect and informal imperial rule. And yet, the way in which the theory turned into practiced in 1947-8, in the context of imperial breakdown, changed its meaning. Ultimately partition turned into a quick and dirty “exit strategy” of an empire in retreat, opposite from the original intentions. Read from that angle, to story of partition and the road to 1948 turns about to be a story of unintended consequence.


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