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Displacement, integration and identity in the postcolonial world

Defining the relationship between displaced populations and the nation state is a fraught historical process. The Partition of India in 1947 provides a compelling example, yet markedly little attention has been paid to the refugee communities produced. Using the case of the displaced ‘Urdu-speaking minority’ in Bangladesh, this article considers what contemporary discourses of identity and integration reveal about the nature and boundaries of the nation state. It reveals that the language of ‘integration’ is embedded in colonial narratives of ‘population’ versus ‘people-nation’ which structure exclusion not only through language and ethnicity, but poverty and social space. It also shows how colonial and postcolonial registers transect and overlap as colonial constructions of ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’ fold into religious discourses of ‘pollution’ and ‘purity’. The voices of minorities navigating claims to belonging through these discourses shed light on a ‘nation-in-formation’: the shifting landscape of national belonging and the complicated accommodations required.

Victoria Redclift
Taylor and Francis Online