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Histories and Memories in the Digital Age of Partition Studies

Dr Pippa Virdee
Oral History Review
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Since its 70th anniversary in 2017, a wider public caravan of commemoration led by interested individuals and groups has joined academic studies of India’s Partition. These are more popular among the South Asian Diaspora in the Global North (UK/US), where they are a part of the ‘intellectual decolonization’ agenda. The digital turn in oral history has been a catalyst for this development, in which documentation, production, and consumption are all in digital formats. This essay asks some questions of this growing field, starting with interrogation of its location in the West, away from the partitioned ground and its socio-political realities in the East. The essay retraces the twentieth-century genealogy of oral history and its interaction with Partition Studies prior to the current trends, before commenting upon the place of Partition in Memory Studies. Above all, this essay attempts to question the power dynamics around the ways digital projects excerpt, de-contextualize, and de-politicize oral testimonies, by reducing them to sound bites for wider social and community engagement, in which memory is passively consumed. doi.org/10.1080/00940798.2022.2097877