The silence of partition: borders, trauma, and partition history

In contrast to the story of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan as an epiphenomenal event of independence, this article suggests that the division of British India signaled a unique rupture in which the creation of borders became the defining traumatic event of that history. Moving away from familiar discourses of independence, I argue that the history of the 1947 Partition is a history of borders in which the geographical borders drawn to separate and establish the independent nations of India and Pakistan are at once a concretely historical division and an incomprehensible site of trauma. The border becomes the site of the simultaneity between empirically known realities that constitute specific historical contexts and the overwhelming experience of history that exceeds immediate understanding. From the borders of the 1947 Partition, the subcontinent inherited what I call “a geography of trauma” – a conceptual schema that is at once a geographical and national reality in which people live and an ungraspable experience that refuses boundaries. This article argues that the border created through the Partition becomes the geographical inscription of the meaning and impact of history upon identity – both collective and individual – and demands an impossible yet necessary witness.

Jennifer Yusin
Taylor & Francis Online