Demanding the impossible: exploring the possibilities of a national partition museum in India

This article examines what is arguably a paradox: given the unique position held by the events of the 1947 Partition in the collective consciousness of the Indian subcontinent, why is there no national partition museum anywhere in India? The article analyses the possible reasons for this absence, evaluates the arguments for establishing such a museum, and considers what shape it might take. In doing so, it looks at possible models of museums from within the subcontinent and at how the Indian Partition is represented in Britain by the Imperial War Museum in London, in its project Through My Eyes: Stories of Conflict, Belonging and Identity. The article argues that while it is important not to assume that the space of a museum can unproblematically transcend cultural differences (remembering that the institution of a museum is a necessarily western invention), it is equally important to examine the ways in which museums in both India and in Britain reflect the concerns of the contemporary state and its various vested interests in constructing and reinforcing particular narratives of history and memory.

Anindya Raychaudhuri
Taylor & Francis Online