Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora (2021) by Kavita Daiya: A Review

Review by: Nirmala Menon and Sonal Pandey


Graphic Migrations

Print Length: 258 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Yoda Press, New Delhi
Publication Date: 2021
ISBN: 9789382579694

Kavita Daiya's Graphic Migrations, published by Yoda Press, investigates the 1947 Partition through the lens of the transnational, subaltern secular in public culture. Kavita Daiya, through this book, emphasizes Partition via the perspective of migrant, refugee, and minority residents, allowing for innovative ways of understanding the community. Daiya in this book affirms secularism with various cultural items. It acknowledges migrant/refugee/minority people as agents of national history, in contrast to conventional discourses that portray them as objects of sympathy, "outsiders," or burdens on the environment. Daiya skillfully depicts through this text how they are political critics as well as physical and symbolic producers of postcolonial South Asian secular imagined communities. The subaltern secularism is pitted against ethno-nationalist rhetoric, which continues to exclude and produce violence, eroding the secular concept itself. Kavita Daiya traces the expulsions of minorities and the intersections of caste, gender, religion, and sexuality in these expulsions, offering an exploration and analysis of the counter-public sphere, which includes artistic, literary, and activist voices that perform and thus affirm an alternative secular. The secular here is an 'emerging secular' - a resilient and corporeal performance, an ethical manner of being that is continuously formed and renewed in the arena of public culture and everyday life. The link between violent migration and this emerging secularism explains how individual subjectivity and collective community are shaped together. Transnational memory work based on archives – texts and objects – is the focus of Graphic Migrations. It thus tells the story of the Indian nation through the lens of migration, secularism, and citizenship, with some of these texts and objects also created by or in collaboration with Pakistani and Bangladeshi artists, cultural workers, scholars, and critics, revealing the intricacies of what would otherwise be seen as disparate histories.

In the first chapter, 'Partition Is Still Happening': Transmedia and Graphic Secularism, Daiya juxtaposes different pictures and graphic narratives on Partition. She begins by examining hegemonic graphic representations such as those found in the Amar Chitra Katha and educational prints/charts, which emphasise a static, heteronormative inclusivity while reproducing hierarchies and erasing and invisibilizing minorities; and then it maps the visual economy of citizenship and statelessness through popular and subaltern images of migration and secularism in vernacular print culture. The latter is a critique of the postcolonial state that reintroduces memory work that emphasizes wants, histories, intimacies, and emotions linked to border crossings, as well as the experiences of violence survivors. Daiya also questions the perception of Partition as a historical occurrence. Daiya chronicles the continuous bloodshed for those who are still battling for a place to call home, citizenship, and a safe and decent living.

The second chapter, The Ethics and Aesthetics of Witnessing, focuses on literary representations that reveal how ethnic, political, and economic violence are integral to the postcolonial nation-state while also providing fragmented narratives about the Partition. The author analyses two books with female protagonists, Cracking India and What the Body Remembers. On one hand, they connect various forms of everyday minoritizations, and on the other, they bore witness to various forms of exclusion and political differences. Thus, they create a secular subaltern through the cultivation of empathy, solidarity, and survival while avoiding ethnic hatred.

The third chapter, Melodrama, Community, and Diasporas in Popular Hindi and Accented Cinema examines Indian art cinema and modern Bollywood films that portray small characters (gendered migrant/refugee/citizen) navigating real experiences of secular and religious nationalism. The 'melodrama' of Bollywood films here encapsulates the secularism dilemma, which fails to embrace the humanist idea of community. These images aid in the understanding of securitization, policing, categorization, and identity formation not only at borders but also within nation-states; they also provide a critique of ethno-nationalism and divisions propelled by global media and geopolitics, reifying an effective and alternative secularism through humanity, intimacy, and empathy.

Transnational Asia, Testimony, and New Media, the final chapter, depicts migratory stories that undermine mainstream nationalist histories in order to generate new subaltern secular practices. The author examines how technology and new media forms are being used to map what the author refers to as a just memory of Partition, allowing for ethno-political solidarity and transnational dialogue for peace, by examining a variety of texts and objects ranging from new media advertising to digital humanities archives, digital photo-based art installations, and oral histories.

In Graphic Migrations, Daiya explores the cultural, emotional, and political ramifications of the Partition migrations in South Asia. The precarity engendered by modern migration and reflected in popular culture necessitates a reconsideration of how mainstream media portrays gendered migrants and refugees. Graphic Migrations forces us to rethink how we convey the tale of modern world history and how we tackle the intricately intertwined, personal production of statelessness and citizenship in global societies. A study that connects the production of statelessness in the Indian subcontinent in the middle of the 20th century to the current worldwide refugee crisis in the 21st century as well as the ongoing issue of secularism in India, this work is a crucial intervention in South Asian Partition Studies. This book examines how cultural representations of Partition within South Asia and in South Asian diasporic formations reflect the aftermath of Partition structures and the ongoing violence against minority subjects in India.

Dr Nirmala Menon is a Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), Department of English, IIT Indore. She is the author of Migrant Identities of Creole Cosmopolitans: Transcultural Narratives of Contemporary Postcoloniality (Peter Lang Publishing, Germany, 2014) and Remapping the Postcolonial Canon: Remap, Reimagine, Retranslate (Palgrave Macmillan, UK 2017). She has published more than 50 research papers in numerous international journals (Oxford University Press, Taylor and Francis, Sage among others) and speaks, writes and publishes about postcolonial studies, Digital Humanities and scholarly publishing. She is the Project Director for KSHIP (Knowledge Sharing in Publishing). While her primary area of research is Postcolonial studies and Digital Humanities, Graphic literature, Partition Studies and Translation studies are additional areas of her research.




Sonal Pandey is a Doctoral Researcher in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences(HSS), Department of English, IIT Indore. Her research focuses on graphic literature as a medium and genre in South Asian narratives. She has been a Project Leader for TMYS Review March issue on "Artists and Afterlives". She has also worked as English Language Instructor at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi.



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