De Media Automatiek

a research blog by Lotte Hoek

Once Upon a Time in East Pakistan


Pakistan Poster

This Thursday, May 1st, 2014, Delwar Hussain and I are organizing the one day workshop “Once Upon a Time in East Pakistan: State-building, decolonization and everyday life in a forgotten state.” If you are near Edinburgh, come and join us at the Main Library Room 1.11, 30 George Square, at the University of Edinburgh.

Here is the program and our rationale for organizing the workshop. 


09:30 -09:45 Introduction by Delwar Hussain & Lotte Hoek

09:45-10:15 Layli Uddin (Royal Holloway)

“The Roaring Fifties in East Pakistan: ’54, Riots and Bashani”

10:15-10:45 Dr. Nazneen Ahmed (University of Oxford)

“The Crafting of National Culture in East Pakistan”

10:45-11:15 Dr. Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh)

Cross-Wing Filmmaking: East Pakistani Urdu Cinema and Other Traces from the Bangladesh Film Archive

11:15-12:15 Discussion

12:15-13:00 Lunch Break

13:00-13:30 Dr. Delwar Hussain (University of Edinburgh)

“The Pakistanis Knew How to Run the Place”: Khonighat and the Project of East Pakistan in Miniature

13:00-14:00 Prof. Ananya Jahanara Kabir (King’s College London)

“From postmemory to post-amnesia: Remembering and forgetting East Pakistan”

14:00-14:45 Discussion

14:45-15:15 Tea Break

15:15-16:45 Roundtable and General Discussion on East Pakistan & its historiography

Dr. Benjamin Zeitlyn, Chair (University of Sussex) & Participants TBC


Conference Rationale

Lotte Hoek & Delwar Hussain (University of Edinburgh)

The project of East Pakistan continues to inhabit an ambivalent place and time within the scholarship of South Asia. The extraordinary political and social experiment that it was, and its attendant violent conflict, continues to haunt contemporary South Asia. Within the region, no such ambitious social engineering had been attempted nor has it seemed viable since. The experience of East Pakistan is therefore acutely important in understanding contemporary South Asian history and society. The fact that its story is not a more integral part of the scholarship of the subcontinent betrays the myopic nationals framings by which crucial questions before South Asian societies today (about elections, communal violence, urban ferment, peasant movements, religious and economic transformations) are answered. East Pakistan is the missing link in the story of contemporary South Asia.

While the story of the breakup of the two-wing state has been chronicled, the everyday experience of 24 years of East Pakistan have been largely neglected within the larger teleological narrative of the emergence of Bangladesh as a natural and inevitable outcome of the ravages of Partition. But for East Pakistanis this was a complicated period that engendered multiple experiences, desires and imaginations.

What was everyday life like in East Pakistan? What were the pleasures and pains that East Pakistan offered its newly enfranchised citizens? How were the ambitions of the new state refracted in the daily experiences of workers, families, bureaucrats and peasants? What were the sights, sounds, smells and textures that infused the everyday of the towns and villages of the east wing?

The absence of these stories within academia is despite the longing for East Pakistan that is invoked by a range of different people, both in contemporary Bangladesh and Pakistan. These include members of political formations aiming for fundamental change (from secessionist Beluchis to revisionist Jamaatis) as well as those quietly disillusioned ideologues, formerly unionized labourers, and film aficionados that may on occasion utter nostalgic despair in today’s Bangladesh.

This workshop brings together historians, anthropologists and cultural theorists to present and discuss original research that can give concrete shape to the now mythological imaginations that have come to be placeholders for the experience of East Pakistan. Exploring a range of archives, from popular culture to private papers and state documents, this will be the first serious consideration of understanding East Pakistan in its own terms, divorced from the inevitability of Bangladesh’ emergence.

The aim of the workshop is first to produce and discuss a body of empirically informed scholarship that can fill the gap in our historical understanding of the region. Second, we aim to use this original material from East Pakistan to rethink processes of decolonization, state-building and social transformation within South Asia in general, and Bangladesh in particular.


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This entry was posted on April 25, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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