Longing, Belonging and Other Stories: Tales of Identity and Bengali Collective Memory
Owen, Diana M
Bangladesh is one of the few nations where living citizens can recall being subjects of three different countries, all within one lifetime. Additionally, it is the only nation founded in pursuit of linguistic recognition. This non-traditional study explores the manner in which collective memory is used in nation building, the formation of Bengali identity and the evolution of this identity in the face of political upheaval, war, and for some, eventual migration.By examining the identity politics and cultural implications of establishing collective memory, this project analyzes the pivotal role played by the concept of “imagined communities” (Anderson, 1983) – the idea that nations are socially constructed by constituents who perceive themselves as a group. Using a triangulation of existing literature, a content analysis of era-specific political rhetoric and collected oral histories, this study further examines the arbitrary lines drawn across the former Indian subcontinent, establishing such imagined communities and effectively rendering millions as prisoners of geography. The timeline for this longitudinal study includes: the end of the British Raj, the Partition of 1947, the Bengali Language Movement, and the Bangladeshi Liberation War of 1971, moving onwards into the twenty-first century.Placing findings within the context of existing literature in the field, this project expresses itself in the form of creative short fiction, examining the push and pull factors of migration and the universal process of establishing and re-establishing identity. Each story is contemporaneous to real-life political events, bringing to light how a nation reconstructs and often romanticizes the past in order to carry these constructed identities into the future. In a globalized world, this project highlights the significance of embracing multiple, evolving identities, while chasing a sense of belonging.
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