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Dislocating Kolkata

Campbell, Mark (2009) Dislocating Kolkata. In: Postcolonial Translocations Conference, Association for the Study of the New Literatures in English., 2009-05-21 - 2009-05-24.

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Abstract

From its genesis, migration has been one of the major defining characteristics of Kolkata. From the British diaspora and its import of colonial capitalism, Kolkata grew into a major economic node in the world and was host to merchants and traders from across the globe. Its rise to dominance resulted in the migration of people to the city from throughout India. These entangled diasporas, their settlement patterns and socioeconomic functions, led to the spatial organization of modern Kolkata and its representation as a cosmopolitan global city. Due to Kolkata's pivotal position in the structure of East India, the partition of India meant the migration of approximately 700, 000 refugees to the city from East Pakistan. The result for postcolonial Kolkata was the proliferation of slums throughout the city, which, along with poverty and political instability became a dominant theme in representations of the postcolonial city. Waves of migration continued throughout the postcolonial period, in response to natural calamity as well as geopolitical and socioeconomic shifts. The paper will map the reinscriptions that these processes had upon the socio-spatial organisation of the city. The postcolonial juncture also led to the Bengali diaspora from Kolkata to the former cities of empire, such as London, Glasgow and Manchester. The paper will explore how the process of biological and cultural transfer has resulted in a complex variety of new, hybrid and contested identities and spatial arrangements, as well as discussing how these issues have been explored and represented in postcolonial literature and film.