Archived Webinars & Events

2nd February: ‘Decolonising Collections’ and Migration Narratives – Unique methodologies

About the Events

This session in our 2021/2022 seminar series features two speakers.

The first paper, presented by Shreya Gutpa, is titled: ” Decolonising Collections: Investigating knowledge formation networks in colonial India with specific reference to numisatics”

‘The histories of the South Asian collections located in UK museums are inextricably tied to colonialism. The exact conditions under which these objects were transferred from the colony to the metropole are still being researched. In the case of South Asian collections, collecting histories have focused on two types of objects. First are the ‘oriental’ objects collected and even looted by British officials. Second are the antiquities collected under the institutional surveys of the early days of colonial rule. Here Indians took on the role of intermediaries, working as translators or assistants to colonial officials in the Indian administration.

My project takes this story forward by exploring a fuller history of collection and knowledge production. I do this by looking at the Indian collectors involved in assembling the coin collections housed in various museums in England. While these collections are named after British collectors, Jose Gerson da Cunha, H. Nelson Wright, Alfred Master and R. B. Whitehead, we know little about the Indian scholars and collectors who were involved in the collections’ formations. I will explore their involvement in collecting, investigating, and studying South Asian coins. Together European and Indian numismatists and their networks helped in the co-production of knowledge about Indian history based on these coins. Telling this fuller history of the formation of coin collections and the production of knowledge by addressing colonial histories will be a step that contributes towards decolonising the country’s colonial collections.’

Shreya is a first-year PhD candidate working on an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Project in the History department at the University of Exeter in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The project is titled “Decolonising Collections: Investigating knowledge formation networks in colonial India with specific reference to numismatics”. Shreya will explore the history of four collections of Indian coins, currently held in the Ashmolean, the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam. While these collections are named after British coin collectors, we know little about the Indian scholars who helped them in assembling the collections. She aims to uncover the role of Indian scholars and collectors in creating these collections.

The project’s larger aim is to investigate the role of Indian scholarly networks in producing expert knowledge about Indian history. It aims to contribute to the work of decolonising museums by telling a fuller history of South Asian collections in the UK.

The second paper, presented by Marvi Slathia, is titled: “Glancing culture of POJK people in Jammu and Kashmir through their narratives.”

‘The proposed paper focuses on the culture history, memory and practices of the Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) people residing in J&K after their migration in 1947. The main thrust will be on the oral narratives of these survivors, who are chroniclers of the agony, pain, trauma, brutalities and loss of families, property, culture and identity in the violent division of the erstwhile princely state. Though J&K did not witness the Partition in the manner the other parts of India did, the survivors of the event in this geographical area faced the backlash and fury of communal forces immediately post-Partition in 1947.

The proposed paper will broadly focus on the life of these survivors through these tumultuous days and their new existence in independent India. The interviews conducted encompass the social, economic and cultural aspects of the migrants’ changed circumstances and are witness to ever-haunting memories and longing to revisit their homeland. The recollections of these survivors revolve around accounts of various common festivals in their motherland, such as the Baisakhi Mela, and food they in undivided Jammu & Kashmir, which were celebrated by people of all religions. How all that is drastically changing in present generation worry them. The words of these last survivors embrace hope for a better future. The paper records the journey of the migrants through different places, holding on to the few possessions they hastily managed to retrieve from their sudden uprooting. Most of these migrants are helpless to ensure the survival of their mother tongue, culture, traditions, etc. They have to depend on the dominant culture of the natives for their survival as well articulated by Gramsci. The paper highlights the poignant stories of three generations survivors from POJK different communities residing in the Jammu region.’

Marvi Slathia is currently a Ph.D. researcher at the Centre for Political Studies Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, India. She is doing ethnographic study of border areas refugee of 1947 in different time interval of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Her M.Phil dissertation draws on ethnographic research conducted with 1947 Partition Survivors in Jammu region. She has presented her research work at many international and national forums including the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Lund University, Sweden, ECSAS 2021, University of Vienna, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata and Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH) New Delhi, IIT Madras and among others on the theme of Partition, Migration, Citizenship, Refugees, Borders and conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. She has published her research articles in journals and seminar proceeding volumes. Since graduation, she has occasionally contributed to the newspaper Kashmir Times published from Jammu and Kashmir, including several opinion and analytical pieces. Her research interests include Oral Narrative, Partition History, Migration, Refugees, Citizenship Laws and Women at the Borderland of Jammu.

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Date & Time

Wednesday 2nd February 2022

17:00 – 18:00 GMT


Online Event