The Partition of Identity (POI) project examines the Bengali community in Pakistan, tracing its history and exploring how, in their everyday lives, its members traverse the space between being Pakistani and being Bengali. We focus on those Bengali migrants who arrived in Pakistan in the 1970s, following the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, and their children and grandchildren who were born in Pakistan. Estimates suggest that there are between 2.8 – 3 million members of this group living in Pakistan, but in reality, the numbers are likely to be much higher. This is the first time a study will explore this community in such depth and capture the accounts of members across generations.
Despite participating in many sectors of the Pakistani economy many Bengalis have been refused citizenship rights, which reinforces the sense that they are not ‘authentic’ Pakistani citizens and creates hurdles in their ability to live their everyday lives. Alongside this, they continue to be socially and culturally excluded in Pakistan.
To date, no record of the migration and settlement of this minority group exists. This is an important untold story that will help shed light on the position and treatment of minority groups in the developing world and the resistance that they demonstrate.
The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on social psychology and history, and using arts-based methods. We will explore published and archival documentary sources relating to Bengalis in Pakistan, and create an archive of new oral history interviews from a diverse sample of the Pakistani Bengali population.
POI is a cross-university (UCL and LUMS) and partner collaboration (the Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan (CAP), The Imkaan Welfare Organisation (Imkaan), and the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)). It is housed at University College London. POI is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council & the Global Challenges Research Fund.
POI runs from December 2020 – November 2023 and our research is organized into three phases.
This study has received ethical approval (Data protection registration number: Z6364106/2020/02/27)