The intellectual history of decolonization in South Asia

The interactive web archive into which the oral histories are ingested will also give the student or investigator the ability to explore the collective biography of academics, born between c. 1920 and the early 1950s, from West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Participants narrate memories of their transition into adulthood. They speak about major changes in the socio-cultural environments and geographies of Dhaka and Kolkata.

We believe that digital tools can be creatively used to open up the social networks and geographic setting of a relatively small, powerful and interconnected group of intellectuals who stewarded academic institutions and helped create a new post-colonial regime of knowledge in West Bengal, Bangladesh, in South Asia and worldwide.

Tracing history across national and regional divides, and across the post-colonial divide

This interactive oral history repository provides the opportunity to explore South Asian history in ways that problematize national and regional frames of historical and social analysis. Interviewees reflect upon the historical process of partition and globalization. The historical events narrated range across the watershed year of 1947, when colonialism officially ended and independent Indian and Pakistani states were created. Finally, the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 out of the eastern half of Bengal began a new era in post-colonial South Asia. These oral histories bring attention to the continuities that ranged across these moments of transition.

Urban histories of South Asia

The oral history interviews we are collecting constantly refer to places and locales within the urban centers of Dhaka and Kolkata, but also to places in the mufassil, the smaller sub-metropolitan towns of the undivided Bengal region, as well as to destinations abroad.

Exploring the frontiers of the digital humanities

Each oral history represents a dynamic medium for mapping socio-cultural geographies. Starting with the sense of place and of historical time inherent in each oral history interview, we are exploring ways to connect peoples, places and concepts, visually and interactively. We use a GIS platform and other web tools.

Our main technology goals include

Collecting authoritative oral history recordings, as audio originals with print transcripts, conducted with leading senior intellectuals born c. 1920 to c. 1950, who came of age in Dhaka and Kolkata from the 1930s to the 1970s. These intellectuals helped transform the regimes of knowledge and cultural production in South Asia in the post-colonial age.

Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to geo-locate places and concept terms in the interviews, and linking these places and concepts to historical maps, satellite imagery, digital photographs, and other resources through Mashups.

Providing synchronized audio, text, images and links through visualization tools

Creating an internet archive open to the public

We want these resources and tools to be publicly available to the broad internet community. We believe effective digital humanities projects should be available worldwide to students, researchers and the interested public regardless of their affiliation.

The Project Team

Kris Manjapra, P.I., Tufts University
Neilesh Bose, P.I., University of North Texas
Iftekhar Iqbal, P.I., Dhaka University
Anne Sauer, DCA Lead, Tufts University
Deborah Kaplan, Digital Resource Archivist, Tufts University
Patrick Florance, GIS Lead, Tufts University
Martha Kelehan, Tisch Lead, Tufts University
David Grogan, Web Development Lead, Tufts University
Ilene Chen, Lead Designer, Tufts University
Steve McDonald, Lead Developer, Tufts University