Genealogies of return: Tamil culture and the Bay of Bengal in 1940s-1950s

This paper explores how the “returnee” anchored a postwar imaginary developed in
relation to the Bay of Bengal in the 1940s and 1950s in Tamil cultural discourse. How then did
the Bay and its experience of war, loss, disenfranchisement for Tamil migrants form a canvas
from which to build anew and what types of imaginaries were articulated by those on the move?
I explore how the figure of the returnee carved out of the body of Tamil migrants became a place
holder for these discussions. Using crosscutting samples of text—song, popular tracts, memoir,
political essays—I trace some of ways by Tamil imaginaries of the 1940s and 1950s drew on the
Bay. The texts analyzed are necessarily fragments, and while they cannot provide a
comprehensive or indeed sociologically representative view of the complex world of mobility,
they permit an analysis of affiliation to space, territory and place through history, memory and
shared symbols.


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Showcasing Tamil heritage through lectures, exhibitions, , seminars.

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