Framing Minority Community Identities: Comparative Notes from India and Lebanon

AHA Session 114
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Scottsdale Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
David Gilmartin, North Carolina State University
The “National” Pact and Its Construction of Minorities in Lebanon
Tsolin Nalbantian, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The New "Citizens": Minorities in Post-partition Bengal, 1947–65
Haimanti Roy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Session Abstract

The emergence of new ideas of national identity and citizenship within the backdrop of independence from colonial rule in India and Lebanon had to be balanced with the secularist, socialist ideals of the new nation-states. The newly independent states of India and Lebanon had to contend with universalist ideas of equality, pre-independence communal divisions and the complications engendered by contingent events such as the Partition in 1947 and the retreat of French mandatory authority in Lebanon in 1943. The construction of minority ‘nationals’ was critical to the nationalizing projects of these new nation-states. This formal session panel comparatively uses historical examples from India and Lebanon, two nation-states created by constructing distinct communities, to investigate how minorities, Armenians, Druze, Hindus, Muslims, Shi’is were actively engaged in this construction and in framing their demands of political and civic rights.

The first paper examines the role of French-colonial imposed political institutions, such as the court system, and their continued usage under the Lebanese mandate, in the formation of a distinct Shi’ia political and legal sect in Lebanon. The second paper investigates how the “National Pact,” the foundational agreement of the independent Lebanese nation-state, ensured the categorization of the Armenian and Druze communities in Lebanon and their adoption of a “minority” identity. The third paper traces the meanings of “Partition” in pre-partition Punjab and the role that minority religious communities played in its fashioning and refashioning. The fourth paper analyzes the effects of the Partition and the creation of India and Pakistan on the notion of citizenship for the Hindu and Muslim communities in divided Bengal and how these shaped their engagement with the new nation-states.

This panel follows the AHA’s commitment to career stage diversity by bringing together one graduate student, three junior faculty and one senior faculty member. The panel hopes to engender comparative frameworks as a way of understanding nation-building projects in two different parts of the world. In the process the panel hopes to engage directly with the “Communities” part of the 2012 theme of the AHA in its examination of different constructions of minority group identities.

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