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RSC seminar, 23 May 2023

RSC Public Seminar Series Trinity term 2023: ‘Refugee History’

Series convened by Dr Uttara Shahani

About the seminar

The book 'Making Refugees in India' offers a global history of India’s ideas and practices surrounding the refugee. In focusing on one of the first states to formally decolonise in the middle of the 20th century, the book examines how the shift from colonial to postcolonial – both within the subcontinent as well as the shifting nature of the international order– led to a rewriting of the global idea of the refugee. Though India has not signed the two key United Nations instruments pertaining to refugees, it has offered sanctuary for millions over the course of the twentieth century. Examining the period from the so-called ‘Wilsonian’ moment all the way to the East Pakistani refugee crisis of 1971, Making Refugees extends the timeline of India’s history with refugees well beyond the Partition of 1947. Doing so reveals that India’s seemingly inconsistent refugee policy is actually representative of an ongoing tension between self-determination versus individual rights in a former-colony-turned-nation-state even as it worried about colonial inequities being reproduced in the postcolonial world order of the United Nations. The refugee thus became both constitutive and destructive of Indian citizenship, and any share of rights accorded to them by India – rights born from an anti-colonial battle for self-determination – had to be measured against the sovereignty that gave India both the power to grant rights to Indian citizens but also to argue for an equitable world order in global forums.

About the speaker

Ria Kapoor is a Lecturer in History and a fellow of QMUL’s interdisciplinary Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She completed a DPhil in History at the University of Oxford, has previously held posts at the Universities of Leeds and Manchester.


Photo:  A view from a Tibetan refugee centre near Darjeeling, West Bengal. Credit: Narwadesameer1678 (CC BY-SA 4.0