Graphic Migrations

Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora

Kavita Daiya
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2025-1
Publication: Oct 20

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2024-4
Publication: Oct 20

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2026-8
Publication: Oct 20

246 pages
6 x 9
20 halftones

Examines “what remains” in migration stories surrounding the 1947 Partition of India

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf)


In Graphic Migrations, Kavita Daiya provides a literary and cultural archive of refugee stories and experiences to respond to the question “What is created?” after decolonization and the 1947 Partition of India. She explores how stories of Partition migrations shape the political and cultural imagination of secularism and gendered citizenship for South Asians in India and the United States.

Daiya analyzes literature, Bollywood films, Margaret Bourke-White’s photography, digital media, and print culture to show how they memorialize or erase refugee experiences. She also engages oral testimonies of Partition refugees from Hong Kong, South Asia, and North America that address the nation-state, ethnic discrimination, and religious difference. Employing both Critical Refugee Studies and Feminist Postcolonial Studies frameworks, Daiya traces the cultural, affective, and political legacies of the Partition migrations for South Asia and South Asian America.

The precarity generated by modern migration and illuminated in public culture prompts a rethinking of how dominant media represents gendered migrants and refugees. Graphic Migrations demands that we redraw the boundaries of how we tell the story of modern world history, and of how we confront the intricately interwoven, intimate production of statelessness and citizenship across the world’s communities.


"Kavita Daiya’s book makes significant contributions to the field of Partition Studies. It links Partition Studies to contemporary crisis of secularism in India and resurrects the secular as a useful category to resist the current erasure of minority rights in India. Daiya is mapping new archives of Partition memory and exploring new materials from print and digital culture. Finally, her project makes productive connections between the mid-twentieth population displacements and the contemporary production of refugees in civil wars in countries like Syria and Yemen. She also establishes solidarities between South Asian refugees with refugees produced by other conflicts in Asia like the Korean and Vietnam wars."
—South Asian Review

"Graphic Migrations incorporates a unique interdisciplinary approach...which enables Daiya to map various representations of post-partition South Asian and South Asian American refugee and immigrant experiences. This representational mapping, which draws widely from film, literature, oral histories, visual culture, and new media from present-day India and the South Asian American diaspora, reveals a contentious discursive field.... Daiya’s representational mapping also offers the promise of comparative interpretation of other refugee and immigrant experiences emerging from forced displacement by militarized neocolonial border adjustments in 20th-century Southeast Asia.... Recommended."

“Kavita Daiya has written a panoramic study of post-Partition studies. The remnants of the mid-twentieth-century Partition may be the debris of long colonial histories, but these very remnants return to haunt the suffering memories of migrants and minorities who are frequently disfigured as enemies ‘within’ or displaced as enemies ‘without.’ Daiya argues that post-Partition remnants are dangerously weaponized by ethno-nationalists, who weaponize traditions of the sacred in order to demean the democratic ambitions of secular pluralism. Daiya’s wide scholarly purview ranges across literature, cinema, graphic novels, and the creative arts, as she assembles a rich archive of contemporary reflection and critical relevance.”
— Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

“Kavita Daiya’s reading of decolonization is centered on the vast and heterogeneous cultural production generated by Partition’s aftermath in South Asia and its diaspora. Graphic Migrations opens up new and exciting vistas for Partition studies. It also enhances our contemporary understanding of statelessness, ‘sub-altern’ secularism, gender, and precarity by viewing this historical catastrophe within a brilliantly conceptualized global framework of connections and resonances.”
—Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Global Distinguished Professor of English, New York University

Graphic Migrations represents an important and unique contribution to the field of Partition studies specifically, and to the fields of postcolonial studies, memory studies, and diaspora studies more generally. Daiya advances important debates concerning religion, secularity, and subalternity, with insights into the crisis of secularism and how the Partition prompts a rethinking of the refu- gee. The book’s archive is at once expansive and eclectic, encompassing visual culture, film, novels, media, and digital memory projects. This is a beautifully written, finely argued, and original study.”
—Asha Nadkarni, Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Table of Contents


Introduction: Theorizing Subaltern Secularism in the Crisis of Modern Migration
• The Remains of Partition: Art, Storytelling, and Public Culture
• Secularism in Crisis
• Restorying Migration: The Popular Representation of Refugees’ Stories
• Ecologies of Displacement: Migrants, Refugees, Citizens
• #rememberingpartition: Unpacking the Archive

1. “Partition Is Still Happening”: Transmedia and Graphic Secularism
• Drawing Embodied Secularism: Religion and Pedagogical Nationalism in Print Culture
• Gender, Displacement, and Ecologies of Loss in Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s Graphic Anthology This Side, That Side: Restorying Partition
• Photojournalism and Bearing Witness in Margaret Bourke-White’s Photography

2. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Witnessing: Refugees, Literary Modernism, and the American Diaspora
• Disability, Patriarchal Violence, and Witnessing in Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India
• Migration, Reproductive Femininity, and Citizenship in Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers
• Citizenship and Expulsions in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
• Media, Violence, and Reparations in the Conflict Zone

3. Melodrama, Community, and Diasporas in Popular Hindi and Accented Cinema
• Asian Americans and Secular Crisis in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi-6
• Surviving Gendered Citizenship and Death in Shyam Benegal’s Mammo
• Indo-Pak Intimacy and Border Crossings in Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi and Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan
• Pakistan, Political Violence, and Failed Intimacies in Sabiha Sumar’s Khamosh Pani
• Conclusion: Performing the Secular, Inventing Peace

4. Transnational Asia, Testimony, and New Media
• Border-Crossing Advertising: Google and Secular Intimacies in the Commercial “Reunion” (2013)
• Intergenerational Memories: Rebuilding Life and Reckoning with Loss in Mumbai, Pune, Hong Kong, and Washington, D.C.
• New Art and Digital Archive Memory Projects: Testimony and Peace

Conclusion: Rethinking Mid-Twentieth-Century Asia and the Present


About the Author(s)

Kavita Daiya is Director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, and Associate Professor of English, at George Washington University. She is the author of Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender, and National Culture in Postcolonial India (Temple), and editor of Graphic Narratives from South Asia and South Asian America: Aesthetics and Politics.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.