Aditi Mukherjee's research interests are contemporary modes of displacement and citizenship in South Asia. Rather than large-scale spectacular dislocations which are a focus of refugee studies or set patterns of population movement which come under the rubric of migration studies, she is interested in low-key everyday forms of displacements which fall through these categories of understanding and remain undiscussed.
Her book complicates the understanding of different modalities of displacement and its inter-relationship with citizenship, drawing on case studies from West Bengal, India. Her ethnography is with two different displaced groups in Kolkata and North 24 Parganas in West Bengal: a) Dalit partition ‘refugees’ fleeing communal violence in Bangladesh and coming to North 24 Parganas and b) impoverished peasants coming from the villages of Bangladesh and West Bengal to the urban agglomeration around Kolkata. She has supplemented field work with archival research in Kolkata and New Delhi.
The book will enhance understanding of dislocations in several ways. First, it draws attention to small-scale and everyday modes of dislocations not comfortably accommodated within the set frames of either refugee or migration studies. Second, it nuances the literature on contemporary displacement in India by suggesting that contemporary dislocations do not always service neo-liberal capital accumulation, but sometimes contradict it. Her research suggests that contemporary forms of displacement cannot be understood solely in terms of its relation to neoliberalism as highlighted by the ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey 2004) literature on displacement. She presents a broader understanding of displacement through the concept of ‘displaceability’ (Yiftachel 2020). Finally, her research makes an important contribution to the literature on citizenship in India. Her study shows that displaceability has an inverse relation with citizenship. The more widespread and coercive its functioning, the weaker the migrants’ claims to legal status and social rights of citizenship.
One key strength of her project is the long temporal framework from 1930 till the present through the period of India’s long decolonisation. The spatio-temporal frame of the study has called for an innovative research method at the intersection of history and anthropology. Her study brings in clearer relief the structural logic of the condition of displaceability over a long time frame from 1939 till the present. By drawing out the connections of contemporary displacements to the processes of de-colonisation, she highlights the long-term structural logics of displacement that remain invisible when it is analysed synchronically in the neoliberal era.
Aditi Mukherjee is Assistant Professor in History at the GITAM University, Vishakhapatnam, India. She was awarded PhD from the Leiden University, the Netherlands. Her PhD was sponsored by Erasmus Mundus Fellowship. She has been a Tata Trust Research Fellow at the 1947 Partition Archive, Berkeley, California. She has published extensively on the themes of third world urbanism, displacement, citizenship and caste. During her term at IIAS she will transform her doctoral thesis into a book, likely to be published by the Cambridge University Press.