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Memory and Minority: Making Muslim Indians

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In Malerkotla, the only Muslim majority town in Indian Punjab, citizens are involved in a mnemotechnical project that produces a collective identity based on inclusiveness and interreligious peace. This memory work connects the emotional resonance of love and unity to what Jan Assmann terms memory sites (the dargahs, stories of the saints, the physical territory of Malerkotla). The process involves erasures and coercive practices that discipline the collective recollection of the past into a version that serves the present interest. Yet this does not wholly obscure the variant versions of history that coexist within the perpetually shifting terrain of Malerkotla’s stable collective memory system. The production of memory sites fixes in certain places and popular narratives the dominant interpretation of the past, which is most conducive to Muslim integration into the contemporary Indian state. In particular this essay explores the creation of written and oral versions of the collective history that account for and justify the continued existence of a Muslim population in post-Partition Punjab.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies North Carolina State University Campus Box 8103 Raleigh, North Carolina 27695 USA, Email:


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