Existential Mobility, Nostalgia and Narration: Unwrapping a family journal’s account on escape from Japanese air raids in Burma in the years 1941-1942


"The 20th century even more than any age before is the age of the refugee" and simultaneously works on migration seem incomplete without looking into the migrant experiences. In fact, to study migration more holistically would mean to study objective analysis of migration along with lived experience of the migrants, which is made possible through the oral histories of migration. The paper attempts to engage with my family’s journal of their migration from Burma into Dacca in the years 1941 and 1942 as an attempt to escape Japanese air raids during the second world war. However, what is interesting to know is that the journal was not written during the migration process but was written 70 years later. The author, Gayatri Gupta (born Gayatri Bose), who happens to be my father’s aunt, was only eight years old during the migration. However, it was only in around the early 2000s did she pen down her memories of the migration. The paper attempts to deal with the lived experiences of the Bose family from a critical and analytical point of view and attempt to thus bring oral histories of migration under the focus of "new mobilities paradigm". The critical treatment of the journal would be done from the point of view of using "nostalgia", "existentialist mobility" and "memory" as being driving forces behind the narration and thereby to understand experience of the migration coupled with the role played by images in recollection. The journal and the interviews also show selective remembrance and nostalgia and how it shows contestation with “difficult pasts” and that led to an existential tone to the narration of events.

Author Information
Priyanka Bhattacharyya, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2021
Stream: History/Historiography

This paper is part of the ACAH2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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