Being Bengali

Participants in the Being Bengali eventIn August 2010 Writing and Society hosted a single-day International Collaborative Workshop titled Being Bengali: at home and in the world.

The workshop was organised by Writing and Society's Dr Mridula Nath Chakraborty. The project is part of Dr Chakraborty's ongoing work on contemporary postcolonial identities.

Participants from 6 different countries (Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Singapore and the USA) attended the workshop, which also generated great interest among academics and postgraduate scholars working in the Indian subcontinental region at University of Sydney, UNSW, UTS, Western Sydney University and Macquarie as well as ANU and Wollongong. There was also great enthusiasm for participation from the sizeable Bengali community of Sydney.

Representing different disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, scholars came together to discuss the complexities of Bengali identity. The participants workshopped papers that will be published in March 2013 in a collection of essays edited by Dr Chakraborty and titled Being Bengali: at home and in the world.

The workshop provided historical and contemporary understandings of Bengaliness that will further research in the crisis of identity-politics of this eclectic ethno-linguistic category, and thus extend it to broader categories of security and sociability in multicultural nations.

In Australia specifically, this workshop offered a timely opportunity to understand some of the specificities of the large body of migration from Bangladesh and India that now populate its cities. Today, Bengali-speakers constitute a sixth of the human population and are spread across two Asian nations (India and Bangladesh) and their considerable diasporas all across the globe. In Australia alone, there are 21,000 Bengalis.

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