Humaira Chowdhury*

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University of Cambridge

A Social and Economic History of Darzis (Muslim Tailors) in Calcutta, c. 1890-1967

My doctoral thesis is about Muslim tailors and merchants who stayed on in Calcutta, West Bengal, between 1890 and 1967. It seeks to provide preliminary answers as to why some Muslim groups remained in particular locations within Calcutta and its environs after India’s partition, and why internally displaced persons (Muslim returnees/evacuees) gravitated to these dense ‘clusters’ where their co-religionists lived in large numbers. In exploring the links between labour, artisanship, and immobility, my thesis argues that that some ‘stayers on’ and internally displaced Muslim groups, rather than being ‘stuck’ on the ‘wrong side’ of India’s border, made informed choices to stay on in particular lived spaces. Without undermining the real predicament of immobility – entrenched poverty, physical frailty, obligations of care-work, communal intimidation, and everyday indignity – my thesis demonstrates how some Muslim groups (tailors and merchants, in the main) thrived in constrained contexts.