Universiteit Leiden

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Aditi Mukherjee


Dr. A. Mukherjee
+31 71 527 2227

PhD research

Refugee Colonies in Suburban Calcutta: Aspects of Lived-Space, Segregation and Identity in the Metropolis

My research explores the process of spatial dislocation and rupture that accompanied decolonization in India, with a particular focus on post-partition refugee colonies in suburban Calcutta across two generations. Displacement has played an important part in shaping and configuring the urban spaces of South Asia. Viewing a specific group of refugees (East Bengali Hindu migrants) in an ever changing urban context and treating the establishment of refugee colonies as processes of place-making reveals the dynamics of uneven urban expansion and provides insight into the different ways of inclusion and exclusion within the city-scape. Calcutta being the most adversely affected by the partition of 1947, and having wide spatial heterogeneity in and around it, is ideally suited to provide an understanding of the differential experience of displaced populations within the urban spaces of South Asia.

My research examines refugee settlements known as 'colonies' established at the urban fringes of Calcutta, through the analytical lens of lived-space, segregation and identity within a diversified metropolitan context. My focus is on the politics of space that shaped the refugee settlements. I seek to explain the parameters along which living space was organised among the different sections of the refugees, and the role of the post-colonial state and new market forces of property in the process. I also analyse how the social identity of the refugees, with age old loyalties of class, caste, religion and regions of migration came to be reformulated in a manner which could reinforce their claim to live in the city and facilitate their access to urban amenities and public services. Posing such questions, my thesis argues that the negotiation of space and identity for the East Bengali Hindu refugees was part of a more general narrative transforming abstract, unfamiliar and sometimes hostile spaces of their new habitat to knowable familiar, intimate ‘places’. The research is based on two detailed case studies taken from the two main concentration zones of refugee settlements in the northern and southern fringes of Calcutta.


  • M.Phil. in Indian Foreign Policy, University of Calcutta, with dissertation on the topic 'Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka and its Impact on Indo-Sri Lanka Relations’ (2012)
  • M.A. in Modern Indian History, University of Calcutta (2009)
  • B.A. in Indian History, University of Calcutta, (2007)


Book Review: 'The spoils of Partition, Bengal and India, 1947-1967,' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, in Perspectives (Department of History, University of Calcutta) March 2009, Vol. 3, 78-82

'Tamil Nadu and the Sri Lankan Conflict: Evolving Centre-State Understanding on the Ethnic Issue,' Mainstream, Vol LII (1), 2013, 57-70


'Modalities of Spatial Transformation and Place Construction at the Urban Periphery: A Refugee Neighbourhood in South Calcutta,' Paper presented at Post Graduate Conference titled 'Beyond Eurocentricism: Rethinking Spatial Representation' organised by CCLPS, SOAS, University of London, 19 June, 2015

'Refugee Rehabilitation and the Land Regime in West Bengal: Impediments to Redistribution and Integrated Development,' Paper presented at the Indian History Congress, 76th Session, West Bengal, 27-29 December, 2015

'Lived Space, Segregation and Identity in a post-colonial Metropolis: Refugee Colonies in Suburban Calcutta,' Paper presented at PhD workshop in South Asian Studies, organised by EASAS, SASNET , Sweden, 18-19 May, 2015

'Normative turn in International Relations: Illusory? Insignificant? Inconsequential?' Group paper presented at International Workshop on “Politics in the Global Age: Sovereignty, Citizenship, Territory and Nationalism, organised by the Centre for Comparative European Union Studies, IIT Madras, 6th to 10th June, 2011


Recipient of LUF Study Trip Grant for conducting one month study trip in London, July 2015


  • International Institute Asian Studies
  • International Institute Asian Studies

Work address

Rapenburg 59
2301 GJ Leiden



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