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Popular Sovereignty and the Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan


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The Moynihan Institute, along with the South Asia Center is proud to host Ahona Panda, assistant professor of history from Claremont McKenna College. 

In the wake of 1948's unrest and protests over the Partition, ‘the language question’ surfaced as the main issue discussed in the East Bengal Legislative Assembly in Dhaka, East Pakistan. A large cross-section of East Pakistanis, aggrieved over Jinnah’s decision to impose Urdu as the state language, started to fiercely advocate for Bengali and, until 1956, questioned the meaning of a state language.

Panda's talk explores the complexities of the Bengali language movement as a political event. By examining the microhistories of a few dissenters, she argues that the discourse of language was situated between two distinct political imaginaries: the nationalism of Bengali (jātī) and the formulation of the Pakistani nation-state (rāṣṭra).


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Matthew H. Baxter, PhD


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To mark our centennial in the fall of 2024, the Maxwell School will hold special events and engagement opportunities to celebrate the many ways—across disciplines and borders—our community ever strives to, as the Oath says, “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Throughout the year leading up to the centennial, engagement opportunities will be held for our diverse, highly accomplished community that now boasts more than 38,500 alumni across the globe.