A blog by Sara Surani

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This pencil and paper drawing was inspired by Chapter 4 of Sufia Uddin’s book Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation. This piece not only addresses the commonalities and differences between two cultural traditions that lead to misunderstandings, but it also reflects on another common theme in the course: separation. In this image, Pakistan and Bangladesh are depicted as lovers who were once united. Their gentle disconnection is reminiscent of a past that once consisted of solidarity. However, solidarity was not enough to strengthen the relationship, and eventually miscommunications led to the relationship fraying. The bold line that surrounds the parting couple symbolizes this solidarity and common connection—Islam. However, the streams of blurry and straight streaks and dashes represent all of the cultural and community differences between the two countries. Despite commonalities like religion, the two countries could not stay united. Eventually, they separated. The theme of separation is one that is pervasive in the course—whether Bangladesh is separating from Pakistan, Pakistan is separating from India, or more Eastern ideals are separating from the construct of Western ideals. Although separation seems like a simple theme, its implications are deeply rooted. Prior, there was a sense that religion could somehow create a union between individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. There was a belief that being “Muslim” could hold people together. Although this seemed prospective at first, this was certainly not the case. The once merry marriage between Bangladesh and Pakistan did not work out. This alludes to an overarching theme in the course about how people are constantly being distanced, whether by language, culture, or religion. This makes me wonder: Often, religion is interpreted to be one of the strongest forces of unity—but if religion cannot hold people together, then what can? Is there a force that is stronger than religion in terms of having the capacity to bring people together—and reminding them to stay together? Or is there always a notion of separation that underlies every source of solidarity in communities?

December 2nd, 2015 at 5:51 pm