Legacies of Partition, South Asia at Seventy: Reflections, Political and Personal

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

2017 Anthony Low Commonwealth Lecture

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have experienced immense improvements and remarkable changes in the seventy years since independence. Average life expectancy in 1947 was barely 40; today it is nearly 70. Literacy has risen and poverty fallen. In film, literature and the presence of their talented diasporas, the countries of the region have become prominent across the world. But political volatility threatens domestic and international peace and a dozen of their leaders have been murdered. Politics is often reduced to frightening rallying cries based on ethnic identities. The lecture attempts to identify landmarks of the past seventy years and to map the present in ways that may help to understand, though not predict, the future.

Robin Jeffrey, FAHA, FASSA, taught school in India from 1967-9 and completed a doctorate in Indian history at Sussex University in 1973. He taught for 25 years in the Politics Program at La Trobe University in Melbourne, worked twice at ANU in Canberra and has lived for six years in India between 1967 and 2017. His most recent book, co-authored with Assa Doron of ANU, is The Great Indian Phone Book (C. Hurst and Harvard UP, 2013), published in India as Cell Phone Nation (Hachette India) . His next book, also co-authored Assa Doron, is Waste of a Nation: Garbage and Growth in India to be published in March by Harvard University Press. He is the author of The Decline of Nair Dominance (1976), What’s Happening to India? (1986), Politics Women and Well-Being (1992) and India’s Newspaper Revolution (2000). He is a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, an emeritus professor of La Trobe University and ANU and a distinguished fellow of the Australia-India Institute in Melbourne.

Professor Donald Anthony Low AO (1927–2015) was Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University from 1975–1982. A distinguished scholar and renowned student mentor his work spanned modern African, Asian and Commonwealth history. He was Founding Dean of the School of African and Asian Studies and a founder of the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University (1964–1972). Other distinguished posts included Director in the Research School of Pacific Studies, ANU (1973–1975), Smuts Professor of the History of the British Commonwealth, (1983–94) and President of Clare Hall, (1987-1994), Cambridge and Founding Convenor, CRTA Canberra, 2002. His numerous publications include: (ed.) Soundings in Modern South Asian History (1968), Constitutional Heads and Political Crises (1988), The Egalitarian Moment 1950–80 (1996), Fabrication of Empire: The British and the Uganda Kingdoms, 1890–1902 (2009).