Fitzwilliam student Humaira Chowdhury has been awarded the prestigious Royal Historical Society Marshal Fellowship, held jointly with the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.
As the 2021-22 Fellow, she will complete her PhD, entitled ‘Hanging By a Thread: A Social and Economic History of Muslim Tailors (Darzis) in Calcutta, 1947-1967’, at the Faculty of History in the University of Cambridge.
Her work focuses on Muslim artisanal communities in Bengal and India, in particular the immobility and artisan agency of Muslim communities who stayed in West Bengal after the partition of India in 1947.
"I want to recontextualize the urban political history of Muslim artisans and traders who stayed on in West Bengal, not as passive victims of state control, but as resilient survivors.
“What happens when people end up on the ‘wrong’ side of the border? Are they stuck, or did they make a choice? I looked at how, despite state violence, surveillance, intimidation and entrenched poverty, they survived and thrived through the various assets they had – what I term ‘immobility capital’.”
Humaira matriculated at Fitzwilliam in Lent 2018, having completed a BA and MA in Sociology at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, and an MPhil in Modern South Asian History, at the Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge. In a recent article, she examined Muslim women’s self-fashioning in post-colonial India by focusing on Begum Qudsia Aizaz Rasul, the first and only Muslim woman in the Constituent Assembly of India.
“I twice presented at Graduate Conferences at Fitz, and I benefited a lot from that,” she said.
"As a brown South Asian woman interested in the histories of work in the global south, to be able to do this sort of research at the Institute of Historical Research is a great opportunity. There is also the potential to collaborate with affiliated members on similar interests.
“In the future, after turning my thesis into a book, I see myself doing development-based history which has tangible impact on people’s lives. I would like to take up a social impact advisor position in public policy towards refugees – bridging the gap between research and advocacy.”