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Global Indian Diasporas

Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory

Edited by Gijsbert Oonk
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Global Indian Diasporas
    Book Description:

    This book discusses the relation of South Asian migrants to their homeland, the reproduction of Indian culture abroad and the role of the Indian state in reconnecting migrants of India, focusing on the limits of the diaspora concept, rather than on its possibilities. From a comparative perspective, using examples from South Asian communities in Suriname, Mauritius, East Africa, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands, this collection presents new and controversial insights into the concept of diaspora, raising the question about the limits of its effectiveness as an intellectual concept. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0106-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Gijsbert Oonk
  4. 1 Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory
    (pp. 9-28)
    Gijsbert Oonk

    There are currently approximately 20,000,000 people of South Asian origin living outside of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with the majority in Africa, the Caribbean, and Oceania.¹ Although there are regional variations in their adaptations, in many ways, they display a common ‘Indian’ identity.² They may want their children to prosper in their adopted countries, but at the same time they may prefer them to adopt Indian family values, marry other Indians, and share their common culture. In other words, many South Asians living overseas tend to reproduce their Indian culture, values, language, and religion as much as possible.³ Moreover, many...


    • 2 Multanis and Shikarpuris: Indian Diasporas in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 31-66)
      Scott Levi

      In recent years, the term ‘diaspora’ has been more frequently used to characterise peoples existing away from their homelands. Khachig Tölölyan, editor of the journalDiaspora, asserts that ‘the term that once described Jewish, Greek, and Armenian dispersion now shares meanings with a larger semantic domain that includes words like immigrant, expatriate, refugee, guest-worker, exile community, overseas community, [and] ethnic community’ (Tölölyan 1991: 4).¹ Others have even more broadly defined diaspora as ‘that segment of a people living outside the homeland’ (Connor 1986: 16). Expanding the definition to include virtually any group of people living beyond the boundary of its...

    • 3 ‘We Lost our Gift of Expression’: Loss of the Mother Tongue among South Asians in East Africa, 1880-2000
      (pp. 67-88)
      Gijsbert Oonk

      Contact between Asians, Africans, and Europeans in East Africa has a long history and was largely influenced by the economics and politics of colonisation and the emergence of nation-states.² This long-standing relationship resulted in a particular ‘East African Asian culture’ in which Gujarati (Indian), Swahili (East African) and European cultures were adapted, transformed, and re-invented. The migration of Asians from one continent to another, where they became a minority, resulted in the development of various strategies of adaptation, with the group adopting new socio-cultural values while maintaining some of their original values. Despite the information we have on the number...

    • 4 Contextualising Diasporic Identity: Implications of Time and Space on Telugu Immigrants
      (pp. 89-118)
      Chandrashekhar Bhat and T.L.S. Bhaskar

      Any diasporic community is uniquely situated owing to its multi-polarity, defined by the continuity/discontinuity of the cultural baggage from the place of origin, the dynamics of the host society and the influence of the motherland or ancestral land. This uniqueness is carried further by temporal and spatial dimensions besides the location of the emigrants in the society of their origin. Some sections of a society are more prone to emigration than others and the causes and consequence of such emigration have their implication for the diaspora formed. For instance, the Indian diaspora is not a homogeneous entity without diversity, though...

    • 5 Separated by the Partition? Muslims of British Indian Descent in Mauritius and Suriname
      (pp. 119-146)
      Ellen Bal and Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff

      If we were to start this introduction by stating that India is the ancestral home of those who call themselves Hindus, we would expect our audience to concur without ado. If we added, however, that India is also the ancestral home of many Muslims, people would probably look up and ask: ‘you mean Pakistan?’ And surely our audience would gasp if we were to convince them that Pakistan is the ancestral home of Hindus. Clearly, the 1947 partition of British India (hereafter the Partition) has had an impact on the way scholars look at the Indian diaspora. As a result,...

    • 6 A Chance Diaspora: British Gujarati Hindus
      (pp. 149-166)
      John Mattausch

      In a recently published article, the editor of this collection, Gijsbert Oonk (2006), persuasively argued that there has been an unfortunate tendency of sociologists, economists, and anthropologists to ignore South Asian entrepreneurial failures in East Africa, to concentrate only upon the successful, and then to infer from these successes commonly held qualities such as ‘hard work’ or superior business acumen that are meant to explain the achievements of the South Asians and the comparative poor performance of the Africans. Contesting this unfortunate analytical orthodoxy, Oonk argues that we need to understand the success of South Asians, many of whom were...


    • 7 Contested Family Relations and Government Policy: Linkages between Patel Migrants in Britain and India
      (pp. 167-194)
      Mario Rutten and Pravin J. Patel

      This paper discusses the social links between Indian migrants in Britain and their family members in India. It is based on fieldwork among members of the Patidar community in rural central Gujarat and among their relatives in London. Members of this community have a long history of national and international migration. Many of them migrated to East Africa in the early part of the 20th century and from there to Britain (and the US) in the 1960s and 1970s.

      The aim of this paper is to show the differences in perspective on the social links ‘from below’ between the Patidar...

    • 8 Diaspora Revisited: Second-Generation Nizari Ismaili Muslims of Gujarati Ancestry
      (pp. 195-210)
      Anjoom Amir Mukadam and Sharmina Mawani

      The term diaspora seems to have migrated in a manner similar to those it intended to describe and beyond. It began as a way of describing the dispersal of Jews from their homeland (Connor: 1986; Vertovec: 2000) and has subsequently flourished as a way of describing the relationship that individuals have with the so-called ‘homeland’ (Gupta and Ferguson: 1992). In searching the Internet one can find references to English, Australian, Indian, and African diaspora amongst others. The one factor that seems to be highlighted as a feature of all ‘diasporas’ is the relationship with a ‘homeland’ (original point of departure),...

    • 9 Bollywood and the Indian diaspora: Reception of Indian cinema among Hindustani youth in the Netherlands
      (pp. 211-234)
      Sanderien Verstappen and Mario Rutten

      Reception of Indian cinema among Hindustani youth in the Netherlands

      ... deterritorialization creates new markets for film companies, art impresarios and travel agencies, who thrive on the need of the deterritorialized population for contact with its homeland (Appadurai 1990: 11).

      ... transnational bonds no longer have to be cemented by migration or by exclusive territorial claims. In the age of cyberspace, a diaspora can, to some degree, be held together or re-created through the mind, through cultural artefacts and through a shared imagination (Cohen 1996: 516).

      When media are discussed in the diaspora literature, usually the assumption is that transnational...

    • 10 Contested Equality: Social Relations between Indian and Surinamese Hindus in Amsterdam
      (pp. 235-262)
      Brit Lynnebakke

      In the academic debate on the Indian diaspora there is often an underlying assumption of a unified character of the diaspora in terms of religion, culture and imagined homeland. Nevertheless, religion, culture, and the imagined homeland have different local meanings for migrants with different migration patterns. In the Netherlands, direct migrants from India do not freely interact with Surinamese Hindus – the descendants of Indian indentured labourers. The supposedly shared Indian background does not unify the migrants, on the contrary, it seems to separate them.

      This article attempts to explain why relations between Indian and Surinamese Hindus in the Netherlands...

    • 11 Afterword: Stray Thoughts of an Historian on ‘Indian’ or ‘South Asian’ ‘Diaspora(s)’
      (pp. 263-274)
      Claude Markovits

      This volume adopts a cautiously critical stance vis-à-vis the framework of diaspora as applied to the Indian case. It does so through the use of different approaches, and, although the various authors do not necessarily agree on all points, the overall effect achieved is impressive, and refreshingly original. The only justification for this ‘afterword’ is to offer a slightly‘décalée’view coming from an historian who has worked exclusively on one aspect of the South Asian diaspora, the dispersal of South Asian traders, a fairly specialised area of research, and someone who feels no particular loyalty, institutional or affective, to...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-290)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 291-294)