Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora 9781138942899, 9781315672571

The geographical diversity of the Indian diaspora has been shaped against the backdrop of the historical forces of colon

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Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora
 9781138942899,  9781315672571

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Half Title......Page 2
Title Page......Page 4
Copyright Page......Page 5
Table of Contents......Page 6
List of illustrations......Page 10
List of contributors......Page 12
List of abbreviations......Page 18
Acknowledgements......Page 20
Introduction......Page 22
Part I Histories and trajectories......Page 36
1 Indian servitude in the British empire......Page 38
2 Race, ethnicity and conflict in the Indian diaspora......Page 49
3 Writing indenture history through testimonios and oral narratives......Page 60
4 Coolitude meets indianité: postcolonial kala pani writings in French......Page 72
5 Out of India: East Africa and its South Asian diasporas......Page 83
Part II Diaspora and infrastructures......Page 96
6 Labour policy and global Indian diaspora......Page 98
7 Paradigms, policies, and patterns of Indian diaspora investments......Page 111
8 Transnational diaspora organizations and India’s development......Page 125
9 Money flows, gender and family among Indian migrants to Australia......Page 138
Part III Cultural dynamics......Page 150
10 Programming Bollywood: media and the Indian-American diaspora, 1965–2010......Page 152
11 Migratory South Asian performances: between nationalism and assimilation......Page 164
12 Musical performances in the Indian diaspora......Page 177
13 Transnational Bollywood assemblages in Singapore......Page 191
14 Diasporic visual cultures of Indian fashion and beauty......Page 204
Part IV Representation and identity......Page 222
15 Poetic politics: from Ghadar to the Indian Workers Association......Page 224
16 South Asian women and work in the diaspora......Page 237
17 Of intersecting oppressions: domestic violence and the Indian diaspora......Page 249
18 Celebrating Indian culture: festival spaces and entangled lives in Darwin, North Australia......Page 262
19 Softening India abroad: representations of India and its diaspora in the Canadian press......Page 273
Part V Politics of belonging......Page 288
20 Renewing diasporic bonds and the global branding of India......Page 290
21 Performing Indian American ethnicity in mainstream America......Page 303
22 Home, belonging and the city in the Anglo-Indian diaspora......Page 315
23 Memories and apprehensions: temporalities of queer South Asian belonging and activism in the diaspora......Page 325
Part VI Networked subjectivities and transnationalism......Page 336
24 Indians in Australia: understanding the changing face of a community......Page 338
25 Networks, caste, and transnational identities......Page 351
26 Geographies of Indian transnationalism......Page 362
27 Of kaleidoscopic mothers and diasporic twists: the mother/daughter plot in the work of Jhumpa Lahiri......Page 376
28 Diasporic subjectivity: of loss, memory, being and becoming......Page 387
Glossary......Page 398
Index......Page 400

Citation preview


The geographical diversity of the Indian diaspora has been shaped against the backdrop of the historical forces of colonialism, nationalism and neoliberal globalization. In each of these global moments, the demand for Indian workers has created the multiple global pathways of the Indian diaspora. The Routledge Handbook of the Indian Diaspora introduces readers to the contexts and histories that constitute the Indian diaspora. It brings together scholars from different parts of the globe, representing various disciplines, and covers extensive spatial and temporal terrain. Contributors draw from a variety of archives and intellectual perspectives in order to map the narratives of the Indian diaspora. The topics covered range from the history of diasporic communities, activism, identity, gender, politics, labour, policy, violence, performance, literature and branding. The handbook analyses a wide array of issues and debates and is organized in six parts: • • • • • •

Histories and trajectories Diaspora and infrastructures Cultural dynamics Representation and identity Politics of belonging Networked subjectivities and transnationalism.

Providing a comprehensive analysis of the diverse social, cultural and economic contexts that frame diasporic practices, this key reference work will reinvigorate discussions about the Indian diaspora, its global presence and trajectories. It will be an invaluable resource for academics, researchers and students interested in studying South Asia in general and the Indian diaspora in particular. Radha Sarma Hegde is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, USA. Her research interests focus on issues of migration, transnational feminism, globalization and media. She is the author of Mediating Migration (2016), and currently co-editor of the journal Feminist Media Studies. Ajaya Kumar Sahoo is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad, India. His research interests include Indian diaspora and transnationalism. His recent co-edited books include Indian Transnationalism Online (2014) and Transnational Migrations (2009). He is the editor of the journal South Asian Diaspora.


Edited by Radha Sarma Hegde and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo

First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 selection and editorial material, Radha Sarma Hegde and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Radha Sarma Hegde and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Hegde, Radha Sarma, 1953 - editor. | Sahoo, Ajaya Kumar, editor. Title: Routledge handbook of the Indian diaspora/[edited by] Radha Sarma Hegde and Ajaya Kumar Sahoo. Description: Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017019720 | ISBN 9781138942899 (hardback) | ISBN 9781315672571 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: East Indian diaspora. | East Indians–Foreign countries. Classification: LCC DS432.5.R68 2018 | DDC 909/.0491411–dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 978-1-138-94289-9 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-67257-1 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Sunrise Setting Ltd, Brixham, UK


List of illustrations List of contributors List of abbreviations Acknowledgements

ix xi xvii xix

Introduction Radha S. Hegde and Ajaya K. Sahoo



Histories and trajectories


1 Indian servitude in the British empire Vinay Lal


2 Race, ethnicity and conflict in the Indian diaspora Brij Maharaj


3 Writing indenture history through testimonios and oral narratives Vijay Mishra


4 Coolitude meets indianité: postcolonial kala pani writings in French Brinda J. Mehta


5 Out of India: East Africa and its South Asian diasporas Sana Aiyar v


Contents PART II

Diaspora and infrastructures


6 Labour policy and global Indian diaspora SaunJuhi Verma


7 Paradigms, policies, and patterns of Indian diaspora investments Daniel Naujoks


8 Transnational diaspora organizations and India’s development Rina Agarwala


9 Money flows, gender and family among Indian migrants to Australia Supriya Singh



Cultural dynamics


10 Programming Bollywood: media and the Indian-American diaspora, 1965–2010 Aswin Punathambekar


11 Migratory South Asian performances: between nationalism and assimilation Priya Srinivasan


12 Musical performances in the Indian diaspora Tina K. Ramnarine


13 Transnational Bollywood assemblages in Singapore Anjali Gera Roy


14 Diasporic visual cultures of Indian fashion and beauty Vanita Reddy



Representation and identity


15 Poetic politics: from Ghadar to the Indian Workers Association Virinder S. Kalra


16 South Asian women and work in the diaspora Tania Das Gupta




17 Of intersecting oppressions: domestic violence and the Indian diaspora Rupaleem Bhuyan and Susan Ramsundarsingh


18 Celebrating Indian culture: festival spaces and entangled lives in Darwin, North Australia Michele Lobo


19 Softening India abroad: representations of India and its diaspora in the Canadian press Huzan Dordi and Margaret Walton-Roberts



Politics of belonging


20 Renewing diasporic bonds and the global branding of India Radha S. Hegde


21 Performing Indian American ethnicity in mainstream America Bandana Purkayastha, Shweta Majumdar Adur and Koyel Khan 22 Home, belonging and the city in the Anglo-Indian diaspora Jayani Bonnerjee 23 Memories and apprehensions: temporalities of queer South Asian belonging and activism in the diaspora Shweta Majumdar Adur





Networked subjectivities and transnationalism


24 Indians in Australia: understanding the changing face of a community Michiel Baas


25 Networks, caste, and transnational identities Goolam Vahed


26 Geographies of Indian transnationalism Carmen Voigt-Graf




27 Of kaleidoscopic mothers and diasporic twists: the mother/daughter plot in the work of Jhumpa Lahiri Delphine Munos 28 Diasporic subjectivity: of loss, memory, being and becoming Mala Pandurang Glossary Index



377 379



Figures 7.1 7.2 7.3 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 19.1 19.2 19.3 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4

NRI foreign direct investment inflows into India (1991–2015) Outstanding NRI deposits (1991–2015) Monthly portfolio investment assets held by NRIs (2012–2015) Malay girl against the size-zero heroine of Kambakkht Ishq in the Jade Cinema Rang Fab On a Roll: Chandni Chowk to Chowringhee Dance Club: Dhoom Unsuitable Girls: most reluctant housekeeper Unsuitable Girls: most apprehensive fiancée Unsuitable Girls: most defiant mother Upping the Aunty: Poonam Aunty Upping the Aunty: Fara Aunty Upping the Aunty: Lovelina Aunty Upping the Aunty: Gowrie Aunty Upping the Aunty: Kavita Aunty Upping the Aunty: Arun Aunty Annual breakdown of articles categorized as ‘soft power’ Annual breakdown of articles categorized as ‘deficient state’ Annual breakdown of ‘deficient state’ articles related to diaspora A model of the Punjabi transnational community A model of the Kannadiga transnational community A model of the Indo-Fijian transnational community Abstract models of transnational spaces based on the Indian experience in Australia

96 97 98 174 175 176 180 189 189 190 192 193 194 195 196 197 256 257 257 346 347 348 350

Tables 7.1 Portfolio investments: annual average of assets under control by NRIs 8.1 Distribution of organization type in interview sample vs. inventory ix

99 108

List of illustrations

9.1 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5

The Indian migration project, Australia, 2005–2014 Australia-, China- and India-born as part of Australian population Indian students in Australia Median age India-born population Gender among India-born Indian students spread: institutional types

119 321 322 323 324 325

Box 26.1 The spatial components of a geography of transnationalism




Shweta Majumdar Adur is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. Before this, she was an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at California State University, Fullerton, USA. She completed her PhD in Sociology from the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, human rights and immigration. Her dissertation examines queer South Asian organizing in the US. She has authored several publications, including ‘On the Edges of Belonging: Indian American Dalits, Queers, Guest Workers and Questions of Ethnic Belonging’ (Journal of Intercultural Studies, 34(4), 2013), and co-authored As the Leaves Turn Gold (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). She has been actively involved with several development projects in India and with UN Women South Asia. Rina Agarwala is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. Her research has examined how vulnerable populations assert their rights through social movements. Her co-edited volume, Whatever Happened to Class? Reflections from South Asia (Routledge, 2008), explores how class-based analysis better understands the contemporary challenges faced by urban workers, agricultural workers and the middle classes in India and Pakistan. Her recent book, Informal Labour, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India (Cambridge University Press, 2013), examines how India’s informal workers are launching alternative labour movements that use the power of their votes to attain social welfare. Sana Aiyar is an Associate Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Her broad research and teaching interests lie in the regional and transnational history of South Asia and South Asian diasporas, with a particular focus on colonial and postcolonial politics and society in the Indian Ocean. Her research has appeared in several journals including the American Historical Review and Modern Asian Studies, and her first book, Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora, was published by Harvard University Press in 2015. Michiel Baas is currently a Research Fellow at the Asian Migration Cluster, National University of Singapore. Previously, Dr Baas was a coordinator with the International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden, the Netherlands), as well as lecturer with the Anthropology-Sociology xi

List of contributors

department of the University of Amsterdam, coordinator with the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research and coordinator with the Eutopia Institute (Amsterdam). He received both his PhD and MA in Anthropology/Sociology from the University of Amsterdam. Rupaleem Bhuyan currently works at the University of Toronto, Canada where she teaches community practice and social justice advocacy to future social workers. Since 1991, she has been part of the anti-violence against women movement, working in collaboration with indigenous, immigrant and refugee communities. Her current research with the Mothers Project examines how Canada’s immigration system produces gendered forms of inequality that intersect with the spectrum of violence against women. Jayani Bonnerjee is Assistant Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India. She is a cultural geographer with research and teaching interests in postcolonial urbanism and critical geographies of diaspora. Her doctoral (Queen Mary, University of London) and postdoctoral work (Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS, Singapore and Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi) has focused on issues of identity and belonging for Calcutta’s Anglo-Indian and Chinese communities. Her work has been published in the Journal of Intercultural Studies, South Asian Diaspora and Global Networks. Tania Das Gupta is Professor in the Department of Equity Studies, York University, Canada. She has published widely on South Asian diaspora, race and racism, anti-racism, immigration and refugee issues, state policies, community activism, and women, work and families. Her publications include Real Nurses and Others: Racism in Nursing (Fernwood, 2009); Racism and Paid Work (University of Toronto Press, 1995); and Learning from Our History: Community Development by Immigrant Women in Ontario, 1958–86 (Cross Cultural Community Centre, 1986). Huzan Dordi is an educator and human geographer who gained his MA in Geography at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. His research interests focus on geopolitics and the Indian diaspora. The chapter in this book is based on his MA research, which explored India’s projection of ‘soft power’ globally, especially through the Indian diaspora. Currently he teaches in Toronto, Canada. He completed his Bachelors of Arts (BA Hons) in History and Geography, and Bachelors of Education (BEd) at York University, Canada. Radha S. Hegde is Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, USA. Her research and teaching focus on migration, media flows, globalization and transnational feminism. She is the author of Mediating Migration (Polity Press, 2016) and editor of Circuits of Visibility: Gender and Transnational Media Cultures (NYU Press, 2011). She is currently co-editor of the journal Feminist Media Studies. Virinder S. Kalra is Professor of Sociology at Warwick University, UK. His research interests are in the area of social movements and cultures of popular resistance as it pertains to South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. His most recent book is Sacred and Secular Musics: A Postcolonial Approach (Bloomsbury Press, 2015). Koyel Khan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, USA. She is presently conducting research on the influence of neoliberal globalization and nationalism in the practice of Indian classical dance. xii

List of contributors

Vinay Lal is a writer, blogger, cultural critic, public commentator, and Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA, USA. His sixteen authored and edited books include The Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the New Global Economy (Pluto Press, 2002), The History of History: Politics and Scholarship in Modern India (Oxford, 2005), Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres (Oxford, 2009) and the two-volume Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City (Oxford, 2013). His intellectual interests include Indian history, global politics, historiography, popular culture and the politics of knowledge systems. Michele Lobo is an Australian Research Council Senior Research Fellow (ARC DECRA) at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, Australia. She is a social and cultural geographer who explores whiteness, ethnic/ethno-religious diversity, indigeneity and shared belonging in cities. She is the author of ‘Reimagining Citizenship in Suburban Australia’ (ACRAWSA, e-journal, 6(1), 2009), Migration, Citizenship and Intercultural Relations: Looking through the Lens of Social Inclusion (Ashgate, 2011) and co-author of Intercultural Relations in a Global World (Common Ground Publishing, 2011). She has recently published in Social and Cultural Geography (2014), Emotion, Space and Society (2014), Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies (2015), Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (2015), Journal of Cultural Geography (2015) and Geographical Research (2016). Brij Maharaj is a Professor of Geography at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has received widespread recognition for his research on urban politics, segregation, local economic development, migration and diasporas, religion and development, and has published over 120 scholarly papers in renowned journals such as Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban and Regional Studies, Political Geography, Urban Geography, Antipode, Polity and Space, Geoforum and GeoJournal, as well as five co-edited book collections. Brinda J. Mehta is the Germaine Thompson Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Mills College in Oakland, California, USA. She is the author of Dissident Writings of Arab Women: Voices against Violence (Routledge, 2014); Notions of Identity: Diaspora and Gender in Caribbean Women’s Writing (Palgrave, 2009); Rituals of Memory in Contemporary Arab Women’s Writing (Syracuse University Press, 2007); and Diasporic (Dis)locations: Indo Caribbean Women Writers Negotiate the Kala Pani (University of West Indies Press, 2004). She has published over fifty articles on postcolonial African and Caribbean literature and Arab women’s writings that have appeared in several national and international peer-reviewed journals. Vijay Mishra is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. He holds doctorates from the Australian National University and Oxford. He has published widely on the gothic, devotional poetics, postcolonial and Australian literature, Bollywood cinema, multiculturalism and the Indian diaspora. He is a Fellow of the Australian Humanities Academy. Delphine Munos is an FRS-FNRS postdoctoral researcher in the English Department at the University of Liège, Belgium. She has published in the field of American and postcolonial literatures, diaspora studies and South Asian studies. Among her publications are the monograph After Melancholia: A Reappraisal of Second-Generation Diasporic Subjectivity in the Work of Jhumpa Lahiri (Brill, ex-Rodopi, 2013) and ‘Mapping Diasporic Subjectivities’ (2014), a special issue of South Asian Diaspora that she guest-edited with Mala Pandurang. Forthcoming is ‘Minority Genres in Postcolonial Literatures’, a special issue of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing guest-edited with Bénédicte Ledent. xiii

List of contributors

Daniel Naujoks teaches international development, public policy, international relations and migration at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and at The New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs. He has published widely on the effects of migration and citizenship on social, economic and political development, ethnic identity and the role and genesis of public and citizenship policies. This includes his book Migration, Citizenship, and Development: Diasporic Membership Policies and Overseas Indians in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2013). In addition, he regularly advises governments and the United Nations on issues of migration, diaspora engagement, displacement and development. Mala Pandurang is a Professor and Head of the Department of English at Dr BMN College, Mumbai, India (affiliated to SNDT Women’s University). She is a postdoctoral fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has taught as Fulbright Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and is also a recipient of an in-UK research grant from the Charles Wallace Trust. She is the Reviews Editor of the Journal of South Asian Diaspora (Routledge) and series editor of Postcolonial Lives (Brill). Aswin Punathambekar is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, USA. He is the author of From Bombay to Bollywood: The Making of a Global Media Industry (NYU Press, 2013) and co-editor of Global Bollywood (Oxford University Press, 2008) and Television at Large in South Asia (Routledge, 2013). He is Associate Editor of the journal Media, Culture and Society and co-edits the Critical Cultural Communication book series for NYU Press. He is currently working on his next book, provisionally titled Mobile Publics: Popular Culture and Politics in Digital India. Bandana Purkayastha is a Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut, USA. Her research on the intersections of gender/racism/class/age; transnationalism; violence and peace; and human rights has appeared in ten books and thirty-five articles and chapters since 2000. Her recent books are The Human Rights Enterprise (Polity, 2015); Voices of Internally Displaced Persons (Frontpage, 2015); and Human Trafficking (Frontpage, 2015). Further details appear at She has received many local and national awards for scholarship, teaching and community work. Tina K. Ramnarine’s research focuses on performance, globalization, identity politics and environmental issues. Publications include the books Creating Their Own Space: The Development of an Indian-Caribbean Musical Tradition (University of West Indies Press, 2001), Ilmatar’s Inspirations: Nationalism, Globalization, and the Changing Soundscapes of Finnish Folk Music (Chicago University Press, 2003), Beautiful Cosmos: Performance and Belonging in the Caribbean Diaspora (Pluto Press, 2007), as well as the edited volumes Musical Performance in the Diaspora (Routledge, 2007) and Global Perspectives on Orchestras: Essays on Collective Creativity and Social Agency (Oxford University Press, 2017). She has held academic appointments in both music and anthropology and is currently Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. Susan Ramsundarsingh is currently a PhD student at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Canada where she is studying oppression of social service users by social service organizations. Vanita Reddy is an Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University, with faculty affiliations in Women’s and Gender Studies and the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute. She is xiv

List of contributors

the author of Fashioning Diaspora: Beauty, Femininity, and South Asian American Culture (Temple University Press, 2016). Her articles have appeared in the journals South Asian Popular Culture, Contemporary Literature, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, and the Journal of Asian American Studies. She is co-editing an issue of Scholar and Feminist Online called ‘Feminist and Queer Afro-Asian Formations’, (forthcoming, 2017). This special issue emerges out of her current book-in-progress, which examines possibilities for cross-racial affiliations between the South Asian diasporic and other racialized populations from a queer feminist perspective. Anjali Gera Roy is a Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India. She has published 100 essays in literary, film and cultural studies in reputed journals and anthologies. She is the author of Cinema of Enchantment: Perso-Arabic Genealogies of the Hindi Masala film (Orient Blackswan, 2015) and Bhangra Moves: From Ludhiana to London and Beyond (Ashgate, 2010). In addition, she has edited Imagining Punjab, Punjabi, Punjabiat in the Transnational Era (Routledge, 2015) and The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad (Sage, 2012) and co-edited (with Chua Beng Huat) The Travels of Indian Cinema: From Bombay to LA (Oxford University Press, 2012) and (with Nandi Bhatia) Partitioned Lives: Narratives of Home, Displacement and Resettlement (Pearson Longman, 2008). Ajaya K. Sahoo teaches at the Centre for Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad, India. His research interests include the Indian diaspora and transnationalism. He has co-edited Diasporas and Transnationalisms (Routledge, 2017), Indian Transnationalism Online (Ashgate, 2014), Transnational Migrations (Routledge, 2009), Indian Diaspora and Transnationalism (Rawat, 2012), and Tracing an Indian Diaspora (Sage, 2008). He is Editor of the journal South Asian Diaspora. Supriya Singh is a Professor of Sociology of Communications at RMIT University, Australia. Her research interests cover financial inclusion; the sociology of money and banking; communication, globalization, migration and the transnational family. Her recent books are Globalization and Money: A Global South Perspective (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) and The Girls Ate Last (Angsana Publications, 2013). Her latest book Money, Migration and Family: India to Australia (2016) was published by Palgrave Macmillan. Priya Srinivasan is an independent scholar and artist based in Melbourne, Australia, whose research uses critical feminist performance ethnography to explore the inter-relations between migration, history and labouring bodies. Using the notion of ‘bodily archive’, she explores the labour of stories, histories and power sedimented on dancing bodies. She has worked as an experimental dance/theatre choreographer developing the form of ‘talking dances’ in Chicago, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Melbourne. Goolam Vahed is a Professor in the Department of History, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He received his PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. His research interests include identity formation, citizenship, ethnicity, migration and transnationalism among Indian South Africans and the role of sport and culture in South African society. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and his recent co-authored books are Schooling Muslims in Natal: Identity, State and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute (KwaZulu-Natal University Press, 2015), Crossing Space and Time in the Indian Ocean: Early Indian Traders in Natal – A Biographical Study (Unisa Press, 2015) and The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire (Stanford University Press, 2016). xv

List of contributors

SaunJuhi Verma, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, is a sociologist by training with expertise in immigration, labour, law, race and gender. Her research record has centred upon evaluation of immigration policies, particularly modes of surveillance and policing of migrants in a global context. Her book manuscript, Black Gold, Brown Labour, is the first to identify contemporary forms of indentured labour that are concealed within state authorized immigration programmes. Her second book project, supported by Fulbright, evaluates policy design by inquiring into India’s biometric ID and E-Migrate programmes that regulate migration between migrants and foreign employers. Carmen Voigt-Graf is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Research Institute in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, as well as a Fellow at the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University. She has previously worked in different roles and organizations in several Pacific Island countries including in Fiji for the University of the South Pacific and as Economic Adviser for the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser in Vanuatu. Her areas of research interest include the Indian diaspora, transnationalism, labour mobility and migration. Over the past fifteen years, she has also consulted for various development partners in the region. Margaret Walton-Roberts is a Professor in the Geography and Environmental Studies department at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Ontario, Canada. Her research addresses Indian immigrant networks and settlement in Canada, and the impact of transnational networks in both source and destination locales. She has published a number of articles and book chapters highlighting the role of immigration and remittances in transnational community formation and maintenance, including work on health philanthropy, remittance-led village projects in Punjab, and explorations of the role of the state and community in the gendered nature of transnational relations.




Australian Bureau of Statistics African National Congress Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India British Broadcasting Corporation Bombay Broadcasting Network Bilateral Investment Treaty Bharatriya Janata Party City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Canadian Commerce Chamber Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement Confederation of Indian Industries Comparative Immigrant Organization Project Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act Foreign Direct Investment Federation of Indian Associations Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Foreign Portfolio Investment Gulf Cooperation Council Gross Domestic Product Government of India Global Organization for People of Indian Origin Greater Toronto Area Information and Communication Technology International Indian Film Academy India Mahila Association Integrated Public Use Microdata Series Information Technology Indian Workers’ Association Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association xvii

List of abbreviations


Multi-Cultural Family Support Services Ministry of External Affairs Massachusetts Institute of Technology Multinational Corporation Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities Member of Parliament Non-Resident Gujarati Non-Resident Indians Non Resident Indians Online Non-Resident Ordinary Overseas Corporate Bodies Overseas Citizens of India Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Persons of Indian Origin Permanent Residency Queer South Asian National Network Reserve Bank of India Registered Nurse Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association South Asian Music Youth Orchestra South Asian Women Action Network Toronto International Film Festival Times of India Film Awards United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs US Agency for International Development United States Victoria and Dow Hill Association Vancouver Custody and Access Support and Advocacy Association Vocational Education and Training Vishva Hindu Parishad Video-on-Demand World Health Organization World Trade Organization



We would like to thank all the authors for their insightful contributions to this Handbook. We deeply appreciate the scholarly effort and work that has gone into this collaborative project. We especially thank the authors for their patience and swift responses to our editorial queries. We would like to thank Anne Pasek in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University for her careful reading and editing of the chapters. Thanks to Jigna Kotecha also from Media, Culture and Communication at New York University who helped us efficiently with last minute production details. A special thanks to Anindita Shome, doctoral student, Centre for Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad, for her editorial help. Thanks to Soumi Sarkar (Independent photographer, NYC) for the cover photograph. At Routledge, our sincere thanks goes to Dorothea Schaefter, Senior Editor, Asian Studies and her editorial assistants Sophie Iddamalgoda and Lily Brown for their support and encouragement that made this Handbook possible. 12 October 2016 Radha S. Hegde Ajaya K. Sahoo


INTRODUCTION Radha S. Hegde and Ajaya K. Sahoo

Diasporas are complex social formations shaped by political imaginaries and defined by the materialities of national borders and economies. Scholars across disciplines have grappled with the concept of diaspora and its paradigmatic constructions of forced dispersal, nostalgia and imagined homelands.1 The term diaspora is evoked as an umbrella or catch-all term, an analytical category, or a heuristic. Alternatively, it is critiqued for collapsing and conflating distinct experiences of mobility. Recently, more scholarly attention has been paid to complicate the term in order to loosen the stable connection between diasporic communities and places of origin. With radical changes in the conditions of migration under neoliberal globalization, there is also a recognition of the transnational politics and cultural contradictions that frame diasporic lives. These experiences of border crossing and relocations raise questions that interrupt assumptions about nationality, citizenship and belonging. This Handbook is an effort to contextualize these questions with regard to the diverse experiences and particular histories that constitute the Indian diaspora. The geographical diversity of the Indian diaspora has been shaped against the backdrop of the historical forces of colonialism, nationalism and neoliberal globalization. In each of these global conjunctures, the demand for workers has led the Indian diaspora to various locations, each with its particular sets of challenges. This in turn, has created a multiplicity of diasporic experiences, cultures and practices. Commenting on the diverse streams of flexible labour that characterize the diaspora, Koshy (2008, 3) notes: “No other diaspora offers this comprehensive a view of the continuous renovations in forms and modes of migrant labour because no other diasporic population has been at the centre of these shifts for such an extended period of time.” Although each stream of Indian migration is distinct, the historical particularities of diasporic mobility connect and intersect on different levels. In the various nations to which they have moved, Indians have forged networks of affiliation and a visible diasporic presence. The chapters of this Handbook introduce readers to historical, social and economic contexts that frame the cultures and practices of the Indian diaspora. Diasporas and nations are bound together through the articulation of difference and citizenship. While diasporic groups define their identity in transnational terms, nations have historically depended on diasporic groups in order to strengthen hegemonic versions of citizenship and nationalism (Behdad, 2005). In recent years, the geopolitical context and the rise of anti-immigrant discourses have created intense displays of nationalism along with a climate of suspicion around 1

Radha S. Hegde and Ajaya K. Sahoo

immigrants and minority groups in the West (Appadurai, 2006). At the same time, countries of origin like India are paying close attention to the diaspora as potential investors, in order to accelerate the country’s own development and position in the global economy (Kapur, 2010). The steady focus on diasporic communities to advance different types of national agendas is not new, but the attention has clearly assumed new inflections in the current global context. The manner in which immigrants are being hailed, recruited and folded into a variety of national imaginaries has led to flexible forms of citizenship (Ong, 1999) which are perceived as either advantageous or threatening (Maira, 2009). For example, the flexibility of diasporic affiliation and continuing loyalties to the homeland are considered an asset by countries like India, whereas the dual affiliations of immigrants are often regarded as a point of suspicion in the West. This leads to the question of how diasporic communities are named in prevailing social and political discourse. The act of naming, whether by the state, census bureaus, activists or the community themselves, is a form of either recognition or misrecognition. The naming of communities is strategic, in that it can either narrow the focus of attention or broaden the site of identification. The use of South Asian as the broad term to preface the study of the diaspora from the subcontinent gestures towards greater regional inclusivity. The term South Asian is also used by immigrant activists to go beyond nationality groupings in order to promote a wider political alliance. In contrast, the term Asian Indian was coined by the US Census in 1980 as an umbrella term to refer to immigrants from the subcontinent. In the post 9/11 context, the use of the term desi has evolved as a term of racial identification used by the community in contrast to the bureaucratic terms of identification.2 The Indian government is also politically interested in the use of the term Indian to name and unify immigrants who claim their origins within the currently defined borders of India. Naming also activates particular lines of inquiry. While sensitive to these histories of naming, we recoup the term Indian diaspora in order to particularize diasporic experiences with an explicit focus on the nation, its geographies and borders. In the current moment, when nations and political parties are marshalling their interpretations of the past in order to manipulate the present, we feel there are specificities with respect to India that need to be examined. This move is not about claiming an essentialized Indian perspective on diaspora, but rather to show how the nation as a political entity and cartographic formation informs the lives, cultures and the challenges of diasporic communities. Diasporas and nations have historically come together around states of being such as the quality of Indianness. As Shukla (2003, 23) argues, the diaspora reproduces itself through “intensified investments in Indianness”. With the imagination entrenched in the practice of everyday life (Appadurai, 1996), Indians in the diaspora actively and continually reinvent the idea of belonging in transnational terms. There are multiple Indias that are reproduced, normalized and mobilized by the diaspora and by the nation(s) they inhabit. These representations of India are claimed to unite communities around cultural practices and also to impose hegemonic beliefs and values. Evolving forms of media and technology have historically enabled the travel and reproduction of national ideologies through transnational diasporic circuits (Anderson, 1983). Today media and technology have redefined the terms and conditions of the diasporic experience (Hegde, 2016). Diasporas represent communicative sites of intense heterogeneity which render legible the political disposition of nations. Advancing a strong case for the use of diaspora space as a conceptual category, Brah (1996, 242) writes: “Diaspora space is the intersectionality of diaspora, border, and dis/location as a point of confluence of economic, political, cultural, and psychic processes”. The chapters that follow examine the Indian diaspora not as a site of authenticity but as one of entanglement. The goal of this Handbook is to set a dialogue in motion about a range of questions and issues that frame the history and the identity of the Indian diaspora. In order to provide a 2


backdrop and contextualize the journeys and pathways described by the authors, we next trace a very brief history of the mobility of Indian diasporic communities.

Tracking histories Given its geographical location, India has a long history of migration and mobility. In terms of sheer numbers, Indians today constitute the third largest group of diasporics living outside their homeland, next to the British and the Chinese. The people of Indian origin, with nearly 25 million plus in population, have settled in over 100 countries and constitute more than 40 per cent of the population in Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam (see Gautam, 2013). Although much smaller in numbers, they are still a visible minority in Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the UK, the US and Canada. There is strong scholarly consensus that the emigration of Indians can be broadly captured in three distinct historical time frames (see Dubey, 2003; Jain, 1993; Sahoo, 2006) covering the precolonial, colonial and postcolonial periods.

Precolonial migration Trade and religious propagation were the main reasons for early emigration from India. According to historical and archival data, the global mobility of Indians can be traced to the first century AD, when merchants, princes, priests, poets and artisans journeyed to East Africa and Southeast Asian countries and forged cultural ties in these places (see MEA, 2002; Suryanarayan, 2003). Prior to the sixteenth century, according to Kaur (2008), Indian migratory movements within the Asian region were limited to mercantile or religious travel in the region, which pre-dated the arrival of European commercial interests. Due to its strategic location, the Indian subcontinent has been a central node in the steady outward flow of people, ideologies and commodities (Selvakumar, 2011). The maritime history of precolonial India shows evidence of continuous contact between the Kingdoms of the Coromandel Coast and the islands of South East Asia (Jayaram, 2004). Drawing support from archaeological evidence, Shanmugam (2009) argues that during the Chola period, from the ninth to the thirteenth century AD, the Southeast Asia region became a thriving market for traders, especially from South India. The Cholas, among the most powerful rulers of South India, exerted their maritime influence from the Coromandel Coast across the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. During this period, port towns such as Kaveripattinam and Nagapattinam flourished and enabled trade and commerce (Devare, 2009). With an infrastructure in place, the ambitions of Indian merchants grew grander and more global. Scholars speculate that these merchants were attracted by the vast resources available in Southeast Asia, but also realized that the region served as a gateway to trade with China (Guy, 2011). With the slow development of these trade routes and contacts, it is believed that merchants from what is now Gujarat, Bengal and Tamil Nadu settled down in the port cities of Southeast Asia. Together with trade and commerce, the merchants had a great deal of cultural influence on life in these locations and considerable economic power as well (Markovits, 2000). According to Van der Veer (1995, 4), “the pervasiveness of precolonial migration inside and outside of India may at least lead us to question the radical modernity of the experience of displacement, disjuncture, and diaspora”.

Colonial migration Multiple historical events and developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries created the conditions for the emigration of large numbers of Indians to different parts of the world. 3

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European imperialist expansion depended on both the movement and regulation of the bodies of the colonized. At the height of colonial rule, India was firmly entrenched in British colonial expansionist projects and economic schemes which spanned the whole of the Empire’s territorial possessions. According to Brown (2007, 14): India was at the heart of this deepening global interconnection, and became increasingly significant for Britain as a source of raw materials, as [a] market for manufactured goods, a destination for capital investment, and a source of labour for other parts of the Empire. New plantations and other commercial ventures in the colonies, aided by emerging transportation infrastructures, created the need for large supplies of labour. Indians filled a variety of labour needs for the British Empire, which required various types of skills ranging from farmers, plantation workers, soldiers (sepoys), sailors (lascars), dock workers and nannies (ayahs), to clerks in the civil services. However, it was mostly the unskilled, indentured workers who represented the most dramatic numbers of Indians enlisted to work overseas in the colonies. For the better part of the nineteenth century, Indian workers were transported to distant places to work in British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Suriname, Mauritius, Fiji and Natal (South Africa). The abolition of slavery in the British, French and Dutch colonies, respectively in 1834, 1846 and 1873, led to severe shortages of labour to work in the sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa and rubber plantations in the colonies. Mahmud (2012, 16) notes that colonial planters perceived their success as resting upon “a critical ratio between abundant land and cheap labour – a ratio which slavery had served well and which after abolition needed to be replaced”. Looking for alternative sources of labour, the colonial government imported Indians under the designation of indentured labour. Scholars have characterized the indentured labour as “a new form of slavery” (Tinker, 1974, xiv) or as “a bridge between slavery and modern forms of contract labour” (Mahmud, 2012, 15). While there were variations, the indentured labour system was primarily a contractual arrangement with penal sanctions to work in a foreign country under specified terms (Goss & Lindquist, 2000). The Netherlands and France, which replicated the British system, also relied on Indian workers (see Naujoks, 2009). The emigration of indentured labour to places in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean continued up to the early twentieth century with approximately 1.5 million Indians leaving India under contracts of indenture (see Clarke et al., 1990). The dire situation that prevailed in India at that time due to the combination of colonial rule, famine and natural calamities had destroyed cottage industries, wiped out the rural economies and forced workers to seek employment under the indenture system. At the same time, the West, riding the wave of industrial development, deemed Indians to be a hardworking and malleable workforce. As a result, the British, the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese all sought Indian skilled labour for development of plantations and the agricultural economies of their territories. As Bahadur (2014, xx) writes: “These were the first groups of Indians abroad in any significant numbers, the vanguard of a larger, broader diaspora that India presently views with pride, courts and cultivates, but who were denigrated at the time.” Upon their arrival in the colonies, the indentured workers were assigned to plantations to which they were bound for five or more years. Isolated in the new foreign locations, the Indians were also controlled by restrictions imposed on their movements. Although they were promised fair wages and a return voyage to India in exchange for a predetermined number of years of work, very few of these labourers ever returned to India. One can only surmise that their desire to better their lives and the reality of the dismal situation in India forced them to endure the hardship of life in these plantations. Once in these situations of indenture, the colonial 4


apparatus shaped both their work and the ways in which their bodies and identities were rendered visible. For example, Raghuram and Sahoo (2008, 6) note how diasporic identities were produced: “Imperial machinations forced diasporic identifications through racial classifications. People were often required to perform their diasporic affiliation, to be marked through their migratory trajectory, to submerge other vectors of difference and to play out the imagined markers of diasporic culture.” Emigration to Sri Lanka, Burma and Malaya presents a marked difference in contrast to the indentured labour migration to the African and Caribbean countries. All the migrants to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Malaya were from the southern parts of India and were recruited mainly by agents or overseers known as the Kangani. The Indians worked on the tea, coffee and rubber plantations. During the period from 1852 to 1937, 1.5 million Indians went to Ceylon, 2 million to Malaya, and 2.5 million to Burma (Davis, 1951, 104). After 1920, the Kangani migration (totalling around 6 million) gradually gave way to individual or un-recruited, free migration primarily due to the sharp fall in demand for Indian labour. Each of these streams of labour flows from India is embedded within the economic and social realities of the colonial project. There is definitely a need, as Carter (2008) argues, for more comparative approaches to the study of the mobilization of Indian labour during this time frame.

Postcolonial migration With the onset of the world wars, labour migration from India almost came to a halt. At the end of the Second World War, the changes in the political scenario reshuffled the flow of migrants and the processes of border control. Following Indian independence, the migration from India shifted course in terms of both geography and demographics. It was now headed mainly to the developed countries of the West and Australia, and the focus was mainly about the mobility of the skilled and professional diaspora. The influence of the global economy and its markets significantly reworked the Indian diasporic narrative in the post-independence context. While the terms of labour are vastly different from the earlier migration of indentured labour, there are new vectors of power and control to contend with. Indians from other parts of the world, especially from the former colonies, started emigrating to the West. Political upheavals, violence and resistance to the presence of the Indian diaspora also led to new patterns of mobility. A clear example is the case of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in the 1970s which led to the exodus of Indians to the West. In addition, there has been large-scale migration of skilled and unskilled labourers to the Gulf countries since the 1970s. It is argued that the steep increase in oil prices and the consequent earnings of large revenues accelerated the process of industrialization and social change in the GCC states.3 This was characterized by massive investment in social and economic infrastructure necessitating the service of large numbers of immigrant workers.4 In summary, the Indian diasporic story is spread over complex routes and global pathways. The earlier diasporic stream, which migrated to British, French and Dutch colonies during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as indentured and Kangani labourers, is often described as the ‘old diaspora’. The more recent streams of skilled migration to industrially developed countries of Europe and North America during the postcolonial era rest on markedly different political contexts which have to be historicized comparatively. Wherever Indians have migrated and settled, they have created multicultural spaces and social networks, and forged communities through economic activity and cultural practices. As Mishra (1996) notes, the histories of Indian diasporic movement draw on two archives which he terms diasporas of exclusivism and diasporas of the border. The older diasporas of classic capitalism, according to him, were self-contained ‘little Indias’ in the colonies, in contrast 5

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to the diasporas of advanced capital in the mid-to-late twentieth century who moved to the metropolitan centres of the West. These diasporas, although historically separate, do have several points of overlap; hence according to Mishra (1996), they should be viewed as interlinked. The politics of adaptation have changed over time as has also the relationship between the various transnational networks of the Indian diaspora and the homeland.

Overview The chapters featured in this Handbook cover a variety of topics including immigration, transnationalism, identity, performance, religion, politics, citizenship, gender, sexuality, labour and more. We bring together scholars from different parts of the globe, representing various disciplines including sociology, anthropology, history, labour studies, political science, media and communication studies, cultural studies, philosophy, English and comparative literature.

Histories and trajectories Our opening part presents five chapters that speak to the complex global trajectories and transnational histories of the Indian diaspora. Despite the overwhelming push by political groups and factions to resurrect simplistic and often celebratory histories of the diaspora, in reality the histories of Indian diasporic experiences are far from being linear or singular. In this first part, the focus is on documenting histories that are elided or are invisible due to the layers of hegemonic retellings of the diasporic saga. In his chapter, Lal provides a nuanced account of the intersecting transnational histories that frame the experiences of indentured labour from India. Colonialism, imperial expansion, transportation, economic turbulence, natural disasters and personal traumas have all impinged on creating what he calls one of the most significant chapters in the global migration of unfree labour. Maharaj in his chapter traces the continuities that have defined the racial and class positionalities of the diaspora in the colonial and postcolonial phases of history. Maharaj elaborates on the marginalization and identity politics that have defined diasporic life in multiple geographical sites where the histories of indentured labour have played out. His detailed tracking of the history shows us that polarization along the lines of race and ethnicity has in fact become more entrenched in the postcolonial era, necessitating greater scrutiny of the current history and politics of racialization. Mishra’s chapter highlights the voice of an indentured worker, Sanadhya, in the plantations of Fiji, whose testimonios highlight the material conditions of labour and the memories of this subaltern community. Mishra argues that testimonios and songs capture the sensory details of trauma and loss, and hence are important sites from which to reconstruct a history of the plantation diaspora. Mehta’s chapter contributes to our understanding of the traumas of indenture and the crossing of the dark waters, kala pani, from postcolonial writings in French from Mauritius and the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. In her close reading of these writings, Mehta asserts that the francophone kala pani writings make visible the lives of the migrant underclass, as both victims and survivors of colonial and national history. By introducing subaltern perspectives, these authors complicate and add a necessary provocation to the study of diaspora. Challenging narrow definitions of diaspora, Aiyar discusses the competing scales, spaces and sites of diasporic belonging by using oceanic crossings and interregional connections as a compelling point of entry. Placing the Indian diasporic presence at the centre of studies of nationalism and race, according to Aiyar, constitutes a significant historiographic shift – one that she argues brings together South Asian, African and diasporic studies and is attentive to local and transnational dynamics. 6


Diaspora and infrastructures The global neoliberal economy’s prioritization of temporary work significantly impacted the flow of labour from India. This part examines various types of political formations and social structures that regulate these flows. In a multi-sited ethnography that spans the US, India and the Middle East, Verma’s work demonstrates that employers make strategic use of the legal infrastructures to employ migrant labour. Employers cultivate business relationships with migration industry providers to fulfil their needs for experienced and disciplined migrants. This, in turn, has led to an expansion of labour brokerage agencies which service the global economy with a shifting labour pool. Examining infrastructures and state policies which encourage diasporic investments, the next chapter by Naujoks provides a detailed historical account and survey of how the state has, over time, created places, platforms and channels of communication to bring the diaspora into a national narrative of growth. There is the assumption that the non-resident Indian (NRI) investor is motivated by more than just financial interests when it comes to investing in development efforts in the home country. The state in its rhetorical reach definitely plays up that factor. As Naujoks shows, flagship initiatives of the current Indian government incorporate NRI investment matters into general policy. Organizations formed along religious and communal lines influence the diaspora to get involved in social projects in India. Agarwala’s chapter elaborates on how Indian-American organizations work to assist their own social constituency in India and the US adhering to their development ideology and social identity affiliations. Leveraging their socio-economic status in the US, these diasporic groups vary both in the type of projects they fund and the nature of advocacy efforts they engage in. Singh’s chapter explores the role of gender in the realm of finance and the diaspora. Drawing on research conducted with the Indian diaspora in Australia, she shows how normative authority around money matters is gendered within Indian families. She argues that scholarship has to pay attention to the way in which gender, finance and family intersect in the context of migration.

Cultural dynamics This part explores the intersection of cultural reproduction, mediation and national logics. The terrain of the cultural becomes the site where the politics of belonging and ideologies of nationalism are enacted and reproduced in the everyday. The diaspora’s dreams, desires and longings are translated, commodified and recreated in various media practices and platforms. Being fully connected to India today, diasporic communities are avid consumers of Indian media and hence constitute a significant demographic segment for the global media industries. In his chapter, Punathambekar claims that diasporic media initiatives today are no longer exilic or interstitial, rather they need to be understood against the backdrop of the interconnections between global media capitals such as Bombay, New York City and Los Angeles. Mainstream global media ventures, he argues, not only define diasporic media circulation but strategically steer different visions of the diaspora. In her chapter, Srinivasan moves us to the terrain of the performative and reads the dancing body as a site where one can see the play and tension between cultural nationalism, religion and multiculturalism. Examining the ways in which classical dance forms like Bharathanatyam are taught and practised in the diasporic context allows Srinivasan to show how the immigrant body navigates the past and present and negotiates a corporeal politics of assimilation. The theme of identity politics and performance is further explored by Ramnarine in the context of music and music-making in the diaspora. She examines the broad spectrum of 7

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musical practices in the diaspora and how music circulates transnationally between India and the diaspora through media, performance and social networks. Chutney, for example, which emerged as a popular musical genre in the 1970s in conjunction with Caribbean identity politics, soon spread to other global regions following diasporic pathways. Ramnarine discusses how Bollywood draws on the soundscapes of the diaspora and how this, in turn, has reconfigured not only music in the diaspora but also the relationship between the diaspora and the nation. The pervasive influence of Bollywood on the diasporic sensorium is the subject of Roy’s chapter. Viewing cinema as an assemblage, the chapter analyses the manner in which bodies and spaces respond and yield to the sensory appeal of Bollywood as it spills over into the everyday life of the Indian diaspora in Singapore. As Roy describes the reterritorialization of sensations, she reminds us about the complex ways in which circuits of desire and capitalism intersect in these global flows of media and diasporic communities. She evokes the strong sensory details of memories of movie-going experiences of the diaspora in Singapore and the forms of sociality constructed around Bollywood. In her chapter, Reddy turns our attention to the site of fashion and the intersection of diasporic visual culture and embodied practices. Through a critical examination of media platforms and visual artworks, Reddy shows how fashion and visual aesthetics can become a site of resistance, challenging the normative boundaries of the Indian nation as represented in the figure of the upwardly mobile, Hindu NRI male patriarch. The critical analysis of media and the heterogenous aesthetic strategies in Reddy’s chapter push the theoretical debate on the visuality of diasporic belonging.

Representation and identity This part coheres around Hall’s (1990) astute reminder that cultural identities are not a fixed essence standing apart from history. Hall argues that “cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence but a positioning” (1990, 226). The chapters in this part capture the shifting politics of identity constituted along multiple intersecting axes and within frameworks and regimes of representation. While the nature of diasporic organizing has changed over time in response to the exigencies of the moment, there are also striking continuities in terms of the issues and political spirit that animates this activism. Kalra traces these ideological commitments and continuities between two organizations and the discourses that have shaped the political identity of the diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic. He shows how the Ghadar party formed in the US in the early part of the twentieth century provided the inspiration for the formation of the Indian Workers’ Association (GB) in Britain in 1938. The subject of gender and the challenges faced by women in the diaspora are taken up by the next two chapters. Over time and across geographical contexts, diasporic women have typically been responsible for the work of cultural reproduction within the family structure. In Orientalist representations which paint India as regressive, Indian women are cast quite frequently as passive, subservient or exotic. These monolithic constructions of diasporic women have consequences in terms of services provided and employment opportunities. Through an extensive review, Das Gupta shows how the typecasting of diasporic women impacts their job opportunities and their career paths. At the same time, far from being passive, Indian diasporic women have had a long history of organizing and fighting for their rights as women and as racialized workers and immigrants. Diasporic organizing around domestic violence in the US and Canada is the focus of Bhuyan and Ramsundarsingh’s chapter. In order to address the problem of domestic violence in the Indian communities in North America, Bhuyan and Ramsundarsingh argue that South Asian activists 8


have to strategically grapple with representational frameworks as well as deep structural issues including immigration, labour issues and forms of racism. Hence the authors note that anti-violence interventions have to be designed at multiple levels. More recent forms of digital advocacy are in fact offering some innovative approaches to raise public consciousness about gendered violence in the diaspora. Shifting the gaze to visceral forms of racism in the context of a small northern Australian town, the chapter by Lobo explores Indian festivals as performative spaces of celebration and interracial encounters. In smaller diasporic festival spaces in the town of Darwin, informal encounters between groups enable and facilitate multicultural exchange. In contrast in the more commercialized spaces of celebration backed by corporate sponsors, there is a commodification and freezing of cultures. Ultimately as Lobo shows in her chapter, big commercial festival ventures end up reaffirming the multiculturalist discourse and a white/ethnic divide. The identity of the diaspora is shaped against the backdrop of dominant representations of the community. In a content analysis of two Canadian newspapers, Dordi and Walton-Roberts show how reporting about the diaspora and about India merge and blur. The authors argue that both are represented within the framework of soft power, hard power and the evocation of a deficient state. While India is increasingly turning its attention on the diaspora to publicize the nation’s own global arrival, Canadian media, according to Dordi and Walton-Roberts, continue to connect any negative news about the diaspora back to India and some Indian cultural norm rather than to contextualizing diasporic news in terms of immigration and relocation.

Politics of belonging This part takes up the intricate area of politics, nationalism and the shifting terrain of belonging. Diasporic preoccupation with identity is inevitably related to the community’s relationships, both personal and institutional, to the nation of origin and the nation of relocation. As diasporas are gaining recognition in new locations in the West, the Indian government is paying close attention to the successes of the Indian diaspora. Hegde’s chapter examines a revised moment in the relationship between India and its diaspora. After assuming office in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to the diaspora has been orchestrated as nation branding events. Analysing Prime Minister Modi’s speeches delivered in select global cities, Hegde argues that the national campaign rests on the belief that India’s image has to be crafted in transnational terms. The publicity events combine affective appeals directed to the diaspora and corporate branding techniques in order to advance a cosmopolitan storyline about the nation and enlist the diaspora as natural extensions of the nation. The performance of Indianness is the focus of Purkayastha, Adur and Khan’s chapter. Examining the social dynamics and the politics that frame the dance performances of secondgeneration Indian Americans, the authors argue that young diasporic groups use the opportunity presented by multiculturalism to produce their version of Indianness. Building on an earlier generation’s cultural vision of India, these young Indian Americans balance styles and genres to script their public identity. Using the platform of the multicultural and the performative registers of Bollywood, post-migration generation Indian Americans demonstrate how they balance and insert their vision of culture and assert their presence in mainstream spaces. The spatial coordinates of identity and belonging are discussed through the lens of memory by Bonnerjee. While the predominant focus of theorizing on the diaspora stays at the level of the nation, Bonnerjee examines the Anglo-Indian community and the distinct ways in which the community draws on the city to forge a sense of belonging. In the narratives of nostalgia, it is the neighbourhoods that serve as anchors of memory. For this minoritized community, the act of diasporic dispersal has significantly disrupted its sense of community. The author argues 9

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that while the Anglo-Indian diasporas establishes its presence in global cities, there continues to be a sense of nostalgia for the community that Anglo-Indians once shared in India. The sense of exclusion that comes with diasporic lives at the intersections of race, class and sexuality is the theme of Adur’s chapter. Framing queer South Asian experiences in the US as testimonies of exclusion, Adur traces the contours and challenges of queer activism today. The chapter speaks to how queer activism in the Indian diaspora is branching out to intersecting social justice concerns such as immigration, marriage equality and racial profiling. The focus is no longer on just being visible: rather the goal of diasporic queer activism today is to resist and take on structural issues of oppression. Drawing on the voices and political work of the activists, Adur establishes that diasporas are neither homogeneous nor monolithic, and membership in diasporic spaces is not unconditional. Diasporas instead are sites of contentious politics.

Networked subjectivities and transnationalism The radical transformations of diasporic connections in the context of globalization are the subject of this concluding part. Maintaining a strong community base has been central to diasporas for both survival and sociality. This set of chapters addresses the idea of networks and subjectivities from a variety of angles, drawing on distinct archives of experience. As we have already noted in the introduction, naming a community often runs the risk of collapsing its own internal diversity. Baas notes that with the changing patterns of migration from India to Australia since the 2000s, the umbrella term “Indian Community” increasingly does not capture the complexity of the diaspora today. Between 2002 and 2009, there was a surge in the number of Indian students in Australia, many of whom have eventually become Australian citizens. This chapter shows how new migrants differ sharply from the more established diasporic community. Given their relative newness in Australian society and the fact that they are connected to India in ways that the earlier community were not, the involvement of new immigrants with the diasporic community base is limited. What indeed does community and even more precisely a diasporic community mean in the contemporary context? As Baas notes, there is a pressing need to engage with these questions at a time when despite the growing diversity within the diaspora, narrow definitions continue to circulate in the domain of policy. The particular characteristics of the networks enabled by new technologies and the implications for transnational identity construction form the crux of Vahed’s chapter. There is a hasty tendency to equate the idea of networks with the emerging possibilities of digital space. However, as Vahed shows us, migrant transnational networks played an important role in maintaining caste affiliation, caste consciousness and religious identity throughout the history of the Indian diaspora. Networks today are stratified and specialized along various lines and provide sources of support to the diaspora. While networks enable the possibility of connecting and expanding one’s circle, they are also the means to reproduce community along lines of caste and religion, two significant markers of Indian identity in the diaspora. The drastic changes in the contemporary patterns of global mobility have led to what Voigt-Graf terms complex migration biographies. Migrants today are part of complex and multiple transnational networks. Examining three migrant communities in Australia – Punjabis, Kannadigas and Indo-Fijians – Voigt-Graf addresses the spatial organization of Indian diasporic transnationalism. This chapter proposes a model of transnational spaces to show how social relations occur in geographical space and how localities evolve over time. Using the spatial organization of transnationalism, Voigt-Graf shows how older bipolar modes of connection between sending and receiving countries have been replaced by new networks which transcend boundaries and span transnational space. 10


This part ends with an examination of subjectivity and the diasporic imagination in the realm of fiction. The limits of simple binaries are exposed and challenged in literary space. The discourse of assimilation is inevitably framed within linear templates which present impossible binaries between agency and passivity or tradition and modernity. Munos offers a critical discussion of the nuanced ways in which author Jhumpa Lahiri presents motherhood in her narratives of the mother–daughter relationship. Lahiri’s fiction also provides a point of departure for Pandurang’s exploration of identity work. Through a close reading of Lahiri’s work, the author crafts several lines of questioning that cut across our understandings of diaspora. Pandurang calls for a theorization of diasporic subjectivity that is more mobile and fluid and accommodates a more ambivalent notion of home. What happens when notions of the imaginary homeland that have defined diasporic subjectivities are diluted? What happens to these constructions of home and homeland over time and across generations and against the backdrop of increased global mobility? In this collaborative project, our authors from different scholarly traditions and perspectives have contributed to a deep exploration of the diverse histories, geographies and cultural practices of the Indian diaspora. Flexing the meaning of the word diaspora, the scholarship presented in this Handbook leads us into the mobile worlds of the Indian diaspora. While we have tried to cover much ground about the Indian diaspora, there are no doubt limitations in terms of both regions represented and thematics discussed. The authors have covered extensive spatial and temporal terrain and drawn from a variety of archives and intellectual perspectives in order to map the narratives, both historical and ongoing, of the Indian diaspora. The Handbook offers a wide array of issues and debates which we hope will reinvigorate discussions about the Indian diaspora, its global presence and trajectories.

Notes 1 The term diaspora has been addressed extensively across disciplines and is addressed throughout this collection. Pertinent here to the issues raised are: Appadurai (1996), Brubaker (2005), Mavroudi (2007), Safran (1991), Vertovec & Cohen (1999), Werbner (2000). 2 On this issue, see Maira (2009), Prashad (2000), Sharma (2010). 3 The GCC refers to the six countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council – the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. 4 On the intersection of skills and migration, see Khadria (2011).

References Anderson, B. R. O. (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Appadurai, A. (2006). Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Bahadur, G. (2014). Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Behdad, A. (2005). A Forgetful Nation: On Immigration and Cultural Identity in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Brah, A. (1996). Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. London: Routledge. Brown, J. M. (2007). Global South Asians: Introducing the Modern Diaspora. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Brubaker, R. (2005). The “Diaspora” Diaspora. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(1), 1–19. Carter, M. (2008). Indians and the Colonial Diaspora. In: K. Kesavapany, A. Mani and P. Ramasamy, eds, Rising India and Indian Communities in East Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 12–26.


Radha S. Hegde and Ajaya K. Sahoo Clarke, C., Peach, C. and Vertovec, S. (1990). Introduction. In: C. Clarke, C. Peach and S. Vertovec, eds, South Asians Overseas. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–29. Davis, K. (1951). The Population of India and Pakistan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Devare, H. (2009). Cultural Implications of the Chola Maritime Fabric Trade with Southeast Asia. In: H. Kulke, K. Kesavapany and V. Sakhuja, eds, Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, pp. 178–192. Dubey, A. (2003). Indian Diaspora: Global Identity. New Delhi: Kalinga Publications. Gautam, M. K. (2013). Indian Diaspora: Ethnicity and Diasporic Identity. New Delhi: CARIM-India Research Report 2013/29, Ministry of External Affairs. [Online]. Available from: images/pdf/EthnicityandDiasporicIdentity.pdf [Accessed on 6 October 2016]. Goss, J. and Lindquist, B. (2000). Placing Movers: An Overview of the Asian-Pacific Migration System. Contemporary Pacific, 12(2), 385–414. Guy, J. (2011). Tamil Merchants and the Hindu–Buddhist Diaspora in Early Southeast Asia. In: P.-Y. Manguin, A. Mani and G. Wade, eds, Early Interactions between South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 243–262. Hall, S. (1990). Cultural Identity and Diaspora. In: J. Rutherford, ed., Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 222–237. Hegde, R. S. (2016). Mediating Migration. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Jain, R. K. (1993). Indian Communities Abroad: Themes and Literature. New Delhi: Manohar. Jayaram, N. (ed.). (2004). The Indian Diaspora: Dynamics of Migration. New Delhi: Sage. Kapur, D. (2010). Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Kaur, A. (2008). The Movement of Indians in East Asia: Contemporary and Historical Encounters. In: K. Kesavapany, A. Mani and P. Ramasamy, eds, Rising India and Indian Communities in East Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 27–48. Khadria, B. (2011). Bridging the Binaries of Skilled and Unskilled Migration from India. In: S. Irudaya Rajan and M. Percot, eds, Dynamics of Indian Migration: Historical and Current Perspectives. New Delhi: Routledge, pp. 251–285. Koshy, S. (2008). Introduction. In: S. Koshy and R. Radhakrishnan, eds, Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–41. Mahmud, T. (2012). Cheaper than a Slave: Indenture Labour, Colonialism and Capitalism. Whittier Law Review. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed on 4 July 2016]. Maira, S. (2009). Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire after 9/11. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Markovits, C. (2000). The Global World of Indian Merchants 1750–1947: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Mavroudi, E. (2007). Diaspora as Process: (De)Constructing Boundaries. Geography Compass, 1(3), 467–479. MEA (Ministry of External Affairs). (2002). The High Level Committee Report on Indian Diaspora. New Delhi: Government of India. Mishra, V. (1996). The Diasporic Imaginary: Theorizing the Indian Diaspora. Textual Practice, 10(3), 421–447. Naujoks, D. (2009). Emigration, Immigration, and Diaspora Relations in India. Migration Policy Institute. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed on 15 October 2009]. Ong, A. (1999). Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Prashad, V. (2000). The Karma of Brown Folk. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Raghuram, P. and Sahoo, A. K. (2008). Thinking “Indian Diaspora” for Our Times. In: P. Raghuram, A. K. Sahoo, B. Maharaj and D. Sangha, eds, Tracing an Indian Diaspora: Contexts, Memories, Representations. New Delhi: Sage, pp. 1–20. Safran, W. (1991). Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return. Diaspora, 1(1), 83–99. Sahoo, A. K. (2006). Issues of Identity in the Indian Diaspora: A Transnational Perspective. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 5(1–2), 81–98. Selvakumar, V. (2011). Contacts between India and Southeast Asia in Ceramic and Boat Building Traditions. In: P.-Y. Manguin, A. Mani and G. Wade, eds, Early Interactions between South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 197–220. Shanmugam, P. (2009). India and Southeast Asia: South Indian Cultural Links with Indonesia. In: H. Kulke, K. Kesavapany and V. Sakhuja, eds, Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa: Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, pp. 208–226.


Introduction Sharma, N. T. (2010). Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Shukla, S. (2003). India Abroad: Diasporic Cultures of Postwar America and England. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Suryanarayan, V. (2003). Indian Communities in South East Asia. Dialogue, 5(1). [Online]. Available from: [Accessed on 8 March 2006]. Tinker, H. (1974). A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920. London: Oxford University Press. Van der Veer, P. (ed.). (1995). Nation and Migration: The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Vertovec, S. and Cohen, R. (eds). (1999). Migration, Diasporas and Transnationalism. Northampton, UK: Edward Elgar. Werbner, P. (2000). Introduction: The Materiality of Diaspora – Between Aesthetic and “Real” Politics. Diaspora, 9(1), 5–20.



Histories and trajectories


The story of Indian servitude in the British empire remains little known, even to most middle-class Indians, though awareness of the diversity of Indian overseas communities has grown in recent years. The Indian diasporic population in the United States, in contrast, has hogged the limelight among what are called “overseas Indians”, and indeed it was pre-eminently Indian Americans that the Government of India had in mind when, commencing in the late 1980s, it began deploying terms such as “Non-Resident Indian” and later “Overseas Citizen of India” (Lal, 2003). One could take pride in the achievements of Indians in the United States, which in part explains why the present Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has made four trips to the US in the past two years, twice as many as to any other country; on the other hand, there was always more than a tinge of embarrassment about the older Indian diaspora. However, as David Northrup was to suggest in his influential history of indentured labour in the age of imperialism, even “most well-informed people” in the West know little or nothing of this history, and imagine that the term “indentured labour refers only to the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century migration from Europe to the Americas” (Northrup, 1995, ix). The scholar of Indian indentured labour must therefore contend at the outset with the problem of the phenomenon’s relative invisibility. It is with convict labour rather than indentured servitude as such that the story of Indian migration in the age of colonial capital commences. The infamous penal colony of the Andaman Islands has long resonated in the Indian imagination, but the East India Company’s network of penal settlements for Indian convicts extended well beyond that to Bencoolen (Bengkulen), Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Arakan. Bencoolen received over 2,000 convicts between 1787 and 1825; in the Straits Settlements, the influx was closer to 25,000 (Anderson, 2006). Recent revisionist scholarship on the history of convicts in Australia, and on the global circuits of free and unfree labour migration in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Allen, 2015), has put into question the received view that characterized male convicts as hardened and habitual criminals and female convicts, whose number never exceeded 10 per cent of any convict community, as prostitutes. Transportation was unique to British penal culture and was unknown in pre-colonial India: its penal aspects were vigorously debated among British officials in India (Yang, 2003), and the alleged Indian horror of kala pani, or the forbidden passage across the oceans in transgression of caste rules, convinced British officials that transportation constituted a graver punishment than death for Hindus. In Britain’s Southeast Asian colonies, however, 17

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Indian convicts were of interest to officials mainly as a source of labour. Convict labourers, noted the Governor of Prince of Wales Island [Penang] in 1800, are needed “to carry on works, particularly roads, which could not otherwise have been effected, but at a most enormous expense” (Yang, 2003, 195). A later Governor of the Straits Settlements admitted in 1819 that, aside from the “whole of the existing roads throughout the Island”, practically every bridge, canal, sea wall, jetty, and pier had been built with convict labour (Yang, 2003, 201). If British moral reform campaigns, exemplified in the first instance by the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade though not slavery, had precipitated in small measure the move away from slave labour towards the more cost-effective convict labour, the humanitarian impulse found its more clinching victory in Parliamentary legislation in 1833 which abolished slavery throughout the British empire. The implications of this gesture are critical to an understanding of the system of indentured labour. The abolition of slavery did not lead at once to freedom for the slaves, succeeded as it was by the system of apprenticeship under which former slaves were required to provide 40.5 hours a week of unpaid labour for six years to compensate owners of plantations for their losses. Complete emancipation in British possessions arrived only in 1838–39. Among the 9,000 former slaves who first experienced freedom, “not one individual returned to cultivation of land”, writes one historian, “considering it the most degrading occupation in which the human race could be employed” (Cumpston, 1969, 12). Thus, plantation owners from 1833 found themselves strapped for labour: growing unrest, fuelled both by former slaves’ expectations and by continuing abolitionist criticism, as well as by the fact that plantation owners were now responsible for overtime labour charges, precipitated the search for a new source of labour. Though this search would very soon lead plantation owners and the ruling class in British colonies to India, the structural features that undergird the political, social, and symbolic economy of colonial expansion and the global trade market of unfree labour cannot be overlooked. Its most pronounced features were the idea that brown bodies were available to do the bidding of the white man, a system – howsoever ill-defined – of international law that institutionalized hierarchically differentiated sovereignties, and the subordination of the colony’s economy to the interests of metropolitan capitalists. What the Marxist geographer David Harvey (2007) has characterized as “accumulation by dispossession”, an extension of Marx’s writings on “primitive accumulation”, had originated in England’s own backyard as Enclosure Acts and, in Scotland, as the Highland Clearances which drove farmers and subsistence producers from their land. Such dispossession, when extended to the colonies, would take a devastating toll and induced the migration if not expulsion of millions. Not coincidentally, then, the first batch of indentured labourers from India were to leave for the shores of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean one year after the formal abolition of slavery. Mauritius had been settled by the Dutch in the seventeenth century, though more substantive colonization of the island commenced with the French in 1721. Soon thereafter Indians from French trading posts in India were brought to Mauritius as slaves; less than a century later, Mauritius had passed into British hands. Keen on developing Mauritius, which was blessed with fertile, virgin soil but was heavily forested and bereft of roads, the British started bringing convict labour to the island from India in 1815. Thus, when indentured Indians first arrived in Mauritius in 1834 under what would emerge as a system of indentured labour, the Indian presence was already considerable. But Mauritius was distinct for other reasons too: even as the British began to develop the port cities of Calcutta and Bombay as emigrant depots to which recruits would be sent from the entire country, the island’s former association with the French prompted the British to continue tapping the French possession of Pondicherry for labourers. In 1837–38 alone, over 4,000 Indians were brought from Pondicherry to Mauritius, even if the indentured immigrants that continued to pour into Mauritius until 1900 were 18

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drawn largely, as was the case in the British Caribbean, and later in Fiji, East Africa, and Malaya, from British India. Most historical accounts of Indian servitude in the British empire begin with questions of recruitment, transportation, and regulation of indentured migration. Scarcely any attention was paid to the conditions that would prompt several million Indians, who were predominantly illiterates from lower and lower middle caste communities, to migrate to distant lands of whose very existence they would have known little or nothing, at least not before returning indentured labourers slowly became conduits for information and further migration. Keay’s (2000) widely acclaimed India: A History, which is comprehensive in scope while offering what would be called a “balanced overview”, makes no mention of indentured migration—but is by no means atypical in this respect. Eastern India had come under colonial rule in 1757, and the consequences of the severe dislocation and social anomie in the wake of the conquest were felt soon after as famine in Bengal affected as much as a third of the province’s population. The Permanent Settlement of 1793 accelerated and put a legal imprimatur on social processes that had dramatically altered landholding patterns and created a large class of landless farmers, debtors, and others who barely understood the language of individual property rights. English witnesses, as Mohandas Gandhi was to point out at his trial in 1922 on charges of sedition, themselves offered unimpeachable testimony to the collapse of domestic manufacturing, and India went from being the largest exporter of textiles in the world on the eve of conquest to being, a little before 1900, the world’s largest importer, capable of meeting only 8 per cent of the demand for cloth from domestic production. “The misery”, reported Governor-General Bentinck in 1834–35, just as indentured labourers were making their way to Mauritius and shortly thereafter to British Guiana, “hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India” (Marx, 1977 [1867], 558). It is from the ranks of the dispossessed and disembowelled that a labour force would be drawn to fill the coffers of the British empire, a veritable army of diggers of the soil that has written an epic for our times which has become incontestably a force in world culture. Between 1 August 1834 and the end of 1835, 14 ships ferried indentured labourers from Calcutta to Mauritius. “They came in ships”, wrote the late Indo-Guyanese poet Mahadai Das, her memorable lines recalling the names of the first ships transporting their human cargo “from across the seas” to distant islands (Das, 1996).1 Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Surinam, Fiji, Natal, East Africa: here, and elsewhere, well over one million Indians were to put down roots before the system of indentured labour was brought to an end in 1917; perhaps another one-third of a million migrants returned to India. A different labour recruitment system, known as kangani (“headman” or “overseer”), prevailed in Malaya and Ceylon; a comparable system, designated as maistry (meaning ‘supervisor’), governed labour migration to Burma. In either case, the labourer almost always commenced his life in the estates burdened by debt, owing in part to the payments involved to various middlemen who had been responsible for his recruitment; and though the law permitted him to quit his job without liability upon serving 30 days’ notice, labourers seldom abandoned their posts in the knowledge that employment at another plantation would be wellnigh impossible. Some 4.3 million Indians are estimated to have migrated under these two systems, which, while distinct from indentured migration, are indubitably part of the history of Indian labour migration. Thus, as shall be seen shortly, the questions that arose about the regulation of labour migration, or the powers that were to be conferred upon the “Protector of Emigrants”, were similar across all these systems. The centrepiece of the indentured migration system was the contract which bound the migrant (or, as he was known in Fiji, girmit – from “agreement”) to an employer, or to someone to whom the labourer was transferred, for a minimum period of five years. Migrants laboured 19

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on farms and plantations, generally from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two hours for rest around midday; and, in return, they received remuneration (Rs. 10 per month), food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. At the end of five years, the indentured person was to be transported back at the expense of his employer to the port of departure, either Calcutta or Madras; however, the length of the contract remained a point of dispute between planters, the Government of India, officials in the colonies, and the Colonial Office. Planters were keen on extending the indenture to ten years and attempted to negotiate terms under which free return passage would be offered only after the immigrant had given his agreement to a second five-year term of indenture. In Mauritius, labourers who agreed to renounce their claim to a free passage home were offered £2 in return; five years later, in 1852, labourers contributing a hefty £7 towards their return passage were permitted to return after five years, though those who wished to have their return passage paid in full had to agree to indenture themselves for another term. Indentured migrants to British Guiana after 1862 were bound to a second five-year term euphemistically termed “industrial residence” (Northrup, 1995, 4). The colonial government of Natal, working in tandem with white elites, sought through Act 17 of 1895, which imposed a £3 annual tax on indentured persons who chose not to renew their contracts, to compel them to return to India or submit to a draconian regime of subordination. Thus, though in principle a provision for return passage after five years was part of the contract, nearly everywhere in the colonies where indentured labour was deployed various shenanigans were used to keep them in their place. The charters of expansion in the New World, the bills of sale for slaves, the contracts often not even worth the scraps of paper on which they were written: these fictions of Western legalism suggest a connection between debt peonage, the appropriation of the labour of American Indians, slavery, and indentured labour. One of the earliest and most influential scholars of indentured labour was forthright in terming it as a “new system of slavery” (Tinker, 1974), though one revisionist scholar avers that “despite some exceptions, most indentured migrants left their homes voluntarily, just like most of the 50 million unindentured Europeans (a few convicts aside) who migrated overseas” (Northrup, 1995, 7). Writing in this anodyne register, Northrup in a more recent work insists on differentiating indentured Indian labourers from “slaves and convicts” since the contracts “provided impoverished people with free passage in return for lengthy work obligations” (Northrup, 2003, 126). But just who were these labourers and how did so many suddenly find themselves on ships that would take them to a world beyond their wildest dreams and from which, for most of them, there would be no return? The first 36 men to leave for Mauritius in 1834 had been recruited from the Dhangar or hill caste. Thereafter, as the pace of migration picked up, recruiters fanned out deep into the countryside, visiting cattle fairs, hovering around markets, and positioning themselves on roads leading to pilgrimage sites. Their targets were landless labourers, men who had been reduced to beggary, and others who had nothing to lose; to be sure, among those willing to migrate were those looking for seasonal employment, eager to escape the tyranny of family and village elders, and even the occasional jilted lover. There has been a lively dispute among scholars over the level of coercion involved in recruitment: some historians, such as Hugh Tinker, have suggested that many migrants were kidnapped, while others argue that the picture of the recruiter and arkati, the unlicensed agent or middleman, as villains is overdrawn (Lal, 1979). The protest songs of the Indo-Guyanese collected by one folklorist convey the feelings of those who believe they were deceived: “Oh recruiter, your heart is deceitful, / Your speech is full of lies!” From Fiji, we have a similar song: “I hoe all day and cannot sleep at night, / Today my whole body aches, Damnation to you, arkatis” (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 22). Some scholars have striven for the middle ground: “While a continuous history of massive deception seems implausible”, 20

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writes Kale (1998) of the history of indentured emigration, “there is also evidence that cases of abduction and entrapment continued.” Recent scholarship, one suspects, might be a little too eager to confer agency on those who have been construed as unsuspecting victims; certainly, it seems quite unlikely that most migrants would have been aware of their destination or what was entailed by a voyage that, to the Caribbean, averaged three months on a ship until 1873. The District Magistrate of Ghazipur may not have been far removed from the truth when, in 1871, he described how the arkatias “entice the villagers with a wonderful account of their place for which the emigrants are wanted and bring their victims from long distances”. The prospective emigrant, he continued, often declined to proceed upon being apprised at the sub-depot of the conditions of the voyage. But what was “the wretched coolie” to do: he may be “a hundred miles from his home, and finding that he has the option of returning penniless . . . and of emigrating, chooses the latter alternative; but this is not voluntary emigration” (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 51). Around the same time, at the other end of India, the British consular officer overseeing migration from South India to Southeast Asia candidly wrote that “there was not the slightest doubt that the majority of persons who left our coasts for the Straits Settlements were not free in any proper sense of that term” (Amrith, 2010, 239). The journey from the interior to the port of Calcutta was itself 30–40 days on foot; with the advent of railways, it was cut down to a few days. From the outset, there were vital questions to be addressed about possible abuses in the system, the provisions that would be furnished to emigrants on board, medical inspections of emigrants, the regulation of voyages, and arrangements for medical care. The first attempts at regulation were made in 1835, though, as submitted by members of the London Anti-Slavery Society and (to use an anachronism) human rights activists, ironically this constituted an admission that a new system of oppression akin to slavery was in the making. In the first three years of indentured migration alone, numerous cases, reported widely in Calcutta newspapers, of high rates of disease and mortality on ships had demonstrated the necessity for some regulation, which came in the form of Act V of 1 May 1837. In principle, a high official, often the District Magistrate, had to be satisfied that the emigrant was proceeding voluntarily; this determination was made after a perfunctory interview that took place near the catchment area. Such an exercise, which appeared to render the migrant sovereign, was in fact a subterfuge by the Government of British India to evade responsibility for the well-being of the migrant, who before his arrival months later at his employer’s doorstep in the colony would have passed through various jurisdictions. Over the next two decades, extremely lengthy deliberations between the Government of India, the East India Company’s Court of Directors, the Colonial Office, the governments of the various colonies, and plantation owners brought refinements into the system of regulation. As migration shifted in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to Southeast Asia and Fiji, new regulations were brought to the fore. Indentured labourers leaving for Malaya in the late 1800s, for example, would have encountered a “Protector of Emigrants”, a position created in 1873 “after a Tanjore magistrate had condemned the system of migration to Malaya as a ‘regularly organized system of kidnapping’” (Amrith, 2010, 235–36). One strand of scholarship on British India, focusing on what has been described as the military labour market, has stressed that the Indian peasant was never as immobile as is argued in early colonial writings. When Marx wrote scathingly in 1853 on Indian village communities as moribund and repulsive social organisms vegetating in the teeth of time, he was echoing colonial representations of India as a stagnant society (Marx and Engels, 1959, 13–19). One can, of course, also point to growing awareness in recent years of the pivotal place occupied by the Indian Ocean trading system in the world economy for centuries before the commencement of British rule in India and the spectacular manner in which Gujarati merchants straddled the 21

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far-flung ports along this system and created something of a thalassocracy in the process. Nevertheless, the ocean voyages to the Caribbean, Mauritius, Fiji, Natal, or Mombasa would have been something entirely beyond the experience of the vast majority of emigrants from the Gangetic plains, the interior of Tamil and Telugu country, or – as in the case of the 38,000 indentured labourers who built the Uganda Railway – the Punjabi countryside. These voyages posed numerous difficulties: to begin with, there was the plain fact that supplies of food and water were often woefully inadequate. In what is perhaps still the most famous memoir ever penned by an indentured labourer, Totaram Sanadhya recalled that: [t]wice a day we were given a bottle of water each to drink. Then no more, even if we died of thirst. It was the same about food. Fish and rice were both cooked there. Many people suffered from sea-sickness. Those who died were thrown overboard . . . After three months and twelve days we reached Fiji. (Sanadhya, 1991 [1914]) The legislation of 1837 had fixed the rations for each indentured labourer, including portions of rice, daal, ghee, and salt; there is also mention of chilies, turmeric, and tobacco. However, as the lengthy 1869 report of Trinidad’s health officer on the “causes of the sickness and mortality in coolly ships” noted, “It is a great mistake to suppose that all the inhabitants of British India live on rice and ghee” (Kumar, 2016, 43). The peasant in Bihar often made do with sattu, parched and ground gram – a food that was cheap, required no cooking, and was filling – on the fields at home, and it was included in the rations offered to indentured labourers in the revised dietary guidelines issued in 1842–43. But there were graver problems still: conventions of caste separation and the strict codes that governed commensality could not always be observed. For a fastidious upper caste person, the constraints were immense: in the testimony of one such man, “while on board – I subsisted on the Choorah [parched rice] that I had, occasionally rice cooked by Musselmans [Muslims] was offered to me which I refused to take, being a hindoo I would not consent to lose my caste”. This man summed up his ordeal with the statement that he much preferred returning to India and “going door to door begging for [his] livelihood” than continuing the journey to Mauritius (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 37). Indeed, the fear of losing caste or going hungry during the long voyage is one of the most persistent themes in the narratives of indentured labourers. The disciplining of indentured labourers began on board: one woman, who refused to take a bath since there were no secluded bathing facilities on board, was caned six times for failing to observe the regulations on hygiene (Desai & Vahed, 2007, 43). However arduous the voyage, what awaited the indentured labour at the other end was, at a very minimum, five years of unremitting labour – and, in a majority of cases, physical and mental abuse at the hands of overseers and employers. Some succumbed to disease, overwork, and medical neglect; others took their own lives: in either case, their voices are generally lost to history. Nevertheless, the evidence of the inhumanity of plantation life is overwhelming: it is available not only in letters of immigrants, testimonies of returned emigrants, petitions, legislative measures, and official correspondence, but in countless numbers of official memos, minutes, and committee reports. A. O. Hume, Secretary to the Government of India and better known to historians of India as one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, reported that Tamil labourers in Malaya were “habitually flogged” (Amrith, 2010, 240); the reports of coroners indicated that dead workers showed unmistakable evidence of wounds inflicted by bamboo canes (Amrith, 2010, 240–41). An ex-indentured immigrant who had returned from Fiji testified: “We were whipped for small mistakes. If you woke up late, i.e. later than 3 a.m., you got whipped. No matter 22

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what happened, whether there was rain or thunder you had to work” (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 90–91). The overseer’s assault on one indentured labourer, Nabee Saib (5807), in 1866 was witnessed by another labourer (3674): I saw him flogged. Baloomookund tied deceased’s two hands together, then tied him with a leather piece to the right hand fore-wheel of a wagon, and then flogged him with a sjambok. Blood was dropping along his back . . . afterwards he became senseless. After the flogging, Nabee Saib was taken to his own hut and tied, and there he remained till he died. (Desai & Vahed, 2007, 77) In Natal alone, several official commissions, including the Coolie Commission (1872), inquired into indentured immigration, the condition on the estates, and the well-being of the indentured. The indentured Indian was but a coolie; indeed, not even that, since upon arrival in Natal the coolie was assigned a number. The coolie became a number. So resistance had to begin with attempts by the indentured to reclaim their humanity. The extremely poor sanitary conditions under which Indians lived on sugar plantations and in the villages made them susceptible to malaria, diarrhoea, and dysentery; the supply of labour seemed nearly inexhaustible, and planters were rarely if ever held responsible for the deaths of labourers from malaria or other diseases. The labourer’s working conditions were thus calculated to mitigate the possibilities of resistance. Much scholarship has been focused on what may be described as signal moments in the history of Indian solidarity and resistance. At the Cedar Hill estate in Trinidad, for instance, disturbances broke out when policemen sent by the management, which stood accused by the indentured workers of overtasking them, were – in the words of the San Fernando Gazette, 30 September 1882 – “assaulted and routed by the most determined aggressive measures on the part of the coolies” (Singh, 1988, 61). These disturbances were the backdrop to the Muharram Massacre in Trinidad two years later, when colonial police backed by a regiment of British police commenced firing at a crowd gathered to celebrate Muharram and killed at least 16 people and injured well over 100. The firing was defended by one newspaper on the grounds that the revellers – Shias, Hindus, even Creoles – had attempted to take over the city’s streets and the “unjustifiable defiance of the Government by the coolies” could not be tolerated (Singh, 1988, 23). By far the most-recognized act of resistance in the history of indentured labour, however, has been the 1913 strike in South Africa by indentured workers and miners which Gandhi is traditionally believed to have organized and orchestrated. The strike was inspired by what were perceived to be a number of oppressive measures imposed by the state, among them a £3 poll tax levied on ex-indentured Indians, and a judgment by the Supreme Court which rendered marriages conducted according to Indian rites invalid. Two prominent South African Indian scholars have sought to make “the role of the masses” in this strike more prominent and have vigorously questioned whether Gandhian non-violent resistance had as important a role in the strike as has been commonly assumed (Desai & Vahed, 2007, 376–98). It has been argued that “Indians resorted to violence against the oppression of the plantation in every country to which they migrated under indenture”, and occasionally workers would assemble together and kill a particularly noxious master or overseer (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 98). Questions about the agency of workers, peasants, and the marginalized in fomenting resistance started coming to the fore in the 1960s and after with the work of scholars such as E. P. Thompson, James Scott, and Ranajit Guha, and it is now understood that indentured labourers registered their dissent in myriad if not always forcible ways. Some simply 23

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refused to work on the estate – they might be sent to the quarry to break stones, but as one indentured migrant who served a five-year term and returned to India in 1842 admitted, he much preferred that work to labouring “in the sugar cane planation” and consequently he “committed some offence continually” (Carter & Torabully, 2002, 97). Many absconded, calculating that if caught they would receive a vicious beating and no more; others feigned illness, idled on the job, destroyed the planter’s property, deliberately mislaid their farming implements, or committed arson. Even the turn to the indentured labourer’s own cultural heritage, whether this entailed the recitation of the Ramacaritmanas, or seeking sustenance from the nearly inexhaustible lore of Puranic literature which centrally revolves around stories of resistance to injustice, as in the inimitable myth of Narasimha and the slaying of the demon Hiranyaksipu, had a critical role to play in the indentured labourer’s will to fight. The resistance to oppression and injustice did not singly contribute to calls to bring an end to the system of indentured labour. Indians who completed their contracts and had decided to forgo the return passage to India endeavoured to make their own land purchases and sought employment opportunities. The patterns of Indian settlement as ex-indentured labourers who moved to towns or attempted to establish their own businesses are too diverse and moreover far outside the purview of this chapter to warrant any discussion. However, what is germane is that the call for the abolition of the system of indenture was prompted not only by Indian nationalists and their supporters outraged at the longevity of the indentured system, even as the Western powers were pompously declaring self-determination as a universal right, but also as a consequence of the initiative of ex-indentured labourers whose new-found freedom and rise in social mobility made them into instruments of change. In this respect, the representation of the Indian woman occupied a pivotal place in the debates that would eventually lead to the abolition of the indentured system in 1917. In the initial years of this system, women had constituted a miniscule fraction of the indentured migrants, often constituting in the first few years less than 10 per cent of the boats’ human cargo. Over 60 per cent of the women migrants were from the middling and lower castes; another 17 per cent were Muslim. A majority of them may have migrated as single women: apart from all the reasons that drove men to migrate – horrendous immiseration, hunger, and quest for employment, when they were not simply deceived into boarding a ship – women may also have been fleeing patriarchy or enforced widowhood and seeking their own subjectivity. The circumstance of their status as unaccompanied women alone became, from the viewpoint of colonial officials and contemporary observers, justification to describe them as devoid of morals. No phrase appears in the literature on these indentured women as often as “loose character” and the implication that they had no modesty that could be outraged was writ large. The abuse of women often commenced on the boat, and the co-authors of one exhaustive study argued that indentured women “did not only have to ward off the attentions of other indentured, but also the crew and medical men who wielded incredible power on board the ships” (Desai & Vahed, 2007, 41). Their exploitation continued on the plantation, where competition for women was keen among the workers, and where the overseer and the plantation owner claimed a greater right to their bodies. The number of women among the indentured grew over the years, but the disparity between the sexes persisted; and on the supposition as well that family life was the best antidote to sexual lasciviousness, and most likely to introduce stability in plantation life, the Government of India from around the mid-1870s insisted that for every 100 men there would have to be at least 40 women on every ship. A pioneer historian of the abolition of indenture, K. L. Gillion, gave it as his opinion that the movement to bring an end to the degradation of Indian women on the plantations had more support in the Indian public sphere “than any other movement in modern Indian history, even more than the movement for independence” (Lal, 1985, 55). Charles Freer Andrews, a close 24

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friend of Gandhi, and a strong advocate of the abolition of indenture, had come to Fiji to report on indenture and characterized “the Hindu woman” in Fiji as: [a] rudderless vessel with its mast broken drifting onto the rocks; or like a canoe being whirled down the rapids of a great river without any controlling hand. She passes from one man to another, and has lost even the sense of shame in doing so. (Lal, 1985, 58) Andrews may, as it appears, have been playing into stereotypes of the female migrant; moreover, as feminist readings have long argued, the supposition that woman embodies the soul of a people was deeply stitched into the fabric of Indian nationalism. Thus, the sexual exploitation of the Indian woman was, on the nationalist view, nothing less than an assault on the nation itself. The fate of one Indian indentured woman, Kunti, headlined Indian newspapers in April 1913. Working on an isolated patch at a plantation in Rewa, Fiji, Kunti had just managed to escape from the clutches of Overseer Cobcroft who had made improper advances towards her. Plunging into a river to escape her tormenter, Kunti was fortuitously rescued by an Indian boy. Kunti would in short order be enshrined into the gallery of Indian heroines, even if attempts were made by the governments of India and Fiji to cast doubts on the veracity of her story and impugn her moral character. Historians will doubtless continue to debate the extent to which “Kunti’s cry” was the catalyst that would lead to the end of indentured recruitment in 1917 and the abrogation of all remaining contracts on 1 January 1920, but it cannot be doubted that the abolition of the indentured system constituted a critical milestone in the battle against unfree labour. The scholarly literature on indenture has sometimes been riveted on such vexed questions as its implications for understanding the caste system. Indian communities in South Africa, Fiji, Trinidad, and elsewhere are often viewed as having liberated themselves from caste tyranny, a process that, it is sometimes argued, commenced on the boat. If there is no Hinduism without caste, then how should we characterize the Hinduism in the diaspora that emerged from the experience and religiosity of indentured labourers? On the other hand, there are some critical questions that have been little explored thus far: as an illustration, one may consider narratives of intra-diasporic peregrinations, of the movements of migrants from one plantation colony to another. This would give us a better appreciation of the circuits of travel, the networks forged by migrant labourers, and the role of the returned migrant (Hurgobin & Basu, 2015). The poetics of coolitude, to use the evocative term coined by Marina Carter and Khal Torabully, also beckons us to a much greater sensitivity to the stories of those left behind – and the memories, letters, and folktales that speak of pangs of separation, the contours of desire, and the dialectic of presence and absence. Still, when the story of the worldwide Indian diaspora is told, the place of indentured labour, and of the diverse communities that emerged from the wreckage of imperialist designs, will increasingly be recognized as constituting a distinct, even extraordinary chapter in modern global history. The “official history of the development of the transport system in Kenya and Uganda”, an expansive work published in 1949, made no mention of the nearly 38,000 Indian male indentured labourers on whose backs the railways lines were laid down and the 2,500 Indians who were killed in the venture (Hill, 1949). Shockingly, or perhaps not, the enterprise is heralded as a spectacular British achievement. Even the Government of independent India was for some decades loath to recognize the presence of what may be termed the “older” Indian diaspora, especially the Indian communities in far-away places such as Fiji and the Caribbean. As India’s aspirations to be viewed as an emerging global power have grown, and as India seeks 25

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to have its voice heard in international fora, it has been somewhat more willing to listen to the voices of the descendants of indentured labourers and embrace them not only as sons and daughters of the soil but as emblems of the survival of “Indianness” in the midst of grave adversity. The experience of indenture created anomalous situations, the repercussions of which continue to reverberate at the present juncture. Over 65 per cent of the population of Mauritius is of Indian origin; in Trinidad, Guyana, and Fiji, Indians outnumbered every other ethnic group, though in each of these countries the Indian share of the population has continued to decline. In Fiji, especially, the decline of the Indian population has been precipitous, and not merely because of declining birth rates in comparison with birth rates for ethnic Fijians. Political coups, policies which make Indian ownership of land all but impossible, overt forms of discrimination, and a complete stranglehold over government jobs among ethnic Fijians since the 1980s have taken much of the spirit out of the Indian community, which now accounts for just a third of the total population. Yet, it is as true of Fiji as it is of Trinidad or Guyana, in the words of the great Caribbean writer George Lamming (1989, 47), that there can be no history of these places “that is not also a history of the humanization of those landscapes by Indian labour”. The vast majority of Indo-Fijians, who farmed the land, put the food on the table, and were the country’s educators and engineers, are little but second-class citizens in the land of their birth. In Trinidad and Guyana, a searing racial divide has pitted people of Indian origin against people of African origin, even as the indigenous people were largely wiped out and the white man projected himself as the force of transcendence, as someone who was above the fray. While in the United States Indian Americans have been characterized as a “model minority”, as an object lesson, in other words, for other more recalcitrant immigrant ethnic groups, in Malaysia the descendants of indentured plantation workers are associated with higher rates of alcoholism and incarceration than any other ethnic community. Nevertheless, considering the hardships that indentured labourers had to endure, what is most striking is not only their resilience but the emergence of new forms of literature, music, cuisine, and religious expression. The Trinidad roti, Doubles, and the Durban Bunny Chow are not celebrated as high cuisine, but they suggest the indentured labourer’s unbending will to accommodate the food to which he was habituated to the conditions of plantation life. In literature, especially, the descendants of indentured labourers have carved out a world of feeling and expression which is breath-taking. V. S. Naipaul is of course the most easily recognized name, but the annals of diasporic literature emerging from the former plantation colonies ring with the names of Rooplall Monar, Samuel Selvon, David Dabydeen, K. S. Maniam, Mahadai Das, Shiva Naipaul, Satendra Nandan, Harold Sonny Ladoo, and dozens of other gifted writers. In Fiji Hindi, which bears a very close affinity to Bhojpuri, we even have the Dauka Puraan, the first written epic produced anywhere in the world in Bhojpuri. Thus, in the Fiji heartland, the very meaning of both epic and exile is magnificently amplified. What could be more apt than an epic from an exiled people, who hold in veneration the epic tale of Rama’s banishment, to help us reflect on the epic saga of indentured labourers who created a unique tapestry of land, water, and the sweat of their brows?

Note 1 Das’s poem mentions ships by name. The Whitby set sail from Calcutta for Guyana on 13 January 1838. Five of the 249 immigrants on board died before the ship set down in Guyana on 5 May with 233 men, 5 women, and 6 children. The Hesperus sailed on 29 January the same year; 13 immigrants died en route. The Fatel Rozack was the first ship to disgorge Indian immigrants in Trinidad in 1845, with 197 men and 28 women on board.


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References Allen, R. (2015). European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500–1850. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. Amrith, S. S. (2010). Indians Overseas? Governing Tamil Migration to Malaya 1870–1941. Past and Present, 208, 231–261. Anderson, C. (2006). Convict Migration. In: B. V. Lal, ed., The Encyclopaedia of the Indian Diaspora. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in Association with National University of Singapore, pp. 44–46. Carter, M. and Torabully, K. (2002). Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora. London: Anthem Press. Cumpston, I. M. (1969). Indians Overseas in British Territories 1834–1854. London: Dawsons of Pall Mall. Das, M. (1996). They Came in Ships. In: A. Donnell & S. L. Welsh, eds, The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature. New York: Routledge, pp. 302–303. Desai, A. and Vahed, G. (2007). Inside Indenture: A South African Story, 1860–1914. Durban, South Africa: Madiba Publishers. Harvey, D. (2007). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Hill, M. F. (1949). Permanent Way: The Story of the Kenya and Uganda Railway, Volume II. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Railways and Harbours. Hurgobin, Y. and Basu, S. (2015). “Oceans without Borders”: Dialectics of Transcolonial Labor Migration from the Indian Ocean World to the Atlantic Ocean World. International Labour and Working-Class History, 87, 7–26. Kale, M. (1998). Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery & Indentured Labour in the British Caribbean. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Keay, J. (2000). India: A History. New York: Grove Press. Kumar, A. (2016). Feeding the Girmitiya: Food and Drink on Indentured Ships to the Sugar Colonies. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 16(1), 40–51. Lal, B. V. (1979). Fiji Girmitiyas: The Background to Banishment. In: V. Mishra, ed., Rama’s Banishment: A Centenary Tribute to the Fiji Indians, 1879–1979. London: Heinemann Educational Books, pp. 12–39. Lal, B. V. (1985). Kunti’s Cry: Indentured Women on Fiji Plantations. Indian Economic and Social History Review, 22(1), 55–71. Lal, V. (2003). India in the World: Hinduism, the Diaspora, and the Anxiety of Influence. Australian Religious Studies Review, 16(2), 19–37. Lamming, G. (1989). The Indian Presence as a Caribbean Reality. In: F. Birbalsingh, ed., Indenture & Exile: The Indo-Caribbean Experience. Toronto, ON: Toronto South Asian Review, pp. 45–54. Marx, K. (1977 [1867]). Capital, A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I. Translated by B. Fowkes. New York: Vintage Books. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1959). The First Indian War of Independence 1857–1859. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Northrup, D. (1995). Indentured Labour in the Age of Imperialism, 1834–1922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Northrup, D. (2003). Free and Unfree Labour Migration, 1600–1900: An Introduction. Journal of World History, 14(2), 125–130. Sanadhya, T. (1991 [1914]). My Twenty-One Years in the Fiji Islands. Translated and edited by J. D. Kelly and U. K. Singh. Suva, Fiji: Fiji Museum. Singh, K. (1988). Bloodstained Tombs: The Muharram Massacre 1884. London: Macmillan Caribbean. Tinker, H. (1974). A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920. London: Oxford University Press. Yang, A. (2003). Indian Convict Workers in Southeast Asia in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries. Journal of World History, 14(2), 179–208.



Introduction The Indian diaspora can be regarded as an international phenomenon, with a presence in more than 100 countries globally. The different histories of this very diverse Indian diaspora “have much to tell about international migration processes, social and cultural change, political development and ethnicity” (Clarke et al., 1990, 1). Migration from India can be categorised against specific historical periods. The first phase (which is the focus of this chapter) can be traced to the colonial domination by the British, and the exploitation of cheap indentured labour from the Asian sub-continent in different parts of the colonial empire. This group is sometimes referred to as PIOs (People of Indian Origin). The term ‘PIO’ is misleading since their links with India have sometimes totally disappeared. The next phase involving NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) started early in the twentieth century and gained momentum in the post-1945 period, when skilled and professional Indians migrated to western countries largely in response to a scarcity in these economic sectors (Clarke et al., 1990). The term ‘NRI’ is “a remarkably aggressive expression that reclaims them wholly for India and reduces their diasporic existence to a matter of mere residence” (Parekh, 1993, 8). More recently the High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora defined NRI as a separate category: those living outside India for 180 days or more without acquiring citizenship. As they attempted to adjust in an alien and hostile environment, indentured labourers encountered conflict initially with the colonial rulers and subsequently with the indigenous majority. There was a significant degree of coalescence between race, class and ethnicity as the colonial authorities had defined and maintained ethnic categories, and structured inter-ethnic relations through discriminatory regulations and institutional practices. In the colonial and post-colonial eras, the Indian diaspora has raised questions of belonging: “Were they partial citizen, or pariah citizens, permanent minorities, or resident aliens? Or were they simply excluded by race/culture from the possibilities of citizenship altogether? What political rights did their economic contribution confer?” (Koshy, 2008, 4). These questions influence the themes of this chapter, with a focus on race and ethnic conflicts, and tensions between Indians and indigenous communities in the diaspora. This chapter is divided into six sections. The first section briefly reflects on the links between slavery and indenture, followed by an analysis of challenges facing indentured labourers and ‘passenger’ Indians. 28

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Ethnic conflict and violence are discussed in the third section, followed by an analysis about whether this was linked to socio-cultural isolation or racism. The fifth section discusses contemporary challenges, and then there is some reflection on connections with India.

Slavery to indenture The indentured or contract labour system was introduced by the British as a substitute for “forced labour and slavery. The indentured ‘coolies’ were half slaves, bound over body and soul by a hundred and one inhuman regulations” (Joshi, 1942, 44). Indentured labour is “often portrayed as a bridge between slavery and modern forms of contract labour” (Mahmud, 2013, 228). Even though the situations of the workers varied a lot, the indenture system has been described as “a new system of slavery” (Tinker, 1974), or rather a “mixture of oppression and opportunity” (Freund, 1995, 10). According to Mangru (1999, 1), the “plantation system was designed primarily to humiliate and subjugate workers to the will of the planters and to create a sense of helplessness and dependence similar to slavery”. Under indenture human beings were reduced to a commodity, “a unit of labour on a plantation” (Singh, 2014, 15). Indentured labourers were vital to the economy of the colonies because they could be exploited with long working hours and low wages, which were further reduced through massive penalties for petty offences. Tinker (1974) identified the following common characteristics of slavery and indenture: i) The plantation was cordoned off, and intended to isolate the labourers from contact with the outside world; ii) The establishment of an authoritative, repressive chain of command within the plantations in all the sugar colonies; and iii) The incentive to work was based on punishment rather than reward. The key components of servitude included labour exploitation which favoured plantation owners; fear, force and punishment were the main strategies to ensure a docile, compliant labour force; restrictions on labour mobility; for the duration of the contract the time and labour of the worker belonged to the estate owner (Mishra, 2009). Indentured labourers were freed from bondage once they had completed their contract period. Under certain conditions they qualified for a free return passage to India or could remain as free labourers in the colony. However, as Desai and Vahed (2007, 13) reveal, “the indentured were not simply prisoners of ‘the system’ but often imaginative, creative human beings who found all manner of means to resist, survive or escape the strictures of indenture” (26), “who resisted and contested the attempts of employers and the state to control their lives”. Indeed, the history of the indentured was “punctuated by accommodation and resistance in the form of strikes, riots, beating of subordinate managerial staff, and such inwardly directed aggression as suicide, maiming and deliberately creating ulcers to remain in hospital” (Mangru, 1999, 1; see also Lal, 1986). The indentured labourers were followed by traders from Gujarat.

Indentured labourers and ‘passenger’ traders In South Africa a consistent policy of all governments between 1860 and 1961 was the view that Indians should ultimately be repatriated to India. In 1914 Gandhi had argued that “compulsory repatriation was a physical and political impossibility” (Dvorin, 1952, 162). The main mechanisms 29

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to try to force repatriation were denial of political rights, limited trading and employment opportunities, and restrictions on their ownership and occupation of land through legislation which would reduce many to harlotry, strategies which were evident across the colonies. For example, being restricted to less than 20 per cent of the land has been a critical axis of conflict in Fiji for Indians (Alley, 2001). This was linked to the “strong class alliance . . . between European commercial, professional and administrative interests and the indigenous chiefly Fijian class in control of land” during the colonial era (Voigt-Graf, 2009, 102–103). In South Africa, the late 1870s saw the arrival of a new class of Indians – the so-called ‘passenger’ Indians (because they paid for their own passage), who were mainly traders. They differed in terms of caste, occupation and linguistic groups from the indentured Indians. This group was relatively homogeneous, comprising mainly Gujarati Muslims who had similar economic interests (Swan, 1984; Padayachee & Morrell, 1991). Gujarati traders followed the indentured labourers across the diaspora. They made every effort to distinguish themselves politically, socially and economically from the indentured labourers, and regarded themselves as part of a commercial bourgeoisie rather than the working class or peasantry (Ginwala, 1974). Initially, the passenger Indians in South Africa were primarily engaged in supplying the consumer needs of the Indian community. Gradually they began to diversify, and also served white and black customers in Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State. Their success was phenomenal and can be attributed largely to their determination to work hard and succeed; business acumen; ability to identify markets, which ranged from urban to rural trading outposts; maximum exploitation of their connections with India; and utilisation of family labour. These factors, cumulatively, contributed significantly to the ability of Indians to compete successfully against white traders, and led to increasing conflict between the two groups. The general economic success and prosperity of the immigrant group, and their ability to overcome almost impossible odds, generated a great deal of envy, bitterness and anti-Indian sentiments amongst whites. The whites in Natal were more concerned about the ‘Asiatic menace’ than the ‘Native problem’. Natives were perceived as a passive threat, but Indians were regarded as a “sophisticated and active menace to their own position in colonial society, competing for space, place, trade, and political influence with the imperial authority” (Swanson, 1983, 404). Basically there was a conflict between white and Indian capital, and this was being expressed in racial and ethnic terms.

Ethnic conflict and violence Indians enjoyed a relatively privileged position compared with that of the indigenous majorities in the different colonies primarily because of community survival strategies. In South Africa, for example, in addition to dominating the trading sector, they also competed with Africans in the urban labour market. However, there had been competition and tensions between indentured labourers and locals since their arrival in the colonies. Colonial planters preferred indentured labourers because the local labour force could organise, mobilise and bargain for higher wage and better working conditions (Tinker, 1977; Ramsaran, 2008). In Natal, for example, it has been conventionally argued that the abundant indigenous Zulu labour was inadequate and unsuitable for sugar plantations. However, on the contrary, the local Zulus comprised a capable labour force and were willing to work on the plantations but on their own terms and conditions. There is adequate evidence which reveals that while Natal was arranging for the introduction of indentured labour, the Zulus were working diligently in both the skilled and unskilled sectors of the economy (Dhupelia, 1982; Meer, 1985). So the difficulty facing the planters was not a shortage of labour, but rather a lack 30

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of a plentiful supply of cheap labour. The cost of Indian labour was high, especially in terms of costs of recruiting and travel to Natal. This had the effect of lowering the wages paid to Africans, which was one of the reasons for introducing indentured labourers, and hence the growing tensions between these two groups (Ginwala, 1974). The incipient conflict between these two groups burst into the open with the 1949 Cato Manor Riots, and has resurfaced periodically. The riots reflected a complex interaction between race, ethnic, political, economic and social forces. There were different interpretations of the cause of the 1949 riots (Kuper, 1965; Meer, 1969; Ladlau, 1975). The state viewed the violence as a racial conflict between Indians and Africans (Union Government, 1949). However, while there was Indian–African tension, the riot was a “complex phenomenon, fed by white prejudice and Government policy as well as by the aspirations of an embryonic African bourgeoisie” (Ladlau, 1975, 19). The riots were also attributed to the poor socio-economic and housing circumstances of Africans in Cato Manor (Edwards, 1983). Indo-African tensions burst into the open again in 1985 with the Inanda riots. The prevailing circumstances and causes of the riots were somewhat similar to those of the 1949 riots (Hughes, 1987). While the riots appeared to be unplanned, structurally they were predetermined by the nature of the South African social formation, where Indians were perceived to be occupying a ‘middleman’ buffer position between whites and Africans (Moodley, 1980). In the colonial, post-colonial and contemporary eras, Indians have primarily played the role of middleman minorities, often being portrayed as scapegoats and villains in times of economic and political crisis, across the indentured diaspora. The nature of social formation in the colonies which resulted in the differential incorporation of the various ethnic groups, enjoying different levels of rewards, set the stage for seeking a scapegoat and revenge for long-suffered misery. Indians were perceived by the majority indigenous groups as most obviously benefiting from this situation, precisely because they occupied a ‘middleman’ role. These stereotypes provided a focal point for quick mobilisation of locals against Indians (Desai & Maharaj, 1996). The distinguishing feature of middleman minorities is the economic role they play. Unlike most ethnic minorities, they occupy an intermediate rather than a low-status position. They are generally found in certain occupations, mainly trade and commerce, but also as labour contractor, rent collector, money lender and broker. They play the role of middleman between producer and consumer, employer and employee, owner and tenant, elite and masses (Blalock, 1967). Socio-cultural isolation increased the potential for conflict.

Socio-cultural isolation or racism? There are certain common themes evident in the indentured experience in South Africa, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana, Surinam, Fiji and Malaysia. Although generally perceived as a homogeneous ethnic group, the indentured labour community was stratified on the basis of class, religion and language. In spite of the distance and (dis)connection from India, the descendants of indentured labourers have maintained their cultural identity, and for this they have been criticised for being ‘separatist’ and ‘exclusivist’. There were four characteristics that were specific to Hindu indentured labourers: the re-establishment of the family; their religious faith, especially the acceptance of the Ramayana as the basic Hindu scripture; the demise of caste; and indentured Hindus migrated as isolated individuals, not in family units, hence family life was disrupted. During indenture attempts to re-establish the family were difficult because of the uneven ratio between women and men – up to four women for ten men, but in Natal it was one to three (Parekh, 1994). 31

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It is an extraordinary accomplishment that under such circumstances the family was gradually recreated in the indentured diaspora, although with a dominating patriarchal structure, which imposed some moral values on the rising generation. Common features of the Hindu diaspora include the extended or joint family, as well as “sharply defined family roles and status based on patri” (Jain, 1993, 45). Until recently, Hinduism was transmitted in the diaspora largely through the oral tradition, and there were many distortions over time as memories faded. The appeal of the Ramayana was related to the thematic connection between scripture and indenture – banishment to strange territories, struggles to survive and the anticipation of return (Parekh, 1994). Caste segmentation has almost disappeared in all the indentured zones because migrants were drawn from a large geographic area: since caste hierarchies are only regional and not pan-Indian, they could not be maintained in a population from various origins. There was also a very material reason for caste prejudices to be reduced: all the migrants were packed into the same boat eating the same food. Furthermore, during the journey migrants became jehaji-bhai (ship mates), which created a new ‘kinship’ based on the memory of travel on the same ship, without any attention to caste or religion. The erosion of direct links with India also influenced the demise of caste. In countries where there has been conflict between Indians and locals, Tinker (1977, 138–139) has questioned whether: [t]he Asians create their own difficulties by their own way of life, and by remaining separate from the host society; or do their troubles arise mainly from excess chauvinism or racism in the country of their adoption? Do they offend because they are, visibly, both pariahs and exploiters in alien societies? Or are they scapegoats, singled out for victimization because their adopted country (or its government) needs an alibi for poor performance in the national sphere? The nature of colonial social organisation was based on strict racial lines. This inevitably generated practices and outlooks which were antagonistic and opposed to any form of interracial interaction. The Indians were especially isolated from other races’ groups (Ghai & Ghai, 1965). The colonial authorities did little to support racial co-operation and integration. As a result of residential segregation, the different groups were ignorant of each others’ social and cultural values, and racial prejudices and stereotypes were entrenched. Consequently, the “legacy of British imperialism was thus one of racial suspicion and misunderstandings, of antagonism rather than co-operation” (Ghai & Ghai, 1971, 8). Socially, the colonial segregated system suited the Indians who were very conservative, and preferred to be left alone to follow and maintain their own religion and culture (Ghai & Ghai, 1965). Indian ethnic identities were influenced by segregation, economic competition and the need to maintain culture in a hostile environment: A collective sense of ethnic identity has been cultivated by, and imposed on, communities of . . . Asians in their various colonial and post-colonial contexts. Competition for control over resources, geographical segregation, political organisation, and efforts to maintain cultural traditions in alien milieux are some of the important elements contributing to the migrant communities’ development. (Clarke et al., 1990, 15) While the colonial authorities fostered a collective Indian identity from above, this was reinforced by impulses emanating from within indentured communities. Caught between an antagonistic 32

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colonial government and fear of the indigenous masses, Indians confirmed their cultural identity: “Religion, music, customs, traditions and distinctive food tastes formed part of a womblike structure to act as a bulwark against a hostile environment” (Moodley, 1980, 234). To the colonial rulers this has been construed as “proof of their ‘unassimilability’”, and locals viewed them as “being racist and discriminatory against the indigenous population” (Moodley, 1975, 256). Negative perceptions of the Indians emanated largely out of the context of colonial society (Desai, 1989). For example, writing about the east African experience Ghai and Ghai (1965, 47) noted that “most Asian–African relationships have been at the shopkeeper–customer or master– servant level”, which were unlikely to support interracial relations. Also, many Asian cultural and social organisations were exclusive. As a result of a fear of losing their cultural identity, Indians “tend to be over religious, rigid, conservative, orthodox, close and restrictive” (Motwani & Motwani, 1989, 3). Africans could not join, and while they knew a great deal about, and were often drawn to, European culture, they were ignorant of the Asian way of life (Ghai & Ghai, 1965). The negative perception of Indians in the colonies was influenced by three considerations: i) There is sufficient evidence of European manipulation of attitudes against the Asians. ii) The Asians themselves were being manipulated to serve the imperial interests by acting as middlemen, and inevitably took the blame for an exploitive colonial system. iii) A factor generating certain African attitudes toward the Asians were the Asians themselves in a more direct way. Of particular relevance here are certain of their social customs and way of life. (Desai, 1989, 42) While hostility towards Indians emerged from economic grievances, this was often expressed by exhibiting contempt for the social and cultural practices of Asians. The major European complaints against Asians included: their unsanitary habits; their undesirable religious rituals and practices; they reduced the value of their dwellings and neighbourhood; they engaged in unfair trading practices and were therefore able to undersell European traders and reduce their employment opportunities; and they sent their capital out of the country (Power, 1993). However, the cultural pride of Indians and a “sense of racial superiority vis-à-vis the Africans were at times as bad as [those] of the Europeans” (Tandon & Raphael, 1973, 15). This cultural detachment from the mainstream has “indirectly invited or contributed to racial discrimination by the natives against Indians, which has later turned into racial atrocity in several countries after their independence” (Motwani & Motwani, 1989, 3). As political independence became imminent, “the Asians faced critical choices [and were] ill-prepared to meet them” (Desai, 1989, 41). By the time East Africa attained independence, Indians were a dominant force in the economy but were insulated as a community and marginalised politically. It has been argued that the expulsion of the Asians from East Africa was unavoidable because they had no power. The only concern was the way in which this mass exodus of Asians would take place. The African elite and the masses were keen to see their rapid departure. The only constraint was the international repercussions as well as the economic implications (Tandon & Raphael, 1973, 15). Tensions in the indentured diaspora have continued into the twenty-first century.

Contemporary dynamics With the exception of Mauritius (where they are in the majority), Indians have constituted a vulnerable ethnic minority in their country of adoption, and have been ‘sandwiched’ between 33

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the dominant colonial ruling class and the indigenous majority, and subsequent generations were often regarded as aliens in the land of their birth. The historical conflicts and prejudices of the colonial phase have persisted in the post-colonial era. In countries where “Indians have been numerically significant, their ethnic orientation has been tied to struggle for political power” which has often been accompanied by threats, violence and suppression (Jayaram, 2004, 29). In 1972, Fijian politician Sakesai Butadroka introduced the following motion in Parliament: That this House agrees that the time has arrived when Indians or people of Indian origin in this country be repatriated back to India and that their traveling expenses back home and compensation for their properties in this country be met by the British. (Lal, 2015, 51) In the 1987 and 2000 elections in Fiji, Indian majority governments were ousted by coups. The coups “witnessed the use and abuse of ethnic identity appeals to maintain privilege and political power” (Alley, 2001, 230). Indo-Fijians have been politically marginalised: Racism has been institutionalised under the banner of affirmative action for indigenous Fijians. As a consequence, Indo-Fijians are disadvantaged in most areas of public life including allocation of civil service positions and scholarships for tertiary studies. (Voigt-Graf, 2009, 103) Consequently, those with skills and resources started a secondary migration, largely to New Zealand and Australia. In South Africa, following the euphoric democratic elections in 1994, there have been several public attacks against the Indian community (which played a major role in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid) from persons aligned to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), and a common theme is that this group (third and fourth-generation South Africans) must return to India. In early 2002, internationally renowned playwright and composer Mbongeni Ngema released an inflammatory anti-Indian song in the Zulu language, AmaiNiya, in which he called for “strong and brave men to confront Indians . . . Whites were far better than Indians . . . we are poor because all things have been taken by Indians. They are oppressing us” (Singh, 2002, 2). The song was condemned by the South African Human Rights Commission and was subsequently banned from the airwaves. Since 2009 Indians opposed to the destruction of the century-old Warwick market in Durban, which had an umbilical connection with the descendants of indentured labourers, were taunted with calls of ‘Hamba khaya! Hamba uye eBombay’ (Go home! Go home to Mumbai!) from the rent-a-mob groups aligned to the ruling party, chanting in front of senior ANC leaders with impunity. According to a Wikileaks report: The anti-Indian sentiments expressed by local ANC-appointed leaders and supporters . . . stand in contrast to the multi-racial ideals of the ANC . . . at its core, the (Warwick mall project) is about the displacement of South Africans of Indian descent by black South Africans. The (Warwick mall) plan is backed by the ANC, and it is simply a matter of time before the EMM [Early Morning Market] is changed forever. Indians are increasingly becoming marginalised in Durban and their political influence has diminished over the years.1 34

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Largely as a result of a lack of astute leadership, Indians face the possibility of being politically marginalised in the post-apartheid era. The various deprecatory comments and racial slurs made since the 2000s may well be an appropriate warning to the South African Indian community to awake and arise from their apathetic slumber. The final section reflects on connections with India.

Fractured links with India How does India reconnect with the indentured diaspora – a reminder of its less sophisticated past? The majority of descendants of indentured labourers have no direct links with India, except as an abstract, spiritual motherland, which many pilgrims find disappointing as the faith has been commodified and where religion betrays the poor and disadvantaged. While diasporic indentured Indians have not severed ties with their ancestral homeland, they have a highly variant relationship with India: Those dragooned into the plantations of East and South Africa, the West and East Indies, were after all lower caste and class peasants and labourers “unworthy” of the attention of our rulers and elite . . . Little surprise that in a status conscious people, they rarely figured in the mental landscape.2 However, the indentured diaspora did have some influence on the liberation of India from the shackles of colonialism. According to Prashad (2004, 2), “it was the Indian diaspora that made Gandhi Indian as well as taught him the arts of mass resistance”. After independence in 1947, the indentured diaspora was hardly considered as part of the Indian nation. In South Africa, like in the rest of the developing world, the indentured Indians were supposed to merge with the local populations and to fight the remnants of colonialism in order to create new independent nations (Gangopadhyay, 2005). In the early 1990s, the Indian government explored connections with the Indian diaspora in order to attract investments. In September 2000, the Indian government established a High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora to investigate and report on “problems and difficulties, the hopes and expectations” of NRIs and PIOs in their interaction with India. The High Level Committee chaired by Dr Singhvi (2001) emphasised the importance of the diaspora for India: The Diaspora is very special to India. Residing in distant lands, its members have succeeded spectacularly in their chosen professions by dint of their single-minded dedication and their hard work. What is more, they have retained their emotional, cultural and spiritual links with their country of origin. This strikes a reciprocal chord in the hearts of people of India. The High Level Committee recommended that NRIs and PIOs needed to be recognised, and it recommended the celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-Resident Indian Day) which has been observed annually since 2003 on 9 January. This date is symbolically important as Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa on 9 January 1915. When the Indian government introduced the PIO card (subsequently replaced by the Overseas Citizen of India card – largely to facilitate visa-free travel), the intention was to attract those with dollars, pounds and euros to invest in India. There was initially little interest in the descendants of indentured labourers in countries like Malaysia, Fiji, Trinidad, Surinam and South Africa. 35

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An interesting issue from which the motherland could benefit was an acknowledgement from the High Level Committee that in the indentured diaspora “a form of Hindusim . . . was being practised by people who had rid themselves of traditions and customs like jaati and sati, gotra and sutra . . . and dowry” (Singhvi, 2001, 85).

Conclusion This chapter provided a broad overview of labour and trader migrant experiences in different eras, and in the indentured diasporas. Indentured labour contributed significantly to the economic development of the different colonies, but Indians were only acceptable in a servile status in the colonial and post-colonial eras. In an attempt to restrict their socio-economic mobility, policies were introduced to limit their access to land and housing, as well as trading opportunities. Trade was the main economic activity of local whites, and was also a symbol of social status. Indian merchants challenged white economic hegemony and status. Indians enjoyed a relatively privileged position compared with that of the indigenous majority primarily because of community survival strategies and their rich cultural and religious heritage. The nascent conflict between these two groups has resurfaced periodically, with the minority group appearing to be vulnerable. As they attempted to adjust in an alien and hostile environment, they encountered conflict initially with the colonial rulers and subsequently with the indigenous majority. Indians in the indentured diaspora have always been vulnerable in the colonial and postcolonial eras, and connections with India remain nebulous. There are significant continuities between both phases, and these include problems linked to race, ethnicity, citizenship and identity encountered by indentured labourers and their descendants for the greater part of a century. The divide and rule strategy of the British persisted into the post-colonial era, where race and ethnic polarisation have in fact become more entrenched in most of the former colonies, and the descendants of indentured labourers appear to be as vulnerable as their ancestors.

Notes 1 2 The diaspora, a symposium on Indian-Americans and the motherland (n.d.), p. 3. Available from:

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Race, ethnicity and conflict Dvorin, E. P. (1952). Racial Separation in South Africa. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edwards, I. (1983). Living on the ‘Smell of an Oilrag’: African Life in Cato Manor in the Late 1940s. Paper Presented to a Workshop on African Life in Durban in the Twentieth Century, Durban, University of Natal. Freund, B. (1995). Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910–1990. Portsmouth, RI: Heinemann–James Currey. Gangopadhyay, A. (2005). India’s Policy towards its Diaspora: Continuity and Change. India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, 61, 93–122. Ghai, D. P. and Ghai, Y. P. (1965). Asians in East Africa: Problems and Prospects. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 3, 35–51. Ghai, D. P. and Ghai, Y. P. (1971). The Asian Minorities of East and Central Africa. London: Minority Rights Group. Ginwala, F. N. (1974). Class, Consciousness and Control: Indian South Africans 1860–1946 (unpublished PhD thesis). Oxford University. Hughes, H. (1987). Violence in Inanda, August 1985. Journal of Southern African Studies, 13, 331–354. Jain, R. K. (1993). Indian Communities Abroad: Themes and Literature. New Delhi: Manohar. Jayaram, N. (ed.). (2004). The Indian Diaspora: Dynamics of Migration. New Delhi: Sage. Joshi, P. S. (1942). The Tyranny of Colour: A Study of the Indian Problem in South Africa. Durban, South Africa: E. P. & Commercial Print Co. Koshy, S. (2008). Introduction. In: S. Koshy and R. Radhakrishnan, eds, Transnational South Asians: The Making of a Neo-Diaspora. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–41. Kuper, L. (1965). An African Bourgeoisie. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Ladlau, L. K. (1975). The Cato Manor Riots, 1959–60 (unpublished Master’s dissertation). Durban, South Africa: University of Natal. Lal, B. V. (1986). Murmurs of Dissent: Non-Resistance on Fiji Plantations. The Hawaiian Journal of History, 20, 188–214. Lal, B. V. (2015). Historical Dictionary of Fiji. London: Rowman and Littlefield. Mahmud, T. (2013). Cheaper than a Slave: Indentured Labor, Colonialism and Capitalism. Whittier Law Review, 34, 215–243. (Online). Available from: (Accessed on 10 December 2013). Mangru, B. (1999). Bechu: The Voice of Conscience. In: C. Seecharan, ed., Bechu: ‘Bound Coolie’ Radical in British Guiana, 1894–1901. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, pp. 1–12. Meer, F. (1969). Portrait of South African Indians. Durban, South Africa: Avon House. Meer, F. (1985). Indentured Labour and Group Formations in Apartheid Society. Race and Class, 26, 45–60. Mishra, A. K. (2009). Indian Indentured Labourers in Mauritius: Reassessing the ‘New System of Slavery’ vs Free Labour Debate. Studies in History, 25, 229–251. Moodley, K. A. (1975). South African Indians: The Wavering Minority. In: L. Thompson and J. Butler, eds, Change in Contemporary South Africa. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 250–279. Moodley, K. A. (1980). Structural Inequality and Minority Anxiety: Responses of Middle Groups in South Africa. In: R. M. Price and C. G. Rosberg, eds, The Apartheid Regime: Political Power and Racial Domination. Berkeley, CA: Institute of International Studies, pp. 217–235. Motwani, J. K. and Motwani, J. B. (1989). Introduction. In: J. K. Motwani and J. Barot-Motwani, eds, Global Migration of Indians: Saga of Adventure, Enterprise, Identity and Integration. New York: First Global Convention of People of Indian Origin, pp. 1–5. Padayachee, V. and Morrell, R. (1991). Indian Merchants and Dukawallahs in the Natal Economy, c.1875–1914. Journal of Southern African Studies, 17, 71–102. Parekh, B. (1993). The Indian Diaspora. In: J. K. Motwani, M. Gosine, J. Barot-Motwani, eds, Global Indian Diaspora: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. New York: GOPIO, pp. 8–10. Parekh, B. (1994). Some Reflections on the Hindu Diaspora. New Community, 20, 603–620. Power, J. (1993). Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Anglo-Indian Trade Rivalry in Colonial Malawi, 1910–1945. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 26, 575–607. Prashad, V. (2004). Dusra Hindustan. (Online). Available from: vijay%20prashad.htm. Ramsaran, P. (2008). The Indentured Contract and its Impacts on Labour Relationship and Community Reconstruction in British Guiana. International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, 1, 177–188. Singh, H. (2014). Recasting Caste: From the Scared to the Profane. New Delhi: Sage. Singh, N. (2002). AmaNdiya . . . Not the Right. Post, 29 May, p. 2.


Brij Maharaj Singhvi, L. (2001). Report of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora. New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. (Online). Available from: (Accessed on 10 January 2015). Swan, M. (1984). The 1913 Natal Indian Strike. Journal of Southern African Studies, 10, 239–258. Swanson, M. W. (1983). ‘The Asiatic Menace’: Creating Segregation in Durban, 1870–1900. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 16, 401–421. Tandon, Y. and Raphael, A. (1973). East Africa’s Asians. London: Minority Rights Group. Tinker, H. (1974). A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920. London: Oxford University Press. Tinker, H. (1977). The Banyan Tree: Overseas Emigrants from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Voigt-Graf, C. (2009). Transnationalism and the Indo-Fijian Diaspora: The Relationship of Indo-Fijians to India and its People. In: W. Safran, A. K. Sahoo and B. V. Lal, eds, Transnational Migrations: The Indian Diaspora. New Delhi: Routledge, pp. 97–162.



Taking a leaf out of Beverley’s (2004) valuable study, a testimonio may be defined as a pétit recit, a small subaltern voice marginalized by history and sincere to its emotional rather than historical content. A testimonio is thus both an ‘authentic subaltern voice’ as well as a ‘staged performance’ where the speaker (often with the aid of a transcriber) speaks for the other and lays the foundation for any future subaltern struggle for equality (Beverley, 2004, xvi). The Indian plantation diaspora has few surviving written testimonios that give contemporary accounts of the subaltern life-worlds of indentured labourers. In the case of Fiji, our case reference for the Indian plantation diaspora, there are two testimonios by Totaram Sanadhya, an indentured labourer who just happened to be literate and who returned to India after some twenty-one years in Fiji. These testimonios are a remarkable source of Fiji Indian plantation history and culture as they show the effects of crossing the black waters, the role of recruiters and the creation of a collective memory of the homeland. The testimonios by Sanadhya tell us one side of plantation history because they are written, retrospective and edited accounts of felt experience and in a sense this is a limitation. To provide us with narratives of lived experience of quotidian indenture life, the kind of experience that required immediate cultural expression, one has to go to oral narratives and songs that present more immediate memories of the lives of people of indenture in terms of a real here-and-now even as they created a collective memory of the homeland. A key mode of recall in the songs took the form of longing and departure. Through these songs – often cast as songs of the rainy season – the people of the Fiji Indian plantation diaspora, like the men and women on the Ibis in Amitav Ghosh’s memorable Sea of Poppies, lamented their lost homeland. This chapter examines the emotional power of these songs by re-working them back into the real, material conditions of indenture so graphically outlined in Sanadhya’s testimonios. In doing so the writer also uses memory as an affective source with which to qualify the uneven nature of plantation indenture history. What were the origins of those songs and why recall them when they simply trigger a history of pain? To understand this we need to turn, as a primary analytical act, to an examination of the history of indenture with reference to my own homeland, Fiji, and read it, furthermore, mediated through testimonios and oral recitations.1


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The black waters In the popular imaginary, the indenture system is recalled with reference to four key terms: girmit, girmitiya, arkati and Kala-Pani. First, girmit: it is really a demotic form of the ‘agreement’ that indentured labourers signed before embarking on ships to the plantation colonies. Related to girmit, the abstract noun, is the agential noun girmitiya, a word which designated those who actually signed (thumb-marked more likely) the agreement.2 The Mahatma himself had used the word girmit (“the indentured labourers who went to Natal . . . came to be known there as girmitiyas from girmit” (Gandhi, 1927/1959, 77) and in his Hindi hagiographical novel Pahla girmitiya, Giriraj Kishor refers to the Mahatma as the first girmitiya3 in the title of the novel (Kishor, 1999). The third word is arkati which, like girmit, is the demotic form of ‘recruiter’ but is given a decidedly derogatory and indeed ominous meaning.4 The word is in fact a ‘memorial construction’ with all its attendant flaws, especially in respect of memory’s tendency towards selective evidence. It does, however, appear in the Oxford Hindi–English Dictionary (54) and is defined as “a recruiting agent for workers for Mauritius, &c. on indenture”. The girmit imaginary transforms the arkati/recruiter into the compliant, money-hungry, totally unscrupulous agent of a “new system of slavery” as Tinker (1974), a little dramatically, termed the system of indenture. The fourth is Kala-Pani, a word which has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary (1991, II, 252) as the fourth meaning of ‘black water’. Kala-Pani or the ‘black waters’ is a loaded word which has heavy, even metaphysical, connotations. For the peasants from the Indo-Gangetic Plain (and even for the later indentured labourers from Southern India), it carried the sense of a break from an orderly social world. Although the word has a decidedly Hindu meaning, it had similar semantic associations for recently converted nineteenth-century Muslim peasants. Kala-Pani was in fact the ocean which few had seen, far away from the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The ocean as Kala-Pani, in a literal sense, also carries the sense of death, since k¯al¯a (‘black’) invokes k¯ala or death itself. Even more disturbingly, though, in a carefully regulated world of castes, Kala-Pani was also the limit situation, a kind of threshold that one never crossed or entered into. For to do either meant, at least for the ‘twice-born’,5 loss of caste and nothing could affect the social order more than relinquishing one’s place in that order. Although caste categories were brought to the plantation, the fact of Kala-Pani always haunted those who left home for the new land, and it is perhaps for this reason that caste itself became a lot more malleable in the plantation colonies.6 Regardless, though, what the crossing symbolized was a seismic, irrevocable break. In Ghosh’s (2009, 2011, 2015) compelling fictional work about indentured labourers to Mauritius, the first major plantation colony, Kala-Pani is the space of transgression which polluted the self and carried one to lands from which return was impossible. One of the key protagonists in this trilogy, Deeti, is certainly aware of this, as she very quickly connects her vision of the tall-masted Ibis to crossing the Kala-Pani. The other terms mentioned so far make their way into Ghosh’s sensational novels as well. The black waters, thus, may be turned into a larger metaphor, one which metonymically stands for indenture itself.

Indenture history through testimonio Girmit or indenture in Fiji began with the arrival of 463 coolies on the Leonidas in 1879 and came to an end in 1916 with a final shipload of 887 labourers on Sutlej V (Gillion, 1962, 212–214). In the intervening forty-year period a little over 60,000 indentured labourers were transported to Fiji. Scholarly accounts of indenture exist, but there is little which takes us to the lived experience of indenture. Although in the works of Lal (2000) and Mishra (2002) we find creative reconstructions of the life-worlds of the girmitiyas drawn from documentary evidence, the field 40

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remains open to further creative readings. In the absence of a comprehensive archive of narratives (oral and written) by the coolies themselves, I want to examine one of two testimonios by the aforementioned girmitiya Totaram Sanadhya (1876–1947). As an unstable genre located between ethnography, autobiography and narrative fiction and as a small subaltern voice marginalized by history, a testimonio can function in multiple ways. There is, for instance, a directness about the genre which parts company from objectivity and enters the politics of solidarity with the other, the multitude (Beverley, 2004, 2). It does not follow that this ideological bias means that a testimonio is pure myth, fantastic reconstructions aimed towards effect rather than felt history. As the small but urgent voice of ‘subaltern’ history, testimonios have played an important part in drawing our attention to the uneven nature of the grand narrative of history. Indian plantation diaspora scholars have only now begun to look at these testimonios, many no more than fragmentary narratives, others, like the letters of the Guyanese indentured labourer Bechu, reconstructed through rigorous scholarship (Seecharan, 1999). Totaram Sanadhya arrived in Fiji on the ship Jumna II in 1893, some 14 years after the arrival of the first indenture ship Leonidas in 1879, and stayed on after completing his five-year indenture for a further 16 years, that is a total of twenty-one years (Sanadhya, 1922/1994, 26). A Brahmin who registered himself under another caste in Calcutta (a not uncommon procedure for Brahmin indentured labourers), upon arrival in Fiji, even as he worked as a labourer, his Brahmanism remained marked. He settled in Wainibokasi, an area some ten kilometres away from the Nausori sugar mill where he worked as an indentured labourer. He married the daughter of an Indian farmer, became a leading priest and social leader for the Fiji Indians, polished his rudimentary Hindi and may have even mastered a little English which he later used in his debates with the Methodist missionary John Wear Burton (1875–1970). Burton lived in Sanadhya’s and my home-town Nausori for eight years (1902–1910) and was one of the founders of the Methodist diocese of Dilkusha where in the forties, my father took up a teaching post and brought up his three children. In Burton’s (1910) book Fiji To-day, which remains an insightful, if proselytizing, account of native Fijians and indentured labourers, he refers to one “clever and well-educated Brahman” (322–323) which, most assuredly, is a reference to Sanadhya. Sanadhya did well financially in Fiji, had many orthodox Hindu followers and was a member of a group of young, educated Fiji-born Indians who discussed not only the evils of indenture but also political rights for Indians. It was Totaram Sanadhya who wrote a letter to the Mahatma urging him to send an Indian-educated lawyer to Fiji to fight for the rights of Indians. As a result, Manilal Maganlal Doctor, a Gujarati lawyer in Mauritius, arrived in Fiji in September 1912 and was eagerly received at the Suva wharf by hundreds of Indians. He stayed in Fiji for just eight years and was deported for his part in instigating, as the colonial administrators argued, the 1920 Sugar Cane Workers’ Strike.7 Totaram Sanadhya stayed in Fiji for just two more years after Manilal’s arrival and left for India with his wife in 1914. In India, he narrated his testimonio to Banarsidas Chaturvedi over a period of fifteen days at his home in Firozabad. By then Banarsidas Chaturvedi had started his new career as a writer and journalist (Chaturvedi, 1973, 18). Chaturvedi writes: Upon returning from the Bookshop [in Firozabad] I took Panditji to my house. After a few moments of wayward talk we agreed that for the next fifteen days the Pandit will come to my house to narrate his experiences and I will write them down. In this way my job was that of a clerk. Yes, I did collate facts and figures and embellished Panditji’s tale of woe. But even though the book was a co-production, Panditji’s moral authority informs the text in every way.8 (Chaturvedi, 1973, 18–19) 41

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The first part of the ‘composite’ testimonio – Fiji dvı¯p me˜ mere ikkis varsha – appeared, it seems, within months of Sanadhya’s return to India. It had considerable impact on the agitation to end the indenture system which Sanadhya had called a “new system of slavery” (Sanadhya, 1919/1973, 82).9 It was translated four times into Gujarati, twice into Bengali and once each into Marathi and Urdu. The poet Maithlisharan Gupta and the dramatist Lakshman Singh Chauhan have both written about Sanadhya’s testimonio in their creative work. The youthful Jayprakash Narayan, later to become a fiery political activist, said in 1963 that Sanadhya’s work made a profound impression on him, and Bal Gangadhar (Lokmanya) Tilak, the nationalist leader, was similarly impressed (Chaturvedi, 1973, 19–20). In his introduction, Chaturvedi remarks that Sanadhya’s work gave voice to the silent subaltern, an act that, he suggested, was part of our ethical responsibility (Chaturvedi, 1973, 20).10 Sanadhya’s first testimonio, Fiji dvı¯p me˜ mere ikkis varsha, deals with his departure from Firozabad at the age of seventeen in search of work. Promised work by an arkati (Hindi demotic, as already noted, for a coolie ‘recruiter’), he is taken to a shed where he saw 100 men and 80 women. A few days later these men and women, including Sanadhya, are taken to a white magistrate to declare that they are willing to go to Fiji to work. The registration of names done, they are quickly taken by train to Calcutta, placed in a depot there, made to mingle with people of all castes, given medical checkups and within days some 500 are put on a ship which leaves port at four in the afternoon for Fiji. Jumna II would take 3 months and 12 days to reach Fiji on 23 May 1893 with 309 (not 500 as Sanadhya recalls, although admittedly a few may have died on board the ship) indentured labourers. The journey as described by Sanadhya was dehumanizing in every way: cramped sleeping spaces, a meal of dog-biscuits, sugar, rice and dried fish, the dead thrown overboard without, one suspects, any proper ritual, and, given caste sensitivities, the unease many high caste coolies felt about toilet cleaning. Upon arrival, the workers were sent to various estates under strict supervision. The living quarters on the estates were all identical – long lines of houses divided into small rooms with three single men or three single women or a couple in each room.11 Plantation work was hard, physically exhausting, the wages and food rations meagre at best, and penalties for missing work and sickness severe. Racism was rife, racial segregation (of white overseers and workers) was the norm, and sexual exploitation of women by planters and overseers was not at all uncommon. In the absence of witnesses (who dared not speak) there was no recourse to courts for justice. The subaltern was indeed mute throughout the period of indenture.

Nodes of memory There is much in Sanadhya’s testimonio that provides us with valuable archival information about indenture life. Two representative stories from this testimonio may be cited: the story of Laliya (Sanadhya, 1919/1973, 68–72) and Guljari’s story (Sanadhya, 1919/1973, 32–34). The first deals with the role of recruiters; the second with the predicament of return. Taken together they dramatically sum up the practice of indenture and its effects on human lives. They also show features of a testimonio which are so different from John Wear Burton’s account of similarly distressed indentured labourers such as Din Muhammad, the woman with the sick child, the Madrasi accountant, the Christian convert Jaganandan Singh and the lawyer’s clerk who is given the pseudonym ‘John Wilson Banerji’ (sharing Burton’s own initials). In all these instances Burton, the missionary, remains the detached observer, but not free from compulsive ironic interventions. The figure of the arkati is part of girmit lore and almost all personal narratives of indentured labourers refer to this intermediary who, for a commission, effectively ‘sold’ people into indenture. Whether the majority of people were cheated in this fashion or whether the few who 42

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were began to typify the condition of the whole is an arguable point. In Sanadhya, though, the arkati emerges as the villain of the drama as his own indenture is attributed directly to the role of the arkati. Regardless, one of the most painful narratives in this testimonio deals with a couple who were inducted into indenture by unscrupulous arkatis. This is the story of Laliya who made the long journey to Fiji with her young daughter in search of her husband Ismail. Sanadhya catches up with her in Fiji and promises to locate her husband. I left for Suva in search of Ismail. I contacted the Agent General who flatly refused to help me locate Ismail. I then discovered through another contact that Ismail was working on another estate. I then got on a steamer and arrived at this estate. There I found Ismail who told me the name of his wife and was extremely distressed upon discovering that his wife Laliya too had been in Fiji these past three years and yet they had not met. I told him that his wife worked on an estate some 500 [50?] miles away. I then composed for Ismail a letter of request for a fifteen-day leave and then went to Laliya on whose behalf I wrote a similar request. I took both these letters, thumb-signed by Ismail and Laliya respectively, to the Agent General. The Agent General refused to give any help yet again and asked me to go to the Estate Manager. I took Laliya to the manager who too refused to give her leave. I returned to find other means of bringing their plight to the attention of authorities. In the meantime Ismail fell ill and was sent to the hospital. The doctor said there was nothing wrong with him and he was sent back to work. He fell ill again and this time the doctor declared that he had leprosy, he was very weak and could no longer do labouring. He recommended that as he was of no use as a worker he should be sent home as an “incapable”. Upon hearing this I immediately contacted Ismail at the hospital and found him at wits’ end. I left him to find a barrister whom I gave two guineas in fees. The barrister did a little investigation and told me that there was little else he could do as Ismail’s departure was final and his ship was about to leave for India. I made my way to the wharf and found Ismail on board. He sounded so helpless and I too felt the same because I was not able to honour the promise I made to Laliya. All I could do was inform a lascar on board to look after Ismail . . . When the ship returned to Fiji the same lascar informed me that upon reaching Calcutta Ismail died . . . I asked myself how could I relay this information to Laliya . . . With a strong heart I went to see Laliya and very gently the day after I informed her about the departure and death of her husband. She had some four months of indenture left and she too would be sent back to India. Her emotional state notwithstanding, she wasn’t given any leave as she continued to work on the plantation. What a cruel life and how cruel a system which has no compassion. (Sanadhya, 1919/1973, 68–72 [redacted]) Sanadhya does not tell us what happened to Laliya. Was she sent back to India? Did someone marry her so that she could stay in Fiji? The story of this subaltern is incomplete, but the account given once again shows that indenture experience was perceived as ‘hell’: “[they] call it narak (hell)” (Burton, 1910, 271).

The perils of return Diaspora theory is predicated on some statement about the ‘homing’ principle: the wish to return which remains unfilled (Mishra, 2007, 5–6). In the plantation diaspora, the right to return home was built into the agreement with the qualification that a free passage would be available only if one 43

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had completed two five-year indentures. But crossing the Kala-Pani meant that an unproblematic return into a world left behind was not easy. Sanadhya makes this clear with reference to Guljari whose journey back home is discussed under the subheading: “The issue of caste upon return”. The people of India reject their fellow Indian brothers who upon crossing the k¯al¯ap¯anı¯ return home . . . To my fellow Indian readers I wish to give you an example. Guljari, a Kanyakubja Brahmin originally from Kanauj, lived near my house in Fiji. Through hard work and through donations (to a Brahmin by fellow Indians in Fiji) he managed to amass the sum of 300 Rupees [£30]. One day he received a letter from his brother who demanded that he return home immediately or else he will carry the sin of killing a hundred cows. Bound by the dharma of a Brahmin he returned to India forthwith. Upon his return he found that he was not allowed to stay in his former home and had to stay next door. He gave all his money to his brother. A few days later the priest was called who along with the elders of the village discussed the consequences of crossing the black waters. Guljari explained eating routines on the ship and in Fiji. He was told that he had to sit through the recitation of a sacred text to which people of five or six villages should be invited and fed. To be able to do this, Guljari asked his brother to return the money he had given him. His brother flatly refused. Guljari was declared an outcaste and was rejected by his family. People treated him like dirt and said nasty things about him. Finally he wrote to his friends in Fiji who collected money for his passage back. In April 1914 Guljari returned to Fiji. Like Guljari many others came back to Fiji and in many instances turned their back on Hinduism and became Christian or Muslim. (Sanadhya, 1919/1973, 32–34) Sanadhya questions the ethics of rejection simply because someone out of necessity had crossed the black waters and by “crossing the k¯al¯ap¯anı¯” had broken caste (Burton, 1910, 318). Why can’t they be re-incorporated into their original caste? What was their fault if through the false promises of the arkatis or because of the tyrannical nature of our social system they had to seek employment elsewhere? The testimonio turns its gaze back on the homeland without, of course, suggesting that the caste system itself should be radically overhauled.

Songs of love-longing, departure and the absent homeland For those who never returned, folk songs were another form of testimonio which give us an insight into the trauma of indenture. After Sanadhya’s testimonio I turn to memorially reconstructed songs as another way of looking at subaltern memory and narrative. In Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, a last look at the homeland triggers memory of songs of departure and love-longing as Deeti sadly reminisces on those moments no longer available to her, and in particular that specially poignant moment when mothers sang their lament “when the palanquin came to carry their daughters away” (Ghosh, 2009, 414).12 These were memories from which they “would be forever excluded” (Ghosh, 2009, 414). She sings a song of lament: The pond is dry The lotus withered The swan weeps For its absent love. (Ghosh, 2009, 415) 44

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The song is taken up by other women on the ship, since women alone sang these songs of departure, capturing the “pain of the child who is exiled from home”. The men on the ship can only listen and through their silence acknowledge that it is women who capture feelings which as men they cannot utter: How will it pass This night of parting? (Ghosh, 2009, 415) At this point the narrator’s voice surfaces and we get one of literature’s great observations about the strange circumstances by which speakers of this language were carried beyond the darkling plain, across the dark waters to unknown “tapus”. How had it happened that when choosing the men and women who were to be torn from this subjugated plain, the hand of destiny had strayed so far inland, away from the busy coastlines, to alight on the people who were, of all, the most stubbornly rooted in the silt of the Ganga, in a soil that had to be sown with suffering to yield its crop of story and song? It was as if fate had thrust its fist through the living flesh of the land in order to tear away a piece of its stricken heart. (Ghosh, 2009, 416) I want to suggest that the foundational semantics of the songs of these indentured labourers was so stubbornly rooted in the ‘silt of the Ganga’ and was always marked by a ‘stricken heart’.

Connective memory Prosser (2011) has written about a particular “kind of music that is a return” in the sense that it takes us back to the past, to “where we came from, to what we’ve lost”. In other words, music functions as a bridge “between past and present” (2011, 137). These points, explains Prosser, were made in extensio by Daniel Barenboim’s discussion in his BBC Reith lectures in 2006 (lecture 2) about the incredible memory of the ear because it “helps us tremendously to remember and to recollect” (quoted by Prosser, 2011, 138). Barenboim, in turn, quotes Antonio Damasio’s observation that “sound goes very deep because of its closeness to emotion” (quoted by Prosser, 2011, 141). Hence contemplating the indentured diaspora, we ask alongside Prosser, “What is the power of music to bring back memory . . . [to enable us to] remember the country left behind?” (Prosser, 2011, 141). Cast adrift by the black waters, damned as a consequence by loss of caste, the hope of return denied by distance, people of the plantation diaspora turned to memory as a way of making sense of their lives. Songs were their first points of entry, and, given their peasant origins, folk songs of the seasons, of birth, of weddings were the most common. Regrettably there is no serious study of the transmission and recall of folk songs of the kind mentioned in Ghosh’s novel in Fiji. We have to turn to scholarship on the subject for a related plantation diaspora – Trinidad – to further our understanding of the role of folk songs and their recall in the old Indian diaspora. Myers’ (1998) ethnomusicological account of the music of Hindu Trinidad notes significant continuities (and discontinuities) between songs in Felicity’s ancestral Bhojpuri-speaking villagers and their forgotten brethren in Trinidad. This exhaustive research points to the resilience of memory and an inner push to capture through songs a world no longer available to Indian 45

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migrants in Trinidad. Invoking the work of Alan Merriam, Myers affirms the power of music, claiming that “music is culture” and “what musicians do is society” (Myers, 1998, xx). Myers’ ethnography, quite correctly, begins with her erudite informant Umesh who is asked, “But what of k¯al¯ap¯anı¯ (‘black waters’)? . . . All the books about indentureship mention k¯al¯ap¯anı¯.” Umesh’s reply comes as no surprise to us: “Kal¯ap¯anı¯ is sending a person across a sea. It is a lifetime prison” (Myers, 1998, 6). The core of Myers’ research is a pressing one: “Cut off by time and distance from their mother culture . . . exploited and abused by English plantation owners . . . what songs would these people choose to sing?” (Myers, 1998, 31). Very quickly she discovers that their musical repertory is marked by songs about departure of the bride (by¯ah ke gı¯t), wedding and birth songs, and devotional songs often based on verses from the Tulsidas R¯am¯ayana (Tulsidas c.1574/1947). Importantly, these songs also capture a very Indian reading of time which is not Hegelian (in the sense that it moves towards a better world). Rather it is ‘cosmic’ in the sense that we are locked into a dark, degenerate fourth age (kaliyug) from which we can only nostalgically recall a distant golden age encapsulated in the kingdom of Rama, the god-hero of the great epic.13 In an act of reverse millenarianism, the predominantly Hindu labouring class made Rama’s return home after destroying the demonic Ravana the symbol of a glorious past they had forever lost against a golden future promised by the arkatis. If the epic and Puranic narratives provide one class of songs, another comes from the changing seasons, and notably the rainy season, which in Trinidad is the months of June, July and August. Of special note are the songs relating to the Indian monsoon month of S¯awan (July–August). These are the kajarı¯ songs, nostalgic as well as romantic love-longing songs of the rainy season. The gathering clouds are connected with the sentiments of viraha, the feelings of a wife longing for the return of her husband. In the plantation diaspora, there was a painfully real side to these songs of love-longing as many women were lured into becoming bound coolies because they had been deserted by their husbands in India. And widows too would have found the S¯awan monsoonal songs especially poignant given their own standing as child-brides married to much older men, often dead long before them: Blow eastern breeze, pain comes up! Oh! pain comes up, oh! pain comes up! Blow eastern breeze, pain comes up, oh! What city at search my husband? (Myers, 1998, 86) The S¯awan songs are part of the “songs of the twelve months” (b¯arahm¯as¯a) cycle, one of which, collected in Grierson’s 1880s path-breaking collection, tells us that each month is evocative of a particular emotion (Vaudeville, 1986). In the case of S¯awan, “The month of S¯awan is a fire of exceeding sorrow, which cannot even be born” (Myers, 1998, 266). Separation, reunion, love sickness, viraha, a husband working in a foreign land (bidesiya) are themes carried by the east wind. The life of Rama too is narrated in this b¯arahm¯as¯a cycle where, in one version, for the month of S¯awan we read, “In S¯awan all the tanks and rivers are filled, Sı¯t¯a and Raghubı¯r [Rama] will be wet” (Myers, 1998, 275).

Oral viral memorials There is a corrective to the absence of critical ethnomusicological work on Fiji Indian folk songs already mentioned. Due to the critical archival work conducted by Sudesh Mishra of the University of the South Pacific,14 I have before me three songs (referred to as bidesiyas, ‘songs 46

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from afar’) sung by Kamla Wati which not only replicate exactly the songs my mother sang but also provide an additional archive with which to extend memories of indentured life. Episodes from Rama’s life make their way into the songs of absence and none more so than those dealing with the life of Sita. Although relatively silent throughout the Hindi (Avadhi) vernacular version of the epic by Tulsidas (the plantation diaspora’s foundational religious text), Sita plays a crucial role in the plot of the epic. Blessed is King Janak’s household Listen O Kahariya the departure of Sita. Beautiful and blessed is the city Where Sita took her avatar. Following behind a procession of girls Sita enters the palanquin, O Kahariya. Friends and relations gather around the door And seeing Sita’s departure they cry, O Kahariya. Lift the palanquin and carry her for In your hands is the keeper of Avadh, O Kahariya. As the palanquin is lifted, she cries O Kahariya, listen to my prayers. My life I’ll spend with my in-laws Forever alienated from my parents. Indoors my mother weeps incessantly Sisters-in-law cry standing in the yard. Friends cry wiping their tears City folks cry as well O Kahariya. And father too cries broken-hearted As brothers follow the palanquin O Kahariya. And when Sita reaches the city of Avadh Such happiness will come to the place, O Kahariya. Such is the affective value of the departure of the bride song that it is used in Indian cinema to capture moments of intense emotion. The emotion or rasa which infuses the song is that of karuna or pity which adds to the song’s impact as seen in the departure song-scenes of films such as Mother India (1957) (“Today the bride leaves for her husband’s house”) and Bambai Ka Babu (1960) (“You are going now, what thoughts bother you?”). Departure songs and songs of absence generally acquire additional emotional register when linked to S¯awan, the rainy season (Myers, 1998). Kalidasa’s memorable play was called Meghaduta (‘The Cloud Messenger’) and it is not uncommon to find songs in which clouds are addressed. Tropical clouds became symbols of the heavy, dark clouds heralding the coming monsoon back home and, in a sense, signalled precognitive and bodily connections between the drudgery of near slave conditions in the diaspora and the lost pastoral freedom of Indian fields. In another of Kamla Wati’s songs this much too is evident: After the downpour do not go away O you clouds Carry a message from me as well. Offended by me why are you climbing away? Come down for a moment O you clouds. To you I will tell my lover’s secret mark 47

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And his nature too O you clouds. Dark of complexion with blazing eyes But his name I cannot utter O you clouds. His red eyes are filled with desire And seductive ever so is his moustache O you clouds. The city in which resides my lover Make your rounds in that region O you clouds. Some day for sure I will meet my lover And I will find release from my pains O you clouds. And some day you too may do a good deed And take away the pain in a wife’s body O you clouds. My mother was a product of the world of Sanadhya’s testimonios and of the world of folk songs. She remembered, often in their variant forms, many of the songs mentioned by Myers in her book and certainly those cited in this chapter.15 But the form that came to her most powerfully was that of songs of love-longing in the month of S¯awan, such as this early Fiji Indian bidesiya viraha sung by Kamla Wati: Which village do you hail from, dear wanderer? To my village how have you come? I’ve brought news of your husband O beautiful one, I have come from the isle of Fiji. What message do you bring from my husband, Pray tell quickly and explain, And tell me in some detail too, O wanderer? The white men took your husband And dropped him off in Fiji isle. Indentured for five years he is To hoe in cane fields, dear one. Please take me to the isle of Fiji So that I can be with my husband. But Fiji is seven seas away How can I take you there, my dear? But when these five years are over Your husband will return to you for sure. We may, for the moment, shift scenes here. Imagine that the woman is Totaram Sanadhya’s Laliya who has no idea where her husband Ismail is. In the original Fiji Hindi version, the third and fourth lines may be read as the wanderer within the country who has received news of her husband from possible returnees in Calcutta. In this reading the wanderer becomes a substitute lover figure, the pardesi, the foreigner, who comes with a message that soothes the wife yearning for her absent husband. The seductive power of the bidesiya (the roving minstrel’s song) resides in this double coding, a messenger who works on a wife’s desire and places himself as the substitute lover. What drew people of the plantation diaspora towards the songs of departure and love-longing? In Sanadhya’s testimonio, return led to further pain since the black waters carried the stigma of ostracism. In the bidesiya folk songs of Kamla Wati, the language of absence and loss was symptomatic of a social disjunction and displacement which left permanent scars. Perhaps it is for this reason that for the people of indenture generally the Kala-Pani, the black waters, are so central to 48

Indenture, testimonios, oral narratives

a definition of an indenture and post-indenture selfhood as part of their lived experience and not necessarily historically defensible. To write a history of the plantation Indian diaspora, testimonios, songs and memory are important because they capture the sensory nuances of trauma and loss. Their evanescent presence continues to define the felt lives of the people of the old Indian plantation diaspora.

Acknowledgement Unless otherwise shown in parenthesis all translations are my own. An earlier version of this chapter appeared in Interventions: Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 17(4) (July 2015): 548–567. Once again, this chapter is dedicated to my mother Lila W. Mishra whom I failed as a son.

Notes 1 Professor Brij Lal, the world authority on Fiji Indians, has drawn my attention to the letters and papers of Baba Ram Chandra who went to Fiji in 1905. His account of indenture, it seems, took the form of letters of complaint to officialdom. They do not constitute a testimonio as defined in this chapter and have to be left to others to assess within a different order of comparative historiography. 2 Girmit/girmitiya then carries a sense of both subaltern temporality (the time of girmit) as well as a sense of personhood (the act of being a girmit person). 3 In the Fiji Hindi sociolect girmit and girmitiya are used in a number of phrases and define a quite specific experience from which later migrants (the Indian comprador class for instance) are excluded. Thus one speaks of girmit k¯atn¯a (having completed girmit), du¯sr¯a girmit (another girmit), girmit log (people of girmit), girmit divas (Girmit Day), and so on. 4 The historical evidence suggests that arkatis were, quite possibly, not single-minded and evil emissaries, and Kala-Pani too may not have had the same meaning for the lower castes. To examine the experience of indenture with these qualifications in mind would lead to the writing of a very different kind of chapter, which this is not. 5 Principally the two foremost castes, Brahmins and Kshatriyas. 6 Cross-caste relationship is captured in the phrase ‘jah¯a jı¯-bh¯a ¯ı ’ (‘ship brotherhood’) which created relationships of near-kinship during the passage. These kinship relationships were akin to family ties and often in the plantation were treated as such. 7 The economy was under the tight control of the Australian Colonial Sugar Refining Company (the CSR) which meant that even upon release from bondage (the period of indenture was five years, but this could have been extended, upon mutual consent, for another five years) Indian primary producers were paid a lot less for their products. It is in this context that as a free man Sanadhya was instrumental in bringing the lawyer Manilal to Fiji. 8 In a personal email (12 January 2012) Professor Brij Lal wrote, “The book was written by BC [Banarsidas Chaturvedi] to whom TS [Totaram Sanadhya] told his tale. That portion which related to the evils of the indenture system which could be used in the anti-indenture struggle was published as 21 Years. But material which concerned the inner tensions of the Indian community, reflecting badly on it, remained unpublished [in book form]. BC gave the ms to KLG [Ken L Gillion] who gave it to me.” 9 ‘A New System of Slavery’ became the standard description of indenture after Tinker (1974) had given his work this title, which he borrowed from Lord John Russell’s description of the transportation of Indian labourers to Guyana. There is no evidence in Tinker’s book that he was familiar with Sanadhya’s testimonios. Sanadhya himself is unaware of Lord Russell’s description. 10 “To give voice to the subaltern is our godly duty.” 11 See Naipaul (1961, 185–186) for a novelistic version of plantation barracks and Burton (1910, 271–272) for a contemporary account. 12 I wish to thank Professor Makarand Paranjape for drawing my attention to these pages in Amitav Ghosh’s novel. 13 Helen Myers notes that in the village of Felicity “the monsoon month of S¯awan arouses in the village women images of fulfillment” (Myers, 1998, 264), which they also connected with the state of viraha that Krishna left the gopı¯s in.


Vijay Mishra 14 I wish to thank Professor Sudesh Mishra of the University of the South Pacific for providing me with a recording of Kamla Wati’s bidesiyas. Ms Kamla Wati’s rendition is also acknowledged with gratitude. 15 For an examination of the reception of S¯awan-related songs of Bollywood cinema in the plantation diaspora, see Mishra (2011, 89–108).

References Beverley, J. (2004). Testimonio. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Burton, J. W. (1910). The Fiji of To-day. London: Charles H. Kelly. Chaturvedi, B. (1973). ‘Introduction’, Totaram Sanadhya, [c.1919] Fiji dvı¯p me˜ mere 21 varsha (My 21 Years in Fiji). Varanasi, India: Banarsidas Chaturvedi, pp. 12–24. Gandhi, M. K. (1927/1959). An Autobiography; or, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Translated (from the original Gujarati) by Mahadev Desai. Ahmedabad, India: Navjivan Publishing House. Ghosh, A. (2009). Sea of Poppies. London: John Murray. Ghosh, A. (2011). River of Smoke. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Ghosh, A. (2015). Flood of Fire. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Gillion, K. L. (1962). Fiji’s Indian Migrants: A History to the End of Indenture in 1920. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. Kishor, G. (1999). Pahl¯a girmitiy¯a. New Delhi: Bh¯artiya Jñ¯anpı¯th. Lal, B. V. (2000). Chalo Jahaji. Suva, Fiji: The Fiji Museum. Mishra, S. (2002). The Time is Out of Joint. Span, 52, 136–145. Mishra, V. (2007). The Literature of the Indian Diaspora: Theorizing the Diasporic Imaginary. London: Routledge. Mishra, V. (2011). Memory and Recall from Beyond the Troubled Black Waters. South Asian Review, 32(3), 89–108. Myers, H. (1998). Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the Indian Diaspora. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Naipaul, V. S. (1961). A House for Mr Biswas. London: André Deutsch. Oxford English Dictionary, The (1991). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 20 vols. Oxford Hindi–English Dictionary, The (1997) Ed. R. S. McGregor. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Prosser, J. (2011). Singing with the Taxi Driver. From Bollywood to Babylon. In: M. Hirsch and N. K. Miller, eds, Rites of Return. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 137–150. Sanadhya, T. (c.1919/1973). Fiji dvı¯p me˜ mere 21 varsha (My 21 Years in Fiji). Varanasi, India: Banarsidas Chaturvedi. Sanadhya, T. (c.1922/1994). Bhu¯tlen kı¯ kath¯a (The Tale of the Haunted Lines). Edited by B. V. Lal and Y. Yadav. Delhi: Saraswati. Seecharan, C. (1999). Bechu: ‘Bound Coolie’ Radical in British Guinea 1894–1901. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press. Tinker, H. (1974). A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas, 1830–1920. London: Oxford University Press. Tulsidas. (c.1574/1947). R¯amcaritm¯anas. Gorakhpur, India: Gita Press. Vaudeville, C. (1986). B¯arahm¯as¯a in Indian Literatures: Songs of the Twelve Months in Indo-Aryan Literatures. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.


4 COOLITUDE MEETS INDIANITÉ Postcolonial kala pani writings in French Brinda J. Mehta

Postcolonial Indian writings in French have their roots in the history of colonization, the institution of indenture, and the pre-and post-capitalist plantation economies of the French-dominated islands of the Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles, Madagascar) and the Caribbean (Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Saint Lucia). These writings have received marginal attention in the overall corpus of postcolonial literature, particularly in the South Asian and South Asian diasporic contexts. The term kala pani or black water refers to the crossing of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the Caribbean Sea by thousands of economically disempowered rural workers from India, pejoratively termed coolies, under a nefarious system of indentured labour that lasted from 1838 to 1917. These labourers, the majority of whom were Hindu, were lured to foreign lands under the guise of enhanced social and economic prospects. They comprised an agricultural underclass. Unable to read, write, and interpret the terms of their contracts, many of them were duped by unscrupulous immigration officers and agents or maistrys working for the British and French. In collusion with the colonial powers, these agents of the Empire perpetuated an inhumane system of contracted labour exploitation as a disguised form of enslavement, even though the British ‘officially’ abolished slavery in 1838, followed by the French in 1848. The beginning of Indian indenture ironically coincided with the end of African slavery. The European sugar industry and a transnational system of capitalist profit still needed a cheap and hardworking labour force on plantations in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean (Mehta, B. J., 2010, 1). Kala pani narratives of indenture chronicle the historicity of French indenture and the experiences of indentured Indians. These writings also focus on the traumas, displacements, and anxieties of the post-indenture period, especially in terms of identity, positionality, and gender ideologies. Like the tenuous transoceanic passages themselves, this literature has experienced its own precariousness in terms of the literary chauvinism of anglophone postcolonial literatures, the linguistic hegemony of English, and the larger numbers of kala pani migrations in the English-speaking context. These kala pani traumas have been reflected most specifically in literature and in traditional religious and cultural values. According to Hindu belief, the traversing of large expanses of water was associated with contamination and cultural defilement as these crossings led to the supposed loss of a ‘pure’ Hindu self. Those who crossed kala pani were automatically compromising their core Hindu identity in the absence of spiritual and religious roots. These crossings were initially identified with the expatriation of prisoners, ‘low’ 51

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castes and ‘untouchables’, ‘deviant’ women, and other social pariahs. In addition, popular mythologies dictated that the severing of ties from India condemned the Hindu soul to a perpetual state of wandering in the absence of ancestral moorings. The writings of indenture have thereby ingested these traumas of dislocation within the fault lines of contemporary postcolonial literature (Mehta, B. J., 2010, 2). As mentioned earlier, the dominance of English in postcolonial studies has impeded a serious engagement with non-English dimensions of diaspora and postcolonialism. For example, in the case of Indo-Caribbean literature, kala pani has focused almost exclusively on rural north Indian anglophone perspectives, with little or no attention devoted to migrations from the south, as highlighted in the work of Bragard (2008a, 2008b), Mehta (2009), and Mahabir and Pirbhai (2013). The majority of the kala pani workers were sent to the Caribbean, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts, and Grenada, from the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while the French recruited their labour force from their possessions in Tamil Nadu, specifically Pondicherry, Mahé, Karikal, Chandernagor, and Yanaon. At the same time, while the majority of Tamilians were sent to Martinique, Guadeloupe, on the other hand, as an exception to the general trend of migration routes to the French Caribbean, initially received more Indians from the north. However, a larger number of Tamilians were sent to the island in the later years of indenture, which accounts for the presence of southern Indian cultural, social, and religious practices, even though these traditions are culturally very mixed today and exhibit a vibrant métissage or cultural fusion. The north–south divide has worked to the detriment of francophone negotiations of Indian diasporic identity by creating foundational gaps and omissions in diasporic theorizing. These partial readings of diaspora have compromised multi-lingual framings of kala pani by favouring a certain diasporic hegemony in terms of geography, language, ethnicity, and the volume of migration from northern India (Mehta, 2010, B. J., 2–3). This chapter focuses on two important theories and literary traditions emanating from the kala pani experience – Ernest Moutoussamy’s indianité from Guadeloupe and Khal Torabully’s coolitude from Mauritius. It is misleading to position a unified francophone diaspora of indenture or a homogeneous genre of francophone kala pani literature for several reasons, including the different routes of migration, the distance from India, differing levels of cultural adaptation and assimilation, the varying numbers of Indians transported to individual locations, linguistic accommodations of different forms of the Creole language in each country of adoption, minority or majority status, and different degrees of participation in the process of creolization. For example, due to its geographical proximity to India, some 453,063 indentured workers arrived on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius between 1834 and 1911, transforming this nation into a Hindu-centred diasporic site capable of maintaining closer ties with the ancestral land.1 In contrast, only 100,000 Indians arrived in neighbouring Réunion after abolition due to the island’s greater distance from India. Indo-Mauritians have consequently been in a stronger position to resist total assimilation into African and Creole socio-cultural systems due to their strength in numbers and a less compromised sense of ancestral identity. At the same time, these Indo-dominated identifications have also been the source of virulent nationalisms and exclusionary models of citizenship concretized in tropes of what Ravi (2007, 11) calls the “coolie romance”. These exclusions are decried in the writings of such authors as Khal Torabully, Ananda Devi, Natacha Appanah, Shenaz Patel, and Barlen Pyamootoo.2

Indo-Mauritian literature Mauritius celebrates a rich and diverse tradition of literature and literary theory ranging from Khal Torabully’s influential poetic formulations of coolitude to the powerful writings of the 52

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women who contest and disrupt stereotypical and idealized framings of island paradises and cross-cultural harmony. Indo-Mauritian women writers in particular have received recent recognition for their work, which testifies to a growing interest in francophone Indo-Mauritian writing among French-speaking readers and critics. In 2003 Natacha Appanah won the Radio France Overseas Prize for her debut novel Les rochers de poudre d’or and Le Prix FNAC for Le dernier frère in 2007, while in 2007 Shenaz Patel and Ananda Devi respectively were awarded the Prix Soroptimist de la Romancière Francophone for Le silence des Chagos, and the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie for Eve de ses décombres. In 2010 Devi won Le Prix Louis Guilloux for Le sari vert. However, even though Indo-Mauritian literature does not seem to exhibit the proverbial anxiety of authorship when compared with other kala pani texts, the French Caribbean being an example, this literature nevertheless remains confined to a francophone readership even though recent translations have played an important role in bringing it to international attention. Indo-Mauritian writers have explicitly chosen to write in French and a mixture of French and Kreol Morisien over English to highlight the nation’s intercultural hybridity and linguistic complexity. This plurality underscores the “ethnisle spaces” (Ravi, 2007, 10) of Mauritius that separate and conjoin its Indo-Mauritian, métis or mixed-race and white Creole populations. This ethno-cultural island metaphor highlights the tension between geographical insularity and aquatic movement, thereby demonstrating “the co-presence of fixity (land) and fluidity (ocean) in interethnic relations”, as stated by Ravi (2007, 10). At the same time, it is impossible to confine literature from Mauritius to an easily identifiable aesthetic. These transcultural narratives underscore the divergent and convergent crisscrossing of insularity, transoceanic movement, closure, alterity, and other paradoxical positionings (Ravi, 2013, 15) that constitute their richness and diversity. The idea of movement and cross-oceanic exchange forms the basis for Torabully’s poetics of coolitude. This theory also provides an instructive framework for Indo-Mauritian writing and its inherent tropes of disruption, fragmentation, displacement, synergy, and narrative introversions. Coolitude seeks to transcend the limitations of geographical, cultural, and ontological insularity by embracing a larger diasporic consciousness in an intersectional crossing of particularized experience (Indian indenture) and a more universal framing. Inspired by Aimé Césaire’s call for négritude as a locus of black self-identification and racial subjectivity, Torabully offers a similar model of self-claiming for dispossessed kala pani Indians who are written out of history and dominant Afro-centred discourses on creolization and identity politics. Torabully bemoans the negation of Indian-ness in theories of créolité or creoleness as proposed by Martinican-based authors Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Jean Bernabé. Their mantra “neither Europeans, nor Africans, nor Asians, we proclaim ourselves Creole” (see Bernabé et al., 1980, 883) advocated the adoption of a homogeneous Creole identity as a response to the imposition of indelible French-ness on Caribbean markers of identity (Martinique, French Guiana, and Guadeloupe remain French/European overseas departments and territories even today). Opposing the negating universalisms of French-ness with the universality of creoleness, the Créolistes adopted Creole as a reactionary linguistic signifier of Caribbean-ness. Creoleness has inadvertently undermined the cross-cultural “poetics of relation”3 theorized by Edouard Glissant, another prominent Martinican writer and theorist, by compromising the creation of a truly transcultural imaginary extending across and beyond diaspora (Mehta, B. J., 2010, 4). Recognizing the limitations of créolité4 in terms of minority representation and its added emphasis on an Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Creole literary and cultural imaginary as a composite Caribbean imaginary, coolitude proposes to fill in the gaps left by this theory of creolization by establishing synchronic relations between African and Indian historicities through the interplay 53

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of transcultural exchanges. Building on Glissant’s theory of identities in-mutation, coolitude “imagines” the possibility of “cross cultural vagabondage” (Torabully & Carter, 2002, 194) between and among cultures to eliminate fixed notions of identity and cultural essentialism. Through the unpredictability of perpetual negotiation, movement, and ‘chaotic’ transformations represented by the image of the coral, coolitude envisages a pluralistic world of (un)imaginable synchronicity and disjunction in which racialized self-centredness or insularity gives way to dynamic relational intersections with ‘otherness’. These identities emerge as ‘coral’ or rhizomatic marine identities, signifiers of multiple origins and destinations, wherein: [t]he coral can be both soft and hard, it can be found in two states, and it is traversed by currents, continuously open to new thoughts and systems. It is a living body with elements which are both vulnerable and solid, it is a symbol of the fluidity of relationships and influences. (Torabully & Carter, 2002, 152) This poetic thereby provides the necessary founding text to include marginalized Indian ethnicities through the descriptive and polyphonic power of “gamey words” (Chair corail, 82) needed to characterize these porous identities. It is significant to note that coolitude emerges from a site of Indian dominance in Mauritius, thereby providing both a springboard and foundational ground to suture the severed bonds of displacement experienced by kala pani Indians within and across the francophone diasporas of indenture. Torabully poeticizes his theory of coolitude in two important texts, Cale d’étoiles, coolitude (Torabully, 1992) and Chair corail, fragments coolies (Torabully, 1999). He focuses on the primacy of ancestral and diasporic memory termed “rhizomatic memories” by Reinhardt-Zacair (2007). These memories represent important elements of decolonization in the process of recovering the stifled coolie voices. These negated voices are resurrected in the form of a primal cry as an articulation of deep pain on the one hand, and a simultaneous cry of freedom expressing the ultimate “ending of pain” (Chair corail, 124), on the other. The symbol of the rhizome creates an important cartography of shared memories and histories through intra-oceanic connections termed “transoceanic dialogues” by Bragard (2008a). These “voices of oceanic memory” unite to repair historical wounds through an aquatic symphony described as “a song of rooting and uprooting” (Cale d’étoiles, 7). Coolitude thereby proposes to construct transoceanic bridges as enduring sites of memory that connect the dispersed geographies of diaspora, “from Port Louis to Port of Spain” (Cale d’étoiles, 25), while also creating a space for self-definition and identity amid the rootless displacements of indenture. While coolitude searches for a sense of self, the term coolie itself inherits a rhizomatic and nomadic positionality uncovering multiple points of origin that include Madras, the Malabar coast, the open sea, among other locations. The term coolie offers many connotations ranging from a highly pejorative racialized epithet to a postcolonial locus of identification (see Singh, 1996). In Transoceanic Dialogues, Bragard (2008a) refers to at least two meanings of coolie – Kuli as an ethnic tribal affiliation and kuli meaning wage labour in Tamil. The word was applied to unskilled contract labour from India and China, in particular after the abolition of slavery, to designate a highly subaltern framing of origin and profession in the form of indenture. Coolitude thereby ‘translated’ the overlapping internal and external displacements of kala pani Indians in search of home, cultural affinity, and a language that would express their exilic condition. If Torabully’s work ‘imagines’ poetic and spiritual transoceanic affiliations, Indo-Mauritian women writers including Ananda Devi, Natasha Appanah, and Shenaz Patel expose the ‘darker’ side of insularity and the violence of indenture in trenchant language. The poetics of coolitude 54

Coolitude meets Indianité

morphs into the politics of violence in their novels and poetry, while highlighting the wounds of diaspora inscribed on the female body in particular. They dispel any false notions about idyllic landscapes and cross-cultural harmony when they reveal the incisive class, caste, and racial disharmonies that fragment and alienate communities. Ananda Devi, the most prolific and best-known woman author from the island, depicts the virulence of patriarchy and mythical ideology in her writings. Of mixed-race Indian and Creole roots, Devi focuses on racialized, sexualized, and economically marginalized subalterns who constitute a disfavoured outcaste community in Mauritius. Her writings address the abjection of all those who inhabit in-between spaces in traditional societies that thwart exemplarity, individuality, and non-conformity in the name of family and communal honour, tradition, and cultural preservation. She is particularly attentive to the fate of women who are trapped in antiquated gender ideologies with no scope for movement or negotiation within insular cultural and geographical paradigms. They become the ultimate scapegoats in the ascendancy of patriarchy even though they refuse to adopt facile victimhood in their own quest for place and identity. Consequently, umbilical ancestral affiliations celebrated in the poetry of Torabully and Indo-Guadeloupean author Ernest Moutoussamy reveal their discordant and damaging intent in Devi’s work when she symbolically presents what I term ‘the ruptured hymens of diaspora’ in strongly worded prose and poetry. Ananda Devi’s career spans a distinguished 30-year life span. Demonstrating a polyglot sensibility, she is fluent in French, English, Kreol Morisien, and her ancestral Telegu, the dominant language of the newly named state of Telangana, formerly called Andhra Pradesh. Primary tropes in her writing include trauma (both historical and psychological), illness and disease, disability, prostitution, homo-erotic relationships, adultery, madness, confining gender paradigms, the impact of globalization and neo-liberal ideology on island communities, and lesbian love. The inherent hybridity of Mauritius also favours a certain ‘intersectionality-in-writing’ as it is impossible to separate gender from questions of race, class, history, religion, and the urban–rural divide. In this sense, her work is typically transnational. Moreover, Devi writes in French, a language that is not her mother tongue (Ravi, 2013, 35). As a writer, Devi makes common cause with “the poor and the godforsaken”, the abject “wretched of the earth” that are denied identity and subjectivity: “Those who are not heard, who are effaced from social life” (Devi interview, 2006b). Bragard (2008b) provides a useful summary of Devi’s focal points of interest in her narratives: Devi’s novels dramatize the fate and struggle of marginal characters on parts of her island – the scapegoat mother (Le Voile de Draupadi [1993]), the cursed daughter (L’Arbre fouet [1997]), the disabled/deformed woman (Moi, l’Interdite [2000]), Rodriguez Islanders (Soupir [2002]), abandoned and neglected children (Joséphin [2003]), the poor (Pagli [2001]), and ghetto adolescents (Eve de ses décombres [2006a]). Women, children, the poor, and displaced islanders bear the scars of coloniality through historical inversions and unjust conventions that criminalize socially perceived Others in perverse bonds linking “alterity and insularity” (Bragard, 2008b). These levels of violence reach an apocalyptic stage in the recent Le sari vert (The Green Sari, 2009) in which a terminally ill father repeatedly brutalizes his daughter and granddaughter in an attempt to restore and vindicate his ‘dying’ power over them. The formerly venerable “Dokter-Dieu” (God-Doctor) is forced to confront his rapidly approaching mortality. Devi portrays his disease in tropes of monstrosity and the grotesque to reveal the island’s own social dystopia “with its wounds, flaws and mystical density” (Sultan, 2001). She focuses on the traumas exhibited by these fractured patriarchs who are tormented by the idea of losing control. 55

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At the same time, when characters feel stifled on land, they take to the sea both literally and symbolically in search of alternative planes of existence found in death by drowning, intra-ethnic relationships with other women, extra-marital affairs with non-Indian men, and madness (Pagli) in an attempt at reinvention. In Pagli, the title character Daya and a vilified Creole sex worker Mitsy experience a sense of belonging in each other’s company. Daya is married to a cousin who has sexually violated her. She exacts her revenge by having an affair with a Creole man in a flagrant debunking of Hindu prescriptions for domesticated femininity as the ideal symbol of Hindu womanhood (see Tyagi, 2011). The two women are able to transcend the barriers of caste and race in their common displacement as sexual non-conformists for whom the sexual transgression of moral and cultural norms creates new bonds of community. Furthermore, as demonstrated in Indian Tango (Devi, 2007), female resistance is enhanced by the erotic bonds between a submissive self-abnegating middle-aged woman named Subhadra and a woman writer in search of the meaning of life. These women refuse to accept the limits of femininity placed on their lives as they gravitate towards and away from each other in New Delhi through the seductive tango, “like a dance, towards and away from each other, a tango of desire and sensuality with a startling conclusion” (Tyagi, 2011, 299). Subhadra is reborn through the tantalizing dance of passion and she awakens to new sensations and feelings like Daya in Pagli. The electrifying rhythm of the Argentinian tango set to the soothing notes of the Indian sitar highlights this blending of contrasts to give Devi’s writing its unique progressive-regressive beat that leaves the reader breathless with anticipation. Appanah’s (2003) award-winning first book, Les rochers de poudre d’or (Rocks of Gold Dust), belies any preconceived notions of romanticized sea voyages to unknown distant lands through the horrific trajectories of the kala pani journey from India to Mauritius in April 1892. Focusing on four primary characters – a young man in search of his brother, a peasant devastated by agricultural ruin, a gambler, and a widow who has narrowly escaped death by burning on her husband’s funeral pyre – this novel chronicles the abject experiences of thousands of Indians from different social, geographical, and religious milieu who were lured to the fabled “Merich” in the hope of finding gold dust hidden beneath the rocks of Mauritius. The novel chronicles the despair, alienation, bewilderment, treachery, tentative hope, and a deep sense of loss experienced by the Indians who embark on a perilous journey towards a mystery land on board the slave ship Atlas: “Ships, tips, large suitcases, the kala pani . . . what he wouldn’t do to see all this with his own eyes” (2003, 15). Appanah’s text adds another level of nuance through the gendered experiences of the men and women. For the men, kala pani represents the ultimate seduction concretized by dreams of wealth, good fortune, and a spectacular display of prosperity that contrasts with their own economic penury in India. The women, on the other hand, have to protect themselves from the sexual violations of crewmembers and the migrating men who terrorize them with sexual aggression, harassment, and rape. They are obliged to physically bear the brunt of the men’s psychological exile and sense of displacement in their perceived function as sexual subalterns. On the other hand, they are to be punished for both carrying and representing the polluted ‘stains’ of kala pani, especially if they travel alone. The women are thereby inscribed in a system of what Shepherd (2002, 29) calls colonial “sexploitation” bolstered by male fantasies about Indian women’s sexual promiscuity and prowess. At the end of the novel, the widow Ganga, who escapes immolation or sati (a former requirement for widows belonging to particular castes and ethnicities in India), is violated by a brutal act of rape at the hands of a colonial planter, Monsieur Rivière. His crime could be interpreted symbolically – Ganga’s punishment for having survived a deceased husband – thereby exposing the colluding colonial and local violations condoned by the structures of patriarchy on the ships 56

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and, later, on the plantation estates. The novel describes this defilement as the burns of kala pani (2002, 60). These narratives negate tales of colonial heroism on the high seas as well as the idealized kala pani mythologies of nationalists and cultural traditionalists who seek to immortalize the “coolie romance” (Ravi, 2013, 11) in Mauritius for partisan purposes. Appanah’s novels highlight the connection between spatiality and sexuality. As in Rochers, confined or confining spaces lead to sexual violence and domestic abuse in the ship’s hold or the colonial master’s bedroom. Confinement reinforced by the social strictures of class, caste, elite tourism, and poverty also structures this author’s narratives, as in the case of Blue Bay Palace (2004). In this novel, the tragic impossibility of an inter-caste/inter-class marriage propels the protagonist Maya to murder her lover’s wife with brutal violence as an expression of the socio-cultural impasses in her life. The image of the “red stain” (2004, 97) in this text is an important symbol of all that is illicit and forbidden just as the “burn” represents all the social taboos that vilify and criminalize women. Shenaz Patel is another award-winning Indo-Mauritian author who, together with Devi and Appanah, uses violence as a form of feminist protest. In her novel Sensitive (2003), violence translates the inexpressible horror of incest. The leading character murders her parents to eliminate the very source of her repressed trauma and unbearable inner pain. Only violence can provide healing from such a nefarious act. Patel’s writings bring to life the hidden traumas, fissures, contradictions, tragedies, and dramas embedded in perceived island paradises. If violence symbolizes the language of social displacement as in Sensitive, Patel’s (2005) first novel, Le silence des Chagos highlights the brutal physical displacement of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, an island in the Chagos archipelago located next to Mauritius. US strategic interests to set up a naval base on the island mandate the forced exile of the Chagossians to Mauritius where they suffer the anxiety of non-belonging and the anguish of severed ties from their recently occupied nation. The dislodging of memory and the pain of relocation are articulated in fictionalized testimonies that give the Chagossians a voice as they wait for reparations and a possible return home. Their voices uncover the injustices and humiliation associated with forced evictions, together with the dehumanization of their identity as expendable commodities in a reprehensible transnational system of US–British military takeovers in 1965. The British ‘rented’ the island to the Americans to enable them to establish one of their most strategic naval bases from which they later launched attacks against Afghanistan and Iraq. In a ‘repeating’ process, the colonial ships of indenture of the past are transformed into modern vessels of occupation in this kala pani scenario with a difference: “the silent cries that these men and women stifled in the hidden depths of their throats” (2005, 38). These muted voices resonate and echo the silenced cries of the displaced kala pani men and women from a previous century.5

Indo-Caribbean writing from Martinique and Guadeloupe Coolitude finds an echo on the other side of the diasporic spectrum in Guadeloupe, where 42,326 Indians were forced to disembark between 1854 and 1889. Among them, 24,891 workers died on land after surviving the brutal oceanic crossing due to illness, malnutrition, the arduous plantation life, and colonial brutality. In addition, 9,460 returned to India at the end of their contracts, thereby rendering Indians in Guadeloupe a minority with an ambivalent French Caribbean status (Sahaï, 2010, 12–13). The search for Indian subjectivity within a dominant Afro-Caribbean framework in Guadeloupe prompted Indo-Guadeloupean author and politician Ernest Moutoussamy to propose the theory of indianité as a call for French Caribbean cultural pluralism. As a discourse aimed at transcending prejudice, marginalization, and racialized antagonisms between Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbeans, indianité calls for the insertion of 57

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Indian-ness within the broader spectrum of Caribbean identity to overcome cultural parochialism and engage in a truly transformational articulation of French Caribbean identity. In other words, indianité provides the text for a revised creolization in which Indian-ness is not assumed or imagined but actively demonstrated in everyday praxis. At the same time, this theory highlights the historical and cultural exclusion of Indians who represented the very antithesis of ‘acceptable’ Caribbean-ness due to their racial and cultural alterity within colonial and Afro-centred discourses. Indianité thereby embraces and complements the cross-cultural aesthetics of coolitude in new definitions of belonging (Mehta, B. J., 2010, 6). Moutoussamy (1987a, 20–21: my translation) writes: “After having lost their languages, forgotten their rites and traditions, internalized their complexes, Indians must not live on the fringes of Guadeloupean society; they must contribute to the struggle for emancipation.” Memory plays an important role in the negotiation of the present and the accommodation of the future in Moutoussamy’s (1987b) writings. Like other kala pani texts, the novel Aurore chronicles the harrowing journey from India through the story of Rama who is brought to Guadeloupe on board the Aurore as an indentured servant in 1885. The novel describes the rough journey and the equally tough conditions of adaptation in the midst of planter cruelty and economic exploitation on the island. Rama’s adaptation is thereby contingent upon interethnic reconciliations and the claiming of memory as a precondition to his successful integration into Guadeloupean society. The forging of these new bonds of community is contingent upon the acknowledgement of two labour diasporas in the Caribbean, both African and Indian, and their common bonds of exploitation in colonial history: “Brothers, workers are all brothers” (1987b, 150) states the character Vitalien. Memory as a transoceanic bridge is a recurrent theme in Moutoussamy’s poetry. For example, A la recherche de l’Inde perdue (In Search of Lost India) establishes a critical link between diaspora, memory, and remembering through the existential reflections of the narrator Shandélia who feminizes kala pani and its documentation of what Dabydeen (1988) calls “the coolie odyssey”. The choice of a female narrator is an act of cultural subversion by the author who gives voice to an indentured woman: “Shandélia No. 24931, girl from Pondicherry” (Moutoussamy, 2004, 93). The passage from silence to voice is facilitated by the identification with India’s legendary past as an affirming locus of origin needed to survive both the dislocating impact of the oceanic crossing and subsequent cultural othering in Guadeloupe (Mehta, 2015, 3). Unfortunately, Moutoussamy’s work has not received much critical attention due to the lack of translation into English and other languages. Indo-Martinican author Camille Moutoussamy claims his Indian heritage as a “plantation coolie”6 in his first novel Eclats d’Inde (2003) which could also be classified as a kala pani text of crossing. This novel chronicles the arrival of the first Indians in Martinique on 6 May 1853, their indispensable contributions to the sugar industry, their life in Martinique, as well as their participation in resistance movements against the plantation systems that lasted until 1960. Indians are a minority group in Martinique, accounting for approximately 3 per cent of the population, as opposed to the situation in Guadeloupe where they constitute over 13 per cent of the population. The smaller numbers of Indians in Martinique led to the decimation of their traditions, the negation of Tamil, and their greater assimilation to Catholicism and Christian traditions. When Indians were evangelized, Catholic beliefs replaced Hindu theology as an affirmation of their presumed superiority over the ‘primitiveness’ and vulgarity of Hindu rites and rituals. As a result, Hindus were irreversibly disconnected from their Indian cultural heritage (Swamy, 2003, 1176). The eclipsing of Indo-Martinicans within dominant Afro-Caribbean and French cultural systems explains Camille Moutoussamy’s tenacious efforts to preserve this lost heritage in his writings. Princesse Sita (2009) is an attempt to reacquaint Indians with their 58

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ancestral traditions through contemporary re-writings of the ancient epics. The author is currently working on a similar project with the Mahabharata. The need to preserve and revise traditional mappings of memory and identity has been felt most acutely by mixed-race African and Indian writers such as Laure Moutoussamy who is originally from Martinique and currently resides in France. In her novel Passerelle de vie (The Bridge of Life, 2002), the protagonist Déméta is situated at the confluence of two exilic passages as the daughter of an Indian father and a black mother. Exiled from an integral part of her identity due to the machinations of history, Déméta experiences an existential void in her life characterized by feelings of incompletion and rootlessness as she looks for a space of belonging. This alienation is compounded by the fact that there is no theoretical framing of Indian-African or dougla identity in the French Caribbean, unlike the anglophone Caribbean, where the term dougla has been reclaimed and politicized as a positive marker of postcolonial identity. In a radical revisioning, dougla in the anglophone context situates itself beyond biology to embrace a more holistic framing of identity. Originally associated with the idea of racial impurity and cultural bastardization, this term has taken on more positive meanings, especially within vernacular cultural production and literature. In the French Caribbean, on the other hand, the term dougla lacks the specific political and cultural resonances of its anglophone counterpart in Trinidad and Guyana, where it is expressed in terms of douglarization, dougla poetics, dougla feminism, and dougla aesthetics by Caribbean scholars. The absence of such a theoretical framework in the francophone context has consequently marginalized the identity of biological douglas who are omitted from discussions on French Caribbean identity, either as chappé or échappé coolie in Martinique or bata coolie and Bata-Zendien (coolie bastard or bastard Indian) in Guadeloupe. The reference to bastardization implies illegitimacy, even though the term is used commonly without its negative connotations among Indians. Métis indien is another more acceptable appellation. Échappé coolie evokes the ambiguity of double entendre, whereby the escape (s’échapper) from coolie servitude is an act of resistance. At the same time, the term also connotes an escape from or a disavowal of one’s Indian historicity (Mehta, B. J., 2010, 7). The protagonist of Passerelle de vie experiences this lack when she states: “My coolitude fertilizes my negritude . . . I was too young and ignorant to understand my richness” (Moutoussamy, 2002, 180: my translation). This search for the obscured/negated Indian self continues in later novels, such as Le kooli de Morne Cabri (2007) and L’habitation Morne Rouge (2009) as the author searches for her own sense of reconciliation with her Indian roots. These texts chronicle the historical saga of the Singapouli-Moutou family as it establishes its ancestry in Martinique.

Conclusion Indian writings in French display an impressive depth and variety. Embracing the local and the global, these trans-local literatures give visibility to the lives of the indentured and migrant underclass who are both victims and survivors of colonial and national history. As they seek transoceanic collaborations and connections, francophone kala pani writings complicate anglophone framings of diaspora by inserting non-English perspectives. These writings also call for linguistic and cultural plurality in existing discourses on identity and diaspora by focusing on forced migrations from southern India and the experiences of Tamils. They subvert the north–south divide in diasporic theorizing by calling for more synchronic readings. The women, in turn, complicate national narratives of “the coolie romance” by introducing their gender concerns related to the violence of indenture and the sexual anomie resulting from fractured masculinities. 59

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Notes 1 I am grateful to Jean Sahaï for these figures. Also see Ravi (2010). 2 Consult the work of Binita Mehta (2010) and Ravi (2010) on Pyamootoo. For example, Ravi’s essays in Rethinking Global Mauritius (2013) and Rainbow Colors (2007). 3 See Glissant’s (1997) groundbreaking Poetics of Relation. 4 It is important to distinguish between the créolité movement and creolization as a process of open-ended textuality and rhizomatic possibility. This theory proposed by Glissant forms part of the ‘repeating’ process of endless cultural exchange and transformation. At the same time, creolization itself reveals its limits through partial engagements with minority identities, such as francophone Indo-Caribbean. As Glissant (1993) himself states in Tout-monde, the combination of Indian spices or masalè represents an important component of francophone Caribbean-ness. However, its subsequent insertion into the dynamics of dominant creolization has not led to a creative massalafication of cultures (1993, 477). 5 Consult Bragard’s (2008b) article for a detailed analysis of the novel. 6 For more details on Camille Moutoussamy, consult the Inde-Réunion on-line interview with the author: (Accessed on 15 July 2015).

References Appanah, N. (2003). Les rochers de poudre d’or. Paris: Gallimard. Appanah, N. (2004). Blue Bay Palace. Paris: Gallimard. Appanah, N. (2007). Le dernier frère. Paris: Éditions de l’Olivier. Bernabé, J., Chamoiseau, P. and Confiant, R. (1980). In Praise of Creoleness. Trans. Tayeb Khyer. Callaloo, 13, 883. Bragard, V. (2008a). Transoceanic Dialogues: Coolitude in Caribbean and Indian Ocean Literatures. Brussels: Peter Lang. Bragard, V. (2008b). Murmuring Vessels: Relocating Chagossian Memory and Testimony in Shenaz Patel’s Le silence des Chagos. L’ici et l’ailleurs: Postcolonial Literatures of the Francophone Indian Ocean. e-France: An On-line Journal of French Studies, 2, 132–147. Dabydeen, D. (1988). Coolie Odyssey. Coventry, UK: Dangaroo Press. Devi, A. (1993). Le voile de Draupadi. Paris: L’Harmattan. Devi, A. (1997). L’arbre fouet. Paris: L’Harmattan. Devi, A. (2000). Moi, l’interdite. Paris: Dapper. Devi, A. (2001). Pagli. Paris: Gallimard (Translated into English as Pagli by Devi. New Delhi: Rupa Publishers). Devi, A. (2002). Soupir. Paris: Gallimard. Devi, A. (2003). La vie de Joséphin le fou. Paris: Gallimard. Devi, A. (2006a). Ève de ses décombres. Paris: Gallimard. Devi, A. (2006b). Les pauvres et les paumés, de Port Louis à Clichy: Interview. Témoignage chrétien (2006-03-02). Available from: culture (Accessed on 13 July 2015). Devi, A. (2007). Indian Tango. Paris: Gallimard (Translated into English as The Indian Tango by Jean Andersen. New York: Random House, 2011). Devi, A. (2009). Le sari vert. Paris: Gallimard. Glissant, E. (1993). Tout-monde. Paris: Gallimard. Glissant, E. (1997). Poetics of Relation. Translated into English by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Mahabir, J. and Pirbhai, M. (2013). Perspectives on Indo-Caribbean Women’s Literature. New York: Routledge. Mehta, B. J. (2009). Notions of Identity, Diaspora and Gender in Caribbean Women’s Writing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Mehta, B. (2010). Memories in/of Diaspora: Barlen Pyamootoo’s Bénarès. In: R. Larrier and B. J. Mehta, eds, Indianités francophones/Indian Ethnoscapes in Francophone Literature. Special issue of L’Esprit Créateur, 50(2), 46–62. Mehta, B. J. (2010). Indianités francophones: Kala Pani Narratives. In: R. Larrier and B. J. Mehta, eds, Indianités francophones: Indian Ethnoscapes in Francophone Literature. Special issue of L’Esprit Créateur, 50(2), 1–11. Mehta, B. J. (2015). Inscribing kala pani in Ernest Moutoussamy’s A la recherché de l’Inde perdue. South Asian Diaspora, 7(1), 1–17.


Coolitude meets Indianité Moutoussamy, C. (2003). Eclats d’Inde. Paris: L’Harmattan. Moutoussamy, C. (2009). Princesse Sita. Paris: L’Harmattan. Moutoussamy, E. (1987a). La Guadeloupe et son indianité. Paris: Editions Caribéennes. Moutoussamy, E. (1987b). Aurore. Paris: L’Harmattan. Moutoussamy, E. (2004). A la recherché de l’Inde perdue. Paris: L’Harmattan. Moutoussamy, L. (2002). Passerelle de vie. Matoury, French Guiana: Ibis Rouge. Moutoussamy, L. (2007). Kooli de Morne Cabri. Matoury, French Guiana: Ibis Rouge. Moutoussamy, L. (2009). L’habitation Morne Rouge. Matoury, French Guiana: Ibis Rouge. Patel, S. (2003). Sensitive. Paris: Éditions de l’Olivier. Patel, S. (2005). Le silence des Chagos. Paris: Éditions de l’Olivier. Ravi, S. (2007). Rainbow Colors: Literary Ethno-topographies of Mauritius. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Ravi, S. (2010). Indo-Mauritians: National and Postnational Identities. In: R. Larrier and B. J. Mehta, eds, Indianités francophones/Indian Ethnoscapes in Francophone Literature. Special issue of L’Esprit Créateur, 50(2), 29–45. Ravi, S. (2013). Rethinking Global Mauritius: Critical Essays on Mauritian Literatures and Cultures. La Pelouse, Mauritius: L’Atelier d’écriture. Reinhardt-Zacair, C. (2007). Claims to Memory: Beyond Slavery and Emancipation in the French Caribbean. New York: Berghahn. Sahaï, J. (2010). De Calcutta à Sainte-Lucie, de Pondichéry à Pointe-à-Pitre et jusqu’au fond de l’eau. L’Esprit Créateur, 50(2), 12–14. Shepherd, V. (2002). Maharani’s Misery: Narratives of a Passage from India to the Caribbean. Kingston, Jamaica: University Press of the West Indies. Singh, R. (1996). I am a Coolie. In: A. Donnell and S. L. Welsh, eds, The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature. New York: Routledge, pp. 351–353. Sultan, P. (2001). Ruptures et heritages: entretien avec Ananda Devi. Orées (December). Available from: (Accessed on 12 July 2015). Swamy, S. (2003). Les cultes indiens en Martinique et en Guadeloupe. The French Review, 76, 1174–1185. Torabully, K. (1992). Cale d’étoiles, coolitude. Sainte-Marie, Réunion: Azalées. Torabully, K. (1999). Chair corail, fragments coolies. Preface by Raphaël Confiant. Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe: Ibis Rouge. Torabully, K. and Carter, M. (2002). Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labor Diaspora. London: Anthem Press. Tyagi, R. (2011). Rethinking Identity and Belonging: ‘Mauritianness’ in the Work of Ananda Devi. In: M. McCusker and A. Soares, eds, Islanded Identities: Constructions of Postcolonial Cultural Insularity. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 91–108.


5 OUT OF INDIA East Africa and its South Asian diasporas Sana Aiyar

In July 1901, Harry Hamilton Johnston, British Commissioner to Uganda, declared East Africa to be “the America of the Hindu”. Eastern and Central Africa, he believed, were “suitable as a second home for the Indian race” because the climate, vegetation, and lingua franca “are so remarkably similar to those which prevail in India . . . the Indian scarcely feels in a strange land”.1 Although Johnston’s scheme did not come to pass, close to 300,000 Indians made East Africa their “second home” over the course of the twentieth century. Commerce had connected western India with Africa’s Swahili littoral, especially Zanzibar and Mombasa, since the early 1800s. In 1895, the Imperial British East Africa Company embarked on an expensive and ambitious project to build a railway connecting Mombasa to Kisumu and transferred the property and privileges it had acquired from the Sultan of Zanzibar to Her Majesty’s Government. Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika ultimately became Britain’s three crown colonies in the region. They gained independence in the early 1960s. Seeking new markets and commodities for their businesses, merchants from India ventured inland with the colonial project. The railways, built by labourers recruited from Punjab, transported goods and people between the coast and the hinterland. The proximity of India brought petty traders, administrators, soldiers, skilled labourers, carpenters, engineers, police inspectors, medical assistants, doctors, lawyers, and school teachers, along with their families, to East Africa. Barred from owning farming land in fertile highlands reserved for Europeans only, the colonial structures and racial discourses that shaped the everyday lives and politics of East Africa created a racial pyramid with the Europeans at the top and Africans at the bottom. Indians occupied a space between the majority Africans and minority Europeans, forming the petty bourgeoisie who had a monopoly over the retail and service sectors of the economy that lasted into the first decade of independence. An impossible relationship of dependency and distance among Indians and Africans is summed up in the Swahili proverb “baniani mbaya, kiatu chake dawa” (literally, “The Hindu trader is evil, but his shoes are medicine” – Indians are not nice but their business is necessary). The enduring image of the cunning, exploitative Indian trader captured the popular imagination as the most visible perpetrator of racial inequality in the late 1930s. This was also a trope used by political leaders in postcolonial Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda for whom the Indian presence in East Africa was a colonial hangover and they presided over anti-Indian legislation as marking the real end of colonialism in their nations. By the early 1970s, there had been a mass 62

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exodus of Indians out of East Africa. This was a voluntary exit in the case of Kenya and Tanzania, in response to Africanization and nationalization policies of the state. Indians in Zanzibar and Uganda, however, faced violent expulsions triggered by the 1964 revolution in the former, and Idi Amin’s 1971 coup in the latter (Aiyar, 2015; Bertz, 2015). This framing of the diasporic presence in the region predominated much of the literature on Indians in East Africa that was published in the 1970s. In a handful of works that traced the political activities of this community, Indians were either portrayed as victims of the postcolonial state or faulted for not having done enough to integrate themselves into the new nations. As either insular, exploitative capitalists or racial minorities, Indians appeared within a largely nationalist framework that ignored their diasporic affiliations to their Indian homeland (Ghai & Ghai, 1970; Gregory, 1993; Mangat, 1969; Seidenberg, 1983). Meanwhile, scholarship defined East Africa territorially and racially, relegating the history of Indians in East Africa to a footnote. When the diaspora did make an appearance, the Indian was flattened out as a one-dimensional middleman whose continuing hold over the economy stood out as an anachronism in the postcolonial nations. On the other hand, an overriding emphasis on formulaic definitions of diaspora put forward by Cohen (1997) as a globally dispersed but ethnically cohesive people who longed to return to their imagined (or real) homeland, led to a restricted cultural gaze inward, resulting in theories of diasporic consciousness that were devoid of any engagement with either local particularities or dynamics outside of the community. These works emphasized a singular, Indian, homeland. Recovering what was “Indian”, in this diasporic framework, led to an analytical neglect of the East African context and, indeed, the question of the relationship between Indians and Africans. Since the start of the 2010s, however, important new works have been published in rapid succession that put Indians in East Africa at the centre of studies on nationalism, race, and community. Together, they point to a significant new historiographical shift that brings together South Asian,2 African, and diaspora studies that is equally attentive to local and transnational dynamics. They chart new geographies, scales, and discourses of belonging, all of which constitute diasporic consciousness (Aiyar, 2015; Bertz, 2015; Brennan, 2012; Frenz, 2014; Greenwood & Topiwala, 2015; Oonk, 2013). It is to the interventions and new perspectives offered in these works that I turn in the following sections of this chapter.

Crossings and connections Where does the Indian diaspora belong? This is a question of historical and historiographical concern. Mapping on to one another, nationalist histories and their historiographical corollaries drew boundaries around the question of belonging, as Indian citizenship was defined territorially and singularly in 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru urged over a million Indians living overseas at the time to consider their adopted hostlands their “home”, making it clear that the diaspora belonged elsewhere and not in India. Yet he reminded Indians that they were “guests of the Africans”, a trope picked up by nationalists in East Africa to emphasize the extent to which Indians were outsiders and did not belong there (quoted in Aiyar, 2015, 174). Diasporic mobility similarly created an analytical dilemma for historiographical approaches to the study of the Indian diaspora as the area-studies framework focused the gaze of historians within the territorial boundaries of South Asia and East Africa. South Asian diasporas rarely feature in these works. Bose (2006) and Metcalf (2007) shifted this territorial gaze to the littoral realms of the ocean that engulfed the subcontinent. They persuasively argued that the interregional arena of the Indian Ocean within which goods, people, and ideas circulated across South Asia, Africa, 63

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West Asia, and Southeast Asia must be incorporated into historical scholarship on South Asia. The Indian Ocean realm, they noted, was a space constituted and mediated by indentured labourers, soldiers, intermediary merchants, pilgrims, and expatriate patriots from the subcontinent who simultaneously straddled local and interregional realms of community, commerce, and politics. Much of this literature emphatically argued that the usefulness of remapping South Asia to include material and imagined mobility across the Indian Ocean not only lay in enabling a more accurate representation of the lived reality of millions who traversed this realm, but it also opened new methodological approaches to writing interregional histories of the twentieth century that pushed the frontiers of area-studies beyond nation-state boundaries. For historians staking claim to India’s oceanic history, the journeys, imaginaries, and connected routes of Indians’ mobility highlight the universalisms of South Asian expressions of freedom and equality that intersected with, but were not bound by, territorial nationalism that triumphed at the moment of decolonization (Bose, 2006; Hofmeyr, 2007, 2010). Outside of politics, Green (2011) and Amrith (2013) pointed to “sacred geographies” and “religious marketplaces” that emerged across the Indian Ocean with the transportation of regionally specific ritual practices and religious universalisms by migrants from and to South Asia. Moving beyond these Indian moorings, the Indian Ocean realm has been used by other scholars to locate local and interregional mediations of South Asian diasporas that were framed by their affiliations in India and Africa. In so doing, they have revealed changing maps and scales of territorial geographies, political imaginaries, and communitarian identities of Indians who circulated within this realm. Rejecting narrow definitions of diaspora as being a singular, cohesive, and unchanging community living in a hostile hostland, oceanic crossings and interregional connections serve as the entry point into diasporic consciousness that was constituted, articulated, and challenged at particular historical conjunctures. Toward this end, Ned Bertz has deployed “an Indian Ocean scale” to highlight the interconnected history of urban Tanzania and the Indian Ocean world of mobile Gujaratis in his study of race, diaspora, and nation in the twentieth century. Emphasizing changing, rather than static, transoceanic scales, his work carefully tracks the racialization of urban spaces in Dar-es-Salaam in the twentieth century (Bertz, 2015). Arguing against conceptualizing the Indian diaspora as having a singular homeland, India, I have noted that Indians were tethered to two homelands across the Indian Ocean – India and Kenya. India was their civilizational homeland, while Kenya was a second homeland to which Indians made territorial and generational claims. The Indian Ocean thus serves as a horizon from which to study the diasporic politics of Indians “for whom Kenya was not just a host land but was a homeland during moments of mobility and immobility” (Aiyar, 2015, 1). These new works draw maps of diasporic Indians that are dotted with movements across the seas and territorial settlements on the Indian and African littorals of the Indian Ocean. Rather than highlight territorial boundaries constituted by nations in the mid-twentieth century, moving through these nodes of diasporic geographies reveals a dazzling, overlapping array of regional, ideological, commercial, national, and transnational connections. It is by tracing these connections that Bertz, Aiyar, and others have reframed the question posed at the beginning of this section, “Where does the Indian diaspora belong?” Rather than seek answers in the singularity imposed by nationalist discourses and historiographical approaches, they have revealed the multiple, and often competing, spaces, scales, and claims of diasporic belonging across the Indian Ocean where connections were forged between spatial and temporal thresholds. In this framing, South Asian diasporas are central to South Asian, African, and British colonial history and historiography. 64

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Empire and civilization The colonial state in East Africa relied on its Indian empire and subjects for the capital and labour it used to acquire, consolidate, and build its new protectorate. Indian merchants in Zanzibar had facilitated the early purchase of property and privileges from the Sultan, and Sikh soldiers fought the colonial wars waged against Africans (Metcalf, 2007). The acquisition of territories by the British across the Indian Ocean changed the gamut of precolonial commercial activity. Not only did traders whose presence hitherto was restricted to port cities move inland, the number of large-scale entrepreneurs and petty retailers increased over the seven decades of colonial rule in the area. By 1910, Indian traders came to occupy pivotal positions in a threetiered system that connected the East African and Indian Ocean economies. Muslim merchants with firms in Bombay, Karachi, Mombasa, and Zanzibar exported East African ivory and cotton to India and imported everyday foodstuffs and consumer goods. Hindu and Muslim retailers took consignments of these imports on credit from wholesalers and sold them to Indian, European, and African clients in shops (dukkas) that they set up along the railway line. Till 1920, the Indian rupee was the primary currency in which goods were bought and sold, and wages and taxes were paid, further allowing Indian traders to operate seamlessly in East Africa and western India. Building and running the protectorate was costly, and with the land–population ratio in favour of the former, colonial administrators and European settlers with large farms needed cheap labour. An extractive combination of high taxes and low wages brought ordinary Africans to the dukkas and bazaars at which Indians set up stalls. African cultivators brought their agricultural produce to these shops to sell in exchange for the currency they needed to pay poll and hut taxes. It was from these shops that they bought everyday provisions and goods. Indian dukkawallahs thus served as the conduit between the bazaar, local colonial, and Indian Ocean economies (Aiyar, 2015; Brennan, 2012; Oonk, 2013). Britain’s East African empire relied not only on Indian capital but also on labour. The Uganda railways recruited approximately 40,000 indentured labourers, predominantly Sikhs and Muslims from Punjab, a third of whom remained in East Africa. The railways and Indian and European private firms continued to employ skilled and semi-skilled labour from Punjab because it was cheaper to recruit already qualified artisans from India than to build institutions to train them locally. Highly skilled labour in the form of clerks, lawyers, tailors, teachers, and doctors also made their way to East Africa working within and in co-operation with the colonial state, as the recent works of Greenwood and Topiwala (2015) and Frenz (2014) have documented. For the majority of Africans, it was with Indians rather than Europeans that their most intimate, everyday encounter with colonialism took place. As soldiers, traders, doctors, administrators, surveyors, policemen, and supervisors, Indians were the face of colonial wars, medicine, laws, and the colonial economy. This entanglement of Indians and colonialism shaped diasporic consciousness on an imperial scale across the Indian Ocean in two overlapping ways – in politics, as Indians positioned themselves as subimperialists, and in diasporic narratives as “pioneers” who brought modernity in the form of commerce and currency to East Africa. Far from being one-dimensional trading middlemen, Indians were engaged in a range of different commercial and skilled activities in East Africa, challenging colonial definitions of modernity and subjecthood. Modernity, and its civilizational doppelganger, in colonial discourse, distinguished between colonizing rulers and colonized subjects, a separation that was never fully realized in practice. Britain’s imperial aspirations were premised on a civilizing mission that aimed to bring western modernity and progress to the colonies. But Indian capital and labour were central to the colonial 65

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project in East Africa. As partners in this endeavour, big Indian merchants demanded parity with the Europeans, challenging legislative restrictions on land ownership and political representation that were justified on the grounds of a stark division between the civilized European colonizing rulers and uncivilized non-European colonized subjects. In thinly veiled attempts to segregate Indians on the basis of race, the first two decades of the twentieth century saw a series of legislations that decisively moved away from Johnston’s vision of building in East Africa a colony that would be “the America of the Hindu” to making Kenya a “white man’s country”. Diasporic politics was locked in a battle with Europeans, as European farmers and Indian merchants made subimperial claims over East Africa. This was a diaspora that had profited from the expansion of the protectorate and its system of taxation that brought African customers to their shops. They countered the racially motivated restrictions on their demands for parity with the Europeans by emphasizing the loyalty of the Indian commercial community to the British crown, and the pioneering work these merchants had done in developing the protectorate through their business activities. Diasporic consciousness in the political realm for the commercial elite was shaped by two claims of belonging that invoked an imperial and civilizational scale stretching across the Indian Ocean. These Indian leaders positioned themselves as loyal imperial citizens on the basis of their material and ideological connections with the empire in Africa. But, in emphasizing their colonizing abilities, they reached into their precolonial past in a civilizational discourse that emphasized not only the achievements of India’s ancient civilization but also their influence across the Indian Ocean that dated back centuries before the British arrived on the scene. For them, these crossings and connections made Indian merchants equal partners in the colonial project; more desirable, even, than the European farmers. Significantly, they positioned Indians as the exemplar of colonial modernity for Africans. “Natives”, they argued, were brought into the colonial economy of coinage, cloth, and commerce by the Indians and it was the civilizational influence of these merchants that pushed Africans further along the ladder of modernity and progress (Aiyar, 2015). The majority of works on Indian emigration in the nineteenth century have focused on indentured labourers and their religious and regional identities reflecting diasporic endogamy in the British Caribbean, Fiji, and Mauritius (Bahadur, 2014; Carter, 1995; Kale, 1998; Kelly, 1991). Recent studies on the Indian diaspora in East Africa offer three new perspectives on the question of migration and empire. First, Indian mobility within the empire can be seen through the lens of not only labour (in this case free labour) but also capital. Second, the merchants’ emphasis on their Indian affiliation pre-dated nationalist discourse revealing civilizational, not necessarily national, constructs of diasporic identity that set them apart from the other colonized “natives”, i.e. Africans. Significantly, they did so to stake a political and economic claim to their territorial homeland, East Africa. Third, Indians in East Africa disturbed the descriptive and analytical binary of colonizer and colonized – they simultaneously occupied both spaces.

Pioneers and communities Outside of the realm of politics, the commercial fortunes of Indian merchants shaped diasporic narratives that centred on identifying and positioning this generation as “pioneers”. Biographies, written by merchants themselves and those narrated by their descendants, have been the entry point into analysing diasporic self-representation for Desai (2013), Jones (2007, 2009), and Oonk (2013). They point to a predictable narrative genealogy in these texts. Diasporic memoirs recount a rags-to-riches story along a commercial rather than imperial or civilizational scale. In contrast to diasporic political articulations that were invested in the colonial project, the state 66

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and civilizational affiliations with India are decentred in these memoirs. The fortunes made in East Africa by “pioneers” take centre-stage, suggesting a diasporic consciousness focused more on an origins story based in their East African homeland, and not their Indian homeland. Glossing over imperial and, latter-day, national scales, these narratives recast the politicians’ subimperialist claims as teleologies of commercial success. The plot typically starts with the story of a young boy arriving on the Swahili coast seeking economic adventure with the aim of lifting himself out of poverty. Personal enterprise and apprenticeship with a network of traders are keys to his success. Rather than being colonizing agents of modernity, Desai has noted that these are narratives of “commerce as romance” in which the merchant is “a figure of vernacular capitalists negotiating with new discourses in modernity” (Desai, 2013, 122–123). Cautioning against overstating the merchants’ public subimperialist claims, Desai has drawn attention to the emphasis on individual aspirations, rather than imperial ambitions, that drove these pioneers to East Africa, as narrated in family and individual memoirs. This commercial scale also throws light on the ways in which community identity expressed itself in diasporic consciousness. Moving away from ethnic or racially based arguments about the success of Indian businessmen in East Africa, Gijsbert Oonk has noted that mobility across the Indian Ocean meant that only those traders whose business ventures were successful ended up staying in the protectorate. Pointing to the abundance of archival evidence of bankruptcy, he has shown that businessmen who failed to turn a profit returned to Gujarat. This allowed for a diasporic narrative myth about the ethnic or racial success of Gujarati merchants. Further, he has argued that the bankruptcy cases show that as much as early-colonial East Africa was a place where fortunes were made, it was also a highly competitive commercial space where fortunes were lost. Business success was dependent on networks of credit and trust. The commercial community was built on “social capital” that appeared endogamous, but Oonk has cautioned against concluding that endogamy itself was a guarantee of success (Oonk, 2013, 34–35). Factoring mobility into the fortunes that were made and lost in East Africa, Oonk has also questioned “diaspora” as either an accurate description or a useful category of analysis to understand what he characterizes as a process of migration. His work, which traces elite business families from the late nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, adds a generational scale to the history of Indians in East Africa that involved three distinct stages of migration – the first generation of migrants; their descendants who lived in East Africa; and the internationalists who became citizens of a range of countries after independence in the 1960s. Applying Cohen’s formulaic definition of diaspora, Oonk has put forward three arguments for rejecting diaspora as a concept. The pioneers and those who failed in business – the original migrants – he has argued, had deep roots in India, and given the numbers who returned without turning a profit, they ought to be described as sojourners rather than settlers in East Africa. The second generation, he has argued, were “settled strangers” who were not migrants themselves, but whose parents and grandparents were migrants. Perceived as strangers in the land of their birth, Oonk points to their immobility in rejecting the term diaspora for them. Finally, he has noted diminishing tangible economic and linguistic ties with India over the three generations to conclude that in the process of settlement, India was lost rather than retained, especially with the narrowing of business opportunities in India in the 1950s which shifted the focus of these commercial families to markets in Europe and North America. Seen exclusively from the perspective of commerce and citizenship, elite merchants certainly severed their material connections with their Indian homeland. Yet, Desai has noted, that as much as business networks constituted commercial communities within East Africa, the non-profit motivated ventures of the first generation of pioneers who built schools, hospitals, temples, and mosques across the Indian Ocean reveal the existence of diasporic social 67

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philanthropy (Desai, 2013, 134–135). In building these communitarian spaces in East Africa and western India, the pioneer merchants made territorial claims of belonging to both East Africa and India, making them distinctly diasporic in his reading. This communitarian spatial scale is also central to the work of Frenz (2014) who has focused on highly educated Goans who moved to multiple locations, including back to Goa, after independence. Her work also applies restrictive definitions of diaspora as a community with a single homeland left behind and a hostile hostland to reject diaspora as a category of analysis, but for a significantly different reason to Oonk. Frenz’s critique of diaspora is based on the territorial claims generations of Goans made to East Africa, not India, as their home. Moreover, she points to the ambivalent relationship of Goans and Indians within East Africa, revealing the myriad ways in which Goans distanced themselves from Indians on the basis of race, religion, class, and subjecthood. Unlike the latter who were British subjects, Goans were Portuguese subjects. The Portuguese in Goa invested heavily in education, but employment opportunities were few and far between, leading Goans to find jobs in the neighbouring province of Bombay and from there in Zanzibar, Kenya, and Tanganyika. Goans who migrated to East Africa were highly educated and skilled professionals and included doctors, teachers, lawyers, administrative staff within the government, and, of course, traders. Within the public sphere in East Africa, they built churches, schools, and community clubs that served as meeting places and the nucleus for social life that organized festivals celebrated in Goa such as the Feast of St Anthony and St Francis Xavier’s Feast. These spaces marked them as distinct from other migrants from the subcontinent, a distance reinforced by the colonial census that separated Goans from “Asians”. Far from being settled strangers, in Frenz’s framework, community life in East Africa was both local and transoceanic. For her, the assertion of Goan identity in public spaces in Kenya and Tanganyika indicated not so much strangeness as belonging. It is this sense of belonging that the next generation of Goans who left East Africa in the 1960s and 1970s took with them. Frenz has shown that for these twice migrants, East Africa became a key marker of their identity that was commemorated and memorialized in nomenclature, as “Africanders”, and in diasporic consciousness. Those who returned to Goa, for example, “attempted to keep their ‘Africanders’ alive”. In a compelling analysis of the oral histories she gathered, Frenz has further shown how the trope of “home” was located as much in geography, East Africa, as nostalgia for a glorious time in the past – a colonial past that was the “best times of their lives” that took place in “paradise” (Frenz, 2014, ch. 7). This remembrance, she has concluded, allows for narratives that gloss over racial conflict, structures of privilege, and the community’s own complicity in producing these from the safe distance of their new homes. In drawing attention to the regional scale of diasporic consciousness, Frenz has thus highlighted the importance of space and community, noting the points of intersection and diffusion of the territory of Goa and the community of Goans that cannot be restricted to any one singular physical place.

Space, race, and diaspora In his evocative account of space, mobility, and immobility, Bertz has drawn our attention to snapshots of a bygone era of another transoceanic regional scale of territorial and imaginative unity visible today in Mudra, Gujarat. The old stone sections of the town with their narrow lanes are indistinguishable from the same in Zanzibar, which, together with a street named Swali (“Swahili”) Street, is a twenty-first-century reminder of the interconnected region of the Swahili and western Indian littorals, an oceanic scale, as Bertz has reminded us, that rises and recedes. This interregional history marked not only spaces in Gujarat but also families. Noting 68

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the affixation of “Swali” to the name of a mid-nineteenth-century trader, Bertz has pointed out that although his present-day descendants have never been to Zanzibar, his family continues to include Swali in their last name. In so doing, Bertz has argued, this immobile generation is “as of a place as can be without actually having been there” (Bertz, 2015, 5–6). While this interregional scale offers a window into deeply intimate genealogies of families and towns across the Indian Ocean, diasporic spaces in Tanganyika (later Tanzania) became, simultaneously, zones of community-building and structures of racial hierarchy. Indian schools and cinemas are the entry point into Bertz’s analysis of accessibility and nationhood in which he has introduced a racial scale into his discussion of diaspora. With increasing numbers of families migrating to Tanganyika in the early twentieth century, community resources were pulled together not only to establish clubs such as the ones set up by Goans, as described earlier, but also schools. The colonial government in East Africa was slow to provide education to the majority of its subjects, relying, instead, on private initiatives. Missionaries set up schools for Africans, while Indians sent their children to private and government-funded schools. The curriculum for Africans and Indians differed, with the latter importing text books, syllabi, and teachers from Gujarat and the former receiving Christian instruction and vocational training, primarily in agriculture. Indian schools were also institutional spaces through which cultural links with their civilizational homeland were maintained as teachers offered classes in regional languages and parochial religions. These created, in the words of one of Bertz’s interviewees, “an enclave of Indians” as families worked with these schools to ensure that their children learnt Gujarati and Punjabi, and received religious instruction. In this process, Bertz has argued, a “national” diaspora of “Indians” was created (Bertz, 2015, 64–75). From the diasporic perspective, schools and community-building went hand-in-hand. Placed in the local context of Tanganyika, Indian schools were racial markers that divided “natives” and created racial hierarchies among them. Indeed, Indians’ access to education placed them in a privileged position vis-à-vis Africans. Across East Africa, at independence, a larger proportion of Indians than African had received higher education and found employment in skilled jobs. This structural privilege perpetuated “inequality in racial terms” that was criticized in nationalist discourse. From the 1940s on, the political leadership demanded the redistribution of wealth and equal access in postcolonial Tanzania, thus defining national citizenship in terms of racial equality. Towards this end, in the mid-1960s, Julius Nyerere nationalized – and Africanized – schools to standardize curriculum across the country and ensure that all Tanzanians, especially Africans, had access to what had become privileged diasporic Indian enclaves (Bertz, 2015, chs. 2, 4). Turning from education to entertainment, Bertz has also revealed the complex process through which places of leisure, Indian cinemas, became transnational and interracial urban spaces where racial difference was also built and challenged. The entry of popular films from India into the public sphere in Dar-es-Salaam in the 1920s brought to the fore the debates about social mores and political consciousness for the state and spectators. The censorship board used the categories of “native” and “non-native” to determine, racially, who could actually watch particular films. Yet, in the absence of an Indian on the censorship board, it was impossible for state officials to certify these films. The induction of an Indian representative did not resolve the problem either. Hindus and Muslims disagreed with one another regarding the portrayal of their communities in certain films, demanding some to be banned even after the board had given them relevant certifications. As Bertz has argued, censorship and cinemas simultaneously created an “Indian” viewing public and exposed the fissure within this racially, and nationally, defined diasporic category (Bertz, 2015, ch. 3). The dilemma of censorship was further compounded by the fact that in colonial discourse, “native” and “non-native” were categories that were mapped on to an imagined ladder of 69

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civilizational progress on which Indians scored lower down than the Europeans, but higher than the Africans. Productions of the first two decades after Indian independence centred round the themes of anticolonial nationalist politics. Worried about the political influence these films might have on Africans and Indians alike, the censorship board issued certificates preventing all “natives” from viewing such movies in Tanganyika. However, it became impossible to distinguish between “natives” in such a way as to allow Indians viewership of non-political blockbusters arriving in Tanganyika from their homeland, but not Africans. In 1936, cinemas were therefore opened to all, irrespective of race. In this instance, Indian cinema created a deracialized space. Yet, Bertz has persuasively shown how the creation of this interracial space in fact sharpened racial divides. Indeed, while Indian cinema was extremely popular among Africans, the experience of purchasing tickets, being members of audiences that were predominantly Indian, and asserting their right to a quintessentially Indian diasporic space was wrought with racial tension as Indian ticket sellers mocked African movie-goers and prices were at times kept out of reach for the African viewer. Bertz has argued that these mundane everyday experiences fed into ideas of citizenship and nationalism as Africans publicly criticized Indians for the indignity they were subjected to in these encounters. For them, this revealed diasporic disrespect and dishonour not only of the individual African but of the postcolonial nation as a whole (Bertz, 2015, ch. 5). In revealing the paradoxical ways in which territorial and diasporic spaces created unities and disparities, Bertz’s work has highlighted the need for scholars of diaspora to take into account the everyday encounters, and their political resonance, of ordinary men and women that reveal the entanglement of race, diaspora, and nationhood/citizenship, none of which is a static category of description or analysis.

Race, politics, and nationhood With the expulsion of Indians from Uganda in 1971, and the Africanization and nationalization policies of Kenya and Tanzania, Indians were erased from the nations’ past and future, appearing, instead, as an anachronistic historical artifact. Yet for Indians who continued to live in East Africa after the exodus, the expulsions became a new marker in their diasporic consciousness, as it was crucial to their continued presence to imbed themselves in the nation. At the forefront of their negotiation of this diasporic subjectivity was the question of how they could integrate themselves into the racialized definition of nationhood and singular citizenship in the decades after independence. Stephanie Jones has argued that the first novel published by an Indian in postcolonial East Africa in 1971, Tejani’s (1971) Day After Tomorrow, reveals the “utopian vision” of radical Indians for whom the diasporic isolation of previous generations would be liberated by “devout nationalism”. In his work, Tejani criticized Indians for their endogamous social practices and their failure to integrate with the nation. Tejani’s critique highlighted the East African Indian nationalist’s disavowal of diasporic consciousness as he made a powerful argument for a “cathartic submersion” into a “new civilisation” where “Asian identities are totally discarded, and they are biologically and culturally assimilated into the author’s conception of an ancient black civilization” (Jones, 2009, 37). In her reading of Tejani, Jones has noted that his engagement with the racial question assumes the willingness of Africans and African nations to welcome, or indeed desire, Indian assimilationist aspirations. In juxtaposition to the first East African Indian novel that promoted “miscegenation as a solution to the disharmonies of the nation” (Jones, 2009, 37), the first East African novel published in English by an African, Wa Thiong’o’s (1964) Weep Not, Child, was a scathing critique of the cheating Indian shopkeeper. In this influential book, from the African perspective, far from desiring Indian assimilation into their nation, Indians were seen as standing 70

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outside the nation, criticized for their exploitative trade and their “dirty” habits which placed them in an ambiguous position of being neither colonial rulers nor indigenous citizens. The binary perspectives of isolation and assimilation in analysing diasporic consciousness distort the lived reality of everyday diasporic encounters and the politics of race that was constituted simultaneously by Indians and Africans. Indeed, their changing relationships with Africans shaped Indian communitarian imaginations and diasporic geographies. Yet in the majority of works on the Indian diaspora in East Africa, Africans occupy a shadowy presence whose hostility to Indians is portrayed as ubiquitous and remains unquestioned. Bertz is an exception to this. Another important work by Brennan (2012) analyses the emergence of nationalist discourse and racial thought among Africans from whose perspective the Indian enclaves of Dar-es-Salaam, especially their houses and shops, represented spaces of privilege and wealth denied to Africans. Noting the ways in which colonial categories of “native” and “non-native” were interpreted and appropriated by Africans and Indians, Brennan has shown how Africans’ assertion of their entitlements guaranteed by the state, in theory, but denied in practice, defined nationhood in the Swahili term “taifa”. Taifa conflated race with nation in its critique of Indian diasporic wealth, revealing indigenous African political thought that engaged with, but was not overdetermined by, colonial discourses. Brennan’s and Bretz’s works historicize the postcolonial friction between Indians and Africans and also warn against considering racial or national categories as omnipresent or unchanging. They reveal historical conjunctures and tangible moments at which diasporic structures of privilege clashed with African demands for access and equality which were articulated in racialized nationalist discourses. The most suggestive and promising direction that their studies have pointed to is in bringing racial entanglements into studies of diaspora. Yet, friction was not the only product of racialized encounters. Desai and I have shown that such entanglements in fact reveal the coexistence of friction and solidarity (Aiyar, 2015; Desai, 2013). In his analysis of M. G. Vassanji’s fictional works, Desai has noted that Vassanji, like Tejani, is critical of Indian racism towards Africans. But for the former, it is not liberating nationalism and a disavowal of diasporic sensibility, but “ethnic affiliations [that] can be both empowering and restrictive, liberating and confining” (Desai, 2013, 95). Vassanji’s family was one of many that left Tanzania after independence. His novels tell the story of generations of Indians who called East Africa home, many of whom left for North America, but returned “home” seeking answers about their family genealogies. Pointing to the emphasis in his books on exposing racist stereotypes perpetuated by both Indians and Africans, Desai has characterized Vassanji’s understanding of diaspora as “his ethics of ethnicity as one that is ultimately nonpartisan, insisting on sharing stories across communities” (Desai 2013, 203). It is in narrating these genealogies, especially through the allegories of interracial relationships, that Vassanji points to hidden histories of racial entanglements that were deliberately forgotten and, importantly, remembered, in the service of an imagined diasporic community. From this perspective, shifting scales of proximity and distance shape the diaspora’s racial entanglements. It is in identifying these moments of proximity and distance that in my work on diasporic politics in Kenya I have argued that solidarity and friction must be seen as two sides of the same coin (Aiyar, 2015). In laying claim to Indian civilization and imperial citizenship, Indian “pioneers” – the generation of traders-turned-politicians – were quick to distance themselves from the category of “native” that equated them racially with Africans, arguing that Indians were further along the ladder of progress and modernity than the Africans. The imperial scale of diasporic consciousness, however, shifted after the First World War, as anticolonial politics erupted in India and East Africa. With India on the threshold of independence, the diaspora 71

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continued to highlight their civilizational ties with that homeland. This “Indianness” was articulated as expatriate patriotism as Indians in East Africa questioned and rejected the colonial project in India and Kenya. Through the 1930s and 1940s, African and Indian labour movements and political organizations collaborated together against the colonial state, demanding better wages and political and economic equality on the basis of being “non-European subjects”. The attainment of nationhood for India in 1947 served as an inspiration to Indian and African anticolonial activists in Kenya and united them in the public realm. In highlighting interracial solidarity it is important, however, not to gloss over the very real divisions that separated Indians and Africans in material and ideological terms or, indeed, to ignore the contestations that took place among Indians themselves. Class divisions came to the surface as Punjabi workers demanded better working conditions from their Indian employers in the labour movements of the 1930s. With the partition of India in 1947, and the birth of a second homeland in the subcontinent, Pakistan, Hindus and Muslims debated over political representation and nationhood within Kenya. Further, in the political realm, Indians were divided over the anticolonial alliances some of their leaders had forged with African political activists, worried that the African call for nationhood would end their privileges and economic monopoly. Similarly, Africans too were divided over the interracial alliances of some of their leaders. For them freedom would only be meaningful if their material inequality was ameliorated, an inequality most visible and tangible in racially marked diasporic spaces such as the dukka. A discourse of indigeneity captured by the slogan “Africa for Africans” resulted in a racialized definition of nationhood in Kenya. In this framing, Indians would never have a territorial claim to Kenya no matter how many generations had lived and died there (Aiyar, 2015, chs. 3–5). In locating the main interlocutors of diasporic discourse within Kenya, and not across the ocean in India, but being attentive to the resonance of Indian civilizational affiliations in diasporic articulations, my work has included a multiplicity of racial and territorial scales to studying diasporas. Diasporic discourses and the politics of indigeneity, I have argued, simultaneously opened up the possibilities of interracial alliances and limited their scope and reach. In so doing, I have shown that the Indian diaspora inextricably linked East Africa’s destiny with South Asia’s, deterritorializing their histories without entirely uprooting them.

Conclusion Moving beyond the trope of the Indian in East Africa as an exploitative trader, this chapter has remapped South Asian diasporas as having multiple sites of belonging that were invoked in languages of claim making in political discourse. Using a variety of sources including political and business archives, oral histories, and literature, new scholarship has highlighted the importance of spaces, scales, structures, and discourses in studying diasporas and their political and social formations. However, gender as a category of analysis is almost entirely missing from the body of literature surveyed here. While Indian and African women enter literature as protagonists and allegories (Desai, 2013; Jones, 2011), historians have not placed gender at the centre of their analysis of South Asian diasporas in East Africa in their discussions of race, politics, colonialism, or nationhood. This is a glaring gap that future scholarship must address. These works also serve as an entry into writing non-elite histories from below that can move beyond urban political spaces. Migrants from South Asia included a large number of men, women, and children who encountered Africans in intimate spaces, in their shops, clinics, hotels, homes (where Indians hired African domestic help), and on the streets. More attention needs to be paid to the changing scales of African engagements with South Asians across class, 72

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space, gender, and generation. Furthermore, postcolonial scholarship has cautioned against assuming the success of the colonial endeavour and denying agency to Africans and Indians in their negotiation of subjecthood. Looking beyond the categories of colonizer and colonized, historians can use these everyday encounters of Indian diasporas in Fiji, Burma, Malaya, South Africa, and the Caribbean to uncover subaltern networks of knowledge and action from the perspective of the global South to reshape our understanding of colonialism, its forms of knowledge, and resistance.

Notes 1 Quoted in Aiyar (2015, 33) and H. H. Johnston to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 17 November 1894. Department of Revenue and Agriculture, Emigration, A Proceedings, No. 8. National Archives of India. 2 “South Asian” and “Indian” are used interchangeably in this chapter to describe immigrants from the Indian subcontinent that includes present-day India and Pakistan. Cognizant of the historical moments at which such nomenclature comes to signify different sets of affiliations, this terminology does not imply the existence of an unchanging or unified community that easily identifies as, or can be identified as, an “Indian” or “South Asian” diaspora.

References Aiyar, S. (2015). Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Amrith, S. (2013). Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bahadur, G. (2014). Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Bertz, N. (2015). Diaspora and Nation in the Indian Ocean: Transnational Histories of Race and Urban Space in Tanzania. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press. Bose, S. (2006). A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brennan, J. (2012). Taifa: Making Nation and Race in Urban Tanzania. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. Carter, M. (1995). Servants, Sirdars and Settlers: Indians in Mauritius 1834–1874. London: Oxford University Press. Cohen, R. (1997). Global Diasporas: An Introduction. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. Desai, G. (2013). Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination. New York: Columbia University Press. Frenz, M. (2014). Community, Memory, and Migration in a Globalizing World: The Goan Experience, c. 1890–1980. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ghai, D. P. and Ghai, Y. P. (1970). Portrait of a Minority: Asians in East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press. Green, N. (2011). Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915. New York: Cambridge University Press. Greenwood, A. and Topiwala, H. (2015). Indian Doctors in Kenya, 1895–1940: The Forgotten History. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Gregory, P. (1993). Quest for Equality: Asian Politics in East Africa, 1900–1967. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman. Hofmeyr, I. (2007). The Black Atlantic Meets the Indian Ocean: Forging New Paradigms of Transnationalism for the Global South–Literary and Cultural Perspective. Social Dynamics, 33(2), 3–32. Hofmeyr, I. (2010). Africa as a Fault Line in the Indian Ocean: In: P. Gupta, I. Hofmeyr and M. Pearson, eds, Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean. Pretoria, South Africa: University of South Africa Press. Jones, S. (2007). Merchant-Kings and Everymen: Narratives of the South Asian Diaspora of East Africa. Journal of East African Studies, 1(1), 16–33. Jones, S. (2009). The First South Asian East African Novel: Bahadur Tejani’s Day After Tomorrow. Contemporary South Asia, 17(1), 33–46.


Sana Aiyar Jones, S. (2011). The Politics of Love and History: Asian Women and African Men in East African Literature. Research in African Literatures, 42(3), 166–186. Kale, M. (1998). Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery and Indian Indentured Labour in the British Caribbean. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kelly, J. (1991). A Politics of Virtue: Hinduism, Sexuality, and Countercolonial Discourse in Fiji. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Mangat, J. S. (1969). A History of Asians in East Africa. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. Metcalf, T. (2007). Imperial Connections: India in the Indian Ocean. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Oonk, G. (2013). Settled Strangers: Asian Business Elites in East Africa (1800–2000). New Delhi: Sage. Seidenberg, D. (1983). Uhuru and the Kenya Indians: The Role of a Minority Community in Kenya Politics, 1939–1963. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing. Tejani. B. (1971). Day After Tomorrow. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Review. Wa Thiong’o, N. (1964). Weep Not, Child. Oxford, UK: Heinemann.



Diaspora and infrastructures


Introduction Passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act marked the end of an era. The legacy of race-based exclusion in immigrant entry into the United States came to a close. After nearly 100 years of restrictions against migration from Asia, entry and full citizenship were now accessible to generations of Asian Americans. Half a century after the historic Civil Rights legislations, the enforcement of racial exclusion through legal mandate requires a revisit. Political belonging has been intimately tied to labour entry throughout U.S. history. The legacy of this interdependence continues in contemporary practices of criminalizing workers through immigration laws. However, in this “post-racial” moment, the making of social boundaries through the regulation of migrant entry is obfuscated. Further inquiry is demanded into the complicity of immigration policies for excluding successions of migrants from rights to national belonging. My inquiry into contemporary linkages between labour and national belonging began with the uncovering of duplicitous recruitment practices within the U.S. oil industry. In 2006, South Asian Guest Workers began to be recruited in greater numbers by U.S. employers into the southern states. They served as construction workers in the building of oil refineries, drilling rigs, and other necessary structures of the booming oil extraction industry. Nayek was among these Indian construction workers; his experience offers a glimpse into the worksite practices of the U.S. Guest Worker Program. Nayek was kept at a fenced and guarded labour camp by his sponsoring employer and forced to work within construction sites. He worked 12hr shifts with minimal breaks and undrinkable water from the local swamps, all the while paying fees of nearly $1100 per month for his residence in a trailer, shared with 16 other workers, daily meals, and even for his safety equipment. What brought Nayek to this employer were promises by Indian labour recruiters of citizenship, permanent employment, and a chance to settle with his family in the United States, for which he paid $20,000. Instead he found himself in debt prior to and during his foreign employment. Nayek eventually escaped from his labour camp in Mississippi by running away from his fenced and guarded encampment and the employer who had kept him in those conditions. While such labour practices may be considered to be egregious and unjust, these forms of migration are indirectly authorized by numerous governments, including those of the United States and India. Nayek is among the many migrant workers lucky enough to receive a visa 77

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to enter lawfully into the United States oil industry to work as a construction worker. Coming into the country through the U.S. Guest Worker Program is aimed at providing a government-sponsored path to U.S. employment. Under the presidency of George W. Bush, a programme for temporary migrant workers was initiated; it allowed authorized entry for foreign labourers to enter the United States for short-term work, but to eventually return to their countries of origin. Among its many objectives, one was to provide a legal pathway that would protect workers like Nayek at their employment sites and minimize undocumented residence in the United States. In practice, however, labour abuses continue to be the norm rather than the exception for Guest Workers across industries. Nayek is not alone in experiencing coerced recruitment practices and forced labour as a result of migrating through the U.S. Guest Worker Program. In fact, numerous cohorts of South Asian migrants are being recruited by U.S. oil industry employers to labour at construction sites throughout Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina. These men are sought for their decades of experience within the oil-rich economies of the Middle East. Since the late 1960s, South Asian workers have migrated into countries such as United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, and others in the region to build up the infrastructure for oil extraction. Historically, these have been cyclical migration patterns since migrant workers do not have a path to citizenship or opportunities to bring families for permanent settlement. Many workers labour in a succession of one- to two-year contracts abroad in sponsoring countries while visiting families for only a few months back home. Given systematic restrictions on permanent settlement within the Middle East, the recent recruitment of South Asian male construction workers into the expanding U.S. oil extraction industry offers to be a unique opportunity. Unlike Gulf countries where citizenship is denied, employment in the United States could allow access to citizenship as well as family reunion. At least, such is the immigration pathway publicized by labour brokers within India who promote U.S. employment yet do not disclose the details of the U.S. Guest Worker Program. The programme was designed to provide visas for temporary workers to labour in seasonal industries and return to their countries of origin; there is no pathway to citizenship or permanent settlement, especially for low wage workers. Yet, labour brokers in India recruit workers with promises of a new life within the United States, one where they can be reunited with their families. For the services of providing visas and arranging foreign employment, brokers demand nearly $20,000 in fees. Migrants place their homes on collateral, solicit loans, and pay such fees with the expectation of higher wages and permanent settlement abroad. Brokers act in accordance with employer preferences that are binding since workers sign labour contracts that indicate consent to coercive labour practices. The combination of financial debt prior to employment, legally binding employment contracts, and a visa dependent upon employer sponsorship generates a dependent workforce. Nayek’s experience of migrating as a Guest Worker depicts the reality of authorized immigrant pathways that bind workers to exploitative working conditions while abroad. South Asian construction workers in the U.S. oil industry are but one of many examples of how the law becomes complicit in marginalizing recent migrants. These emerging pathways of authorized immigrant entry, coupled with compromised legal status, complicate available explanations in the migration literature. The social phenomenon presents a salient puzzle as to how migrant rights are compromised within regulated modes of entry into the United States. The chapter addresses the following research question: “How do immigration pathways become complicit in binding workers to exploitative working conditions?” In doing so, the chapter unravels the puzzle by outlining key mechanisms that lead to the violation of labour protections. The findings stem from my multi-site ethnography study of labour migration chains that span the South Asia, Middle East, and U.S. oil industry business networks. 78

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In total, 105 in-depth interviews were conducted with former U.S. Guest Workers, U.S. employers, Indian labour brokers, and government officials across New Orleans, Houston, and New Delhi, India to evaluate the multi-country migrant recruitment processes. My study finds that immigration policy, such as the U.S. Guest Worker Program, regulates migrant mobility and behaviour; however, the business practices and respective multi-country networks use the legal infrastructure to compromise worker rights. While both sending and receiving countries strive to regulate the market activities of their respective labour brokers and employers, my work finds that these private sector stakeholders innovate business strategies to navigate the intricacies of the legal landscape. The complexities of how the law becomes complicit in compromising worker rights involve interdependent activities among all three groups of stakeholders: employers, labour brokers, and government officials. The practices of each of these three cannot be elaborated within the limitations of this chapter alone; instead, I will elaborate upon the first piece of the puzzle, which is employer demand. In particular, how employers select from among a low wage workforce and identify “manageable” workers is critical for initiating multi-country business practices within the migration industry. These findings make necessary a shift in focus from migrant choices to a critical evaluation of how employers use the legal infrastructure to generate a compromised workforce. In the following sections, I detail how my findings build on the existing literature about the role of employer demand within the processes of international migration. A description of my methods is followed by a clarification of the business ties among various stakeholders operating within the migratory circuit. Significant empirical findings from the study are shared to identify employer preferences and recruitment practices. In particular, I outline how the historic migratory circuit of South Asian migrant recruitment for employment in the Middle East oil economy is connected to the recent growth in the U.S. oil industry. I conclude by sharing the implications of the findings for sociological theory more generally.

Revisiting employer demand In Piore’s classic description of employer demand, the working assumption is that employers use a generic pool of unskilled workers who are willing to labour within jobs that are undesirable to the domestic workforce (Piore, 1979). Within the segmented labour market theory, jobs are “unskilled, generally but not always low paying, and . . . carry or connote inferior social status” (Piore, 1979, 17). In contrast, contemporary studies have focused upon the migration industry itself. Castles and Miller (2003) explain the migration industry as a matrix of service providers who cater to needs within labourer patterns of mobility. Similarly, Hernández-León identifies the migration industry as the network of entrepreneurs who provide services to migrants for facilitating cross-country mobility. Such services include, but are not limited to, “opening and institutionalizing new destinations for migration, mediating newcomers’ incorporation into host societies, and, in the current regime of heightened restrictions to international migration, bypassing border controls and internal inspections aimed at detecting clandestine entrants and residents” (2008). These studies focus upon businesses that specialize in providing services to migrants in all stages of multi-country mobility (Xiang, 2007; Guevarra, 2010). The businesses emerging in response to facilitating migration are a salient topic of inquiry in themselves. Similarly, studies of the migration industry have focused upon the unregulated practices of coyotes, provision of false papers, and other unregulated activities that assist migrants in unauthorized entry (Calavita, 1992; Zhang & Chin, 2002). These industries thrive on the exclusion of low-skill workers from western receiving countries. They provide unregulated means of entry through processes of human smuggling, creation of fake passports, work permits, and in 79

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some cases as bodyguards for protection from vigilantes near the U.S. border (Krissman, 2000; Kyle & Koslowski, 2001). These studies have shown that in part the migration industry strengthens existing migrant networks and sustains the flow of migration; despite numerous barriers to entry (Castles & Miller, 2003; Hernández-León, 2008), the migratory circuits established by immigrants enable successions of migrants. As posited by cumulative causation theory, migrant networks lower risks and costs associated with transnational mobility: “as a social process, migration unfolds in a form that is self-feeding . . . migration functions and spreads through social networks” (Massey, 1990; Massey et al., 1994). The focus of most studies upon the U.S.–Mexico border has produced an extensive literature about the underground migration industry that serves low wage migrant workers. Building upon the literature about migration industries, both regulated and otherwise, my work provides greater insight into the inner workings of these multi-country business networks that promote mobility. My findings indicate that within the market for migrant labour, demand is not for a general category of unskilled labour but instead employers differentiate from among the low wage labour force on the basis of experience, skill, and non-tangible qualities. My study finds that employers solicit highly skilled craftsmen for their manageability and experience in performing within heavily regulated work sites of formal structured work environments. Additionally, while numerous studies have focused upon the migration industry built around migrant needs, absent from the literature is the role of migration industry service providers in catering to employer demands. The ways in which multi-country business networks cultivate and sustain migrant mobility involve a case study that spans multiple geographies. As such, I conducted a multi-site ethnography to unravel the intricate business networks involved in the recruitment of foreign temporary workers within the India–U.S. migratory circuit.

Methods: multi-site ethnography Over the course of two years, I conducted a global case study about the business practices within the oil industry labour recruitment market on the India–U.S. migratory circuit. The unprecedented increase in recruitment of U.S. Guest Workers into New Orleans led me to begin conducting semi-structured interviews with temporary foreign workers employed at industrial construction sites located in New Orleans and across the gulf south including Texas. In total 61 former U.S. Guest Workers were interviewed about their decisions concerning U.S. migration and choice of migratory circuit. When interview data yielded reports of workers being misinformed about the migratory process and labouring within constrained working conditions at employment sites, I conducted interviews with 15 of their sponsoring employers at the businesses’ headquarters in Houston, Texas to inquire about their emerging labour management practices and preference for foreign labour. While employer accounts detailed the desired labour force and rationale behind work site regulatory practices, these narratives also identified the role of country labour brokers in the sending country in providing the demanded workforce. As such, I mapped the labour chain backwards to understand the broader migratory network’s sources. Interviews were conducted with 21 labour brokerage representatives in India who initially recruited this temporary workforce. In addition, interviews were also conducted with Indian government officials who are responsible for authorizing respective labour brokerage firms. The multi-site ethnography enabled a triangulation of the data by evaluating narratives of multiple parties who were geographically disconnected yet involved in the same process of recruitment. The research design was a case study model that employs inductive logic; as such interviews continued until saturation was established – this is the point at which additional interview 80

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responses provided little or no new information (Small, 2009). The initial stage of interviews utilized open-ended questions based on a set of themes. Depending upon the responses of those interviewed, the questions were revised and administered to another set of respondents. The process of inductive inquiry allowed respondent-identified issues to emerge for further analysis (Small, 2004). Analysis of targeted field observations and interview data involved translation of Guest Worker accounts from Hindi into English and transcription of all recorded narratives of the three stakeholders. These transcripts were analysed using grounded theory and standard qualitative coding techniques of constructing classification themes, grouping themes into categories, and identifying how concepts related to each other. The multi-site ethnography traced stakeholders backwards from New Orleans to Houston, and eventually back to New Delhi to shed some light on how international migration is driven by multi-country business networks. The breadth and depth of interviews from the relevant stakeholders in the labour migration chain helped assess conflicting viewpoints. The inductive process of inquiry allowed for the uncovering of the broader process of labour recruitment that connected geographically dispersed parties engaged in mutually beneficial business practices.

India as a migratory hub The expansion of the Indian migration industry into the United States serves as a fruitful site of inquiry for evaluating the role of employer demand in multi-country labour markets. The U.S. oil industry, particularly the petrochemical sector, has been a substantial driver of the domestic economy for numerous decades. However, in recent years, innovations of hydraulic fracturing have driven expansion of the oil and gas extraction sub-sector. Building infrastructure for preparation and production of oil-based products demands a highly skilled and manageable set of craftsmen to labour within a high-risk, heavily regulated work environment. U.S. companies have recruited highly skilled Indian craftsmen based on their experience in the Middle East oil industry. Employers use the Guest Worker Program to sponsor migrants with temporary three-year visas, establishing a new destination for migrant construction workers. The complex structure of these multi-country business networks between numerous stakeholders of a singular migration industry presents a puzzle as to how these various actors use the legal infrastructure for recruitment of the desired workforce. An evaluation of U.S. employer demand and its relationship to the Indian migration industry serves as a critical case for understanding business networks as drivers of transnational migration.

Migratory circuit stakeholders The following section will introduce the various companies and personnel operating in the U.S.–India migratory circuit. The description of these relevant actors uses pseudonyms and clarifies their relative position within global business networks. In various ways, U.S.-based companies initiate business relationships within the multi-country labour recruitment chain. The first set of companies, Southshore, Highland, and Brace, which were the initial sponsors for various cohorts of Indian Guest Workers, are mid-tier enterprises within the oil industry. Each of these three companies is involved in industrial construction projects such as the building of drilling rigs, power barges, drill and navy ships, and ship repairs. Their facilities are located across the gulf south including the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. In contrast, the second set of companies employed former Guest Workers who had become undocumented: Metal Works, Energize, Riggs, and Venture were engaged primarily in industrial construction of oil refineries and drilling rigs. Their operations are clustered within the 81

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southwest, mainly in the central Texas region. Each of these construction facilities employs 200–500 labourers per project, with several projects operating at the same time. While the industrial labour is performed at respective U.S. work sites, recruitment of workers is managed by using U.S.-based general contractors and their sub-contractors who have business ties with foreign labour brokers. Staffing companies are structurally positioned within the gulf economy as a significant link between the migrant recruitment markets of India–Middle East and India–United States migratory circuits. While staffing agents primarily serve employment needs of skilled workers temporarily on assignment in the Middle East on behalf of North American and European businesses (Xiang, 2007), they also meet labour shortages in large projects by using low wage migrant workers. They serve as key informational brokers between U.S. employers and Indian brokerage agencies from within the Middle East oil markets. Multi-country business relationships allow U.S.-based contractors access to brokerage agencies; in turn, Indian labour recruiters and their sub-agents perform the activities of migrant selection. The three labour brokerage agencies, identified as S. K. Rao Industries, Global Labour, and Horizon, provide temporary foreign workers to U.S. employers through the network of third parties within the migration industry. While based in major metropolitan cities within India, firms use various sub-agents located in villages of states with high rates of out-migration. Workers are solicited on the basis of skill and experience, but given the regional language differences, often sub-agents recruit workers without English proficiency. The network of numerous stakeholders, such as U.S. companies, staffing firms, labour recruiters, combine to structure the multi-country selection process of workers within the U.S.–India migratory path.

Employer demand: selecting from among low wage migrants The processes by which Indian Guest Workers become the desired labour force are significant for understanding the business networks within the multi-country migrant recruitment chain. Employer demand is shaped by three factors: industry-wide conditions, a need for experienced yet manageable workers, and an existing labour force within the Middle East. Employers seek a specialized and racialized low wage labour force to meet the demands of the U.S. oil industry. In the following sections, I discuss further details about the U.S. oil industry, expectations of the ideal workforce, and employer rationale for recruitment from India.

High-risk construction projects In spite of the economic downturn of 2008, industrial construction projects within the U.S. oil industry have experienced rates of expansion (Kent & Scheck, 2013; Kirka, 2013). The combination of increased oil prices and innovations to drilling technology has sustained investment in oil extraction. Expanding drilling sites into new regions of the country requires further investment in the construction of equipping wells, rigs, refineries, and other infrastructure for oil extraction and production that in turn entails a high degree of risk. Delays in production will result in oilrigs and refineries that remain idle within an oversaturated market. Employers manage risks of industrial construction projects by hiring a reliable labour force that can maintain both safety standards at dangerous work sites and rates of productivity. A dexterous and disciplined workforce is critical for timely completion of industrial construction projects. New methods of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking”, have been developed that allow for the drilling of oil reserves through rocks embedded deep in the ground. 82

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These techniques enable speculators to access oil deposits that were inconceivable in the past. However, technological advancements further demand different types of infrastructure that are both cost-intensive and risky to build. Of the risks involved in industrial construction projects, recovering the initial investment and recruiting a qualified workforce to optimize performance are critical factors in minimizing risk. The lack of available drilling rigs and the relative hesitancy among investors produce a lag in the industry. As Dan, a U.S. oil industry employer, explains, recruiting experienced workers is a must both for building the infrastructure and for operating the machinery so as to successfully drill oil reserves: The other side of the coin is the crews. You could magically snap your fingers and have a new drilling rig but where do you find the labour to work on it? They are not college graduates but they are experienced people that have a lot of knowledge. If you have a bad crew on a rig, it can cost you more money than it’s ever going to make you. You will get your drill pipes stuck, you’ll have a blowout, you will twist off your pipe and suddenly you’ll have a hole full of junk. Blowouts happen . . . some of the gases come out and not only do they catch fire, but some of them are hydrogen sulfide and they can just kill you if you breathe them. Anyway the limitations being the labour force. Issues of safety associated with the drilling process require workers who have a versatile skill set. Dan highlights that this may not be a college-educated workforce; however, the practical experience of labourers makes them qualified to handle a variety of challenging scenarios at the worksite. Given the relatively high level of risk, employers strive to recruit adept and reliable migrant workers.

Experienced and disciplined labour force Employer rationale for a non-domestic labour force within the oil industry stems from a demand for workers with multiple skill sets and a willingness to labour within dangerous and heavily regulated work environments. In particular, Indian migrant workers are solicited for their expertise and familiarity with work norms of industrial construction sites in the oil economies of the Middle East. Over a decade of employment in the GCC states as a temporary foreign worker demonstrates an ability and commitment to labour within high-risk and punishing working conditions. Indian low wage workers are recruited for their proven performance as a disciplined and compliant workforce. Employers consider formal education and informal on-the-job training as equivalent sources of training. Larry, a manager within the industrial construction business, defines the criteria for qualified migrants: There are guys that are not necessarily college educated but they are smart people that are working on these vessels.You’ll be surprised at how many guys that are electricians that come in as basic marine electricians.There is a difference between marine and just your common electricians and they will work their way through and all of a sudden they’ll just get so smart on all these vessels . . . they will be an electrical engineer, not by education but they will have more practical knowledge than any degreed electrical engineer has got. Believe it or not, there is no real discrimination between a degreed person and a non-degreed person. 83

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Larry explains that skill sets are acquired within industrial construction projects; migrants may not have formal training; however, their knowledge base is developed through work site experience. In particular, Indian migrant workers are desired for their acculturation with work norms cultivated through ten years of industrial construction employment in the Middle East oil economies. Within industrial construction projects, employers demand temporary foreign workers not only for their skills and experience but also especially for their willingness to labour within dangerous and demanding work sites. In the hiring process, employer selection from among migrant labourers is based on worker “manageability”, language used by employers to describe the need for labour compliance with established work site norms and practices. In general, an ideal worker is someone who does not question or protest about employer expectations; submission to authority is a primary criterion in recruitment. Another employer, Tony, shares that “a quality worker, [is] a guy that shows up on time and does his job with a minimal amount of drama and has the talent to do that job”. Employers decide to solicit foreign workers not only for their extensive employment experience but also for migrants’ amenability towards labouring without dissent.

Acculturation in the Middle East oil economy In accordance with this ideal type, employers recruit Indian labourers for their acceptance of strenuous industrial work norms in the Middle East. In addition to work ethic and an exhaustive skill set, Indian foreign labourers are solicited for their non-confrontational nature. These workers are described as willing to work harder, better, and for lower wages than domestic workers. Kirk, an employer within the oil industry, describes the preference for temporary foreign workers from India and Pakistan: So rather than hire and train our own, we are bringing in labour from Pakistan and India. That doesn’t make much sense with the unemployment rate. [But] the workers in Pakistan and India are much better workers. They work harder; I mean they’re hungry. Americans are spoiled. According to Kirk, temporary workers are able and willing to contribute greater amounts of effort at industrial construction sites. He frames Indians and Pakistanis as the preferred workforce because of their zeal to perform at the highest capacity. Rick, manager at Southshore, shares a similar sentiment about Indian foreign workers as talented and amenable to strict work site regulation. He explains how his company used contractors to recruit over 100 Indian temporary foreign workers for their relative expertise and experience: Again, we do it by contract, if it fits our needs and Indian labor is a very talented workforce. We had a – we call it “man camp” a group of a couple of hundred Indian nationals working in our yard for some time, it’s all under contract labour – and they were a very talented workforce. These guys were always eager to work long shifts. Temporary Indian workers with employment experience in the Middle East are socialized into the work structures of the seasonal construction industry. They are accustomed to labouring within dangerous working conditions as well as the regimented organization of work activities at construction sites. Indian migrants are seen to offer the desired combination of experience and compliance with employer stipulations. Employers expect minimal contestation over established work norms and terms of employment, including wages. Tony, CEO of Energize, details that worker wages are greater than rates 84

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in the Middle East. Additionally, he emphasizes that rates at industrial construction projects are competitive even within the wider U.S. construction industry: The bottom line is that the industrial wages are so much higher, we are going to get the better workers and we are going to bring the workers from abroad because it is vital that those projects get built and it’s more important, oil, energy, power than anything else right now. It makes more sense to go hire foreign workers. According to Tony, the higher wages of industrial construction work will attract the most skilled of foreign workers, minimizing the costs and risks associated with the relative expansion of the U.S. oil industry. The recruitment of Indian craftsmen to industrial construction sites within the U.S. is predicated upon a set of employer expectations. Indian workers with decades of experience within the Middle East oil economies are selected for their skill set but also for their willingness to endure difficult and dangerous working conditions. The selection criteria for choosing from among low wage foreign workers include characteristics of compliance, obedience, and no history of worker collective action. U.S. employers find the combination of these qualities by using the complex of the legal infrastructure and the migration industry to attract the desired labour force.

Manageable migrants: making of a compliant workforce The process of recruitment itself becomes a vehicle for finessing the legal infrastructure built to protect migrant rights. Employer expectations set the terms of selection and recruitment within the multi-country migration path; in doing so, they create an industry incentivized to solicit “manageable” workers. The business interests of employers in demanding skilled yet docile workers, and the migration industry service providers in selecting for worker docility as a means of expanding their market share, coalesce to produce migratory circuits that generate compliant labourers. In doing so, the process creates a migratory path by which a network of separate profit-seeking stakeholders is responsible for each aspect of generating migrant “manageability”. A different service provider handles each juncture of migrating for foreign employment; each of these processes in the network selects for docility in workers, from negotiating terms of compensation to regulating employment in the destination country. Once the business networks of labour recruitment have been established, brokerage agencies have a vested interest in maintaining demand for “manageable” migrants. Even with legal protections, the demand for compliant workers structures a recruitment process that promotes docility.

Business networks and decreased worker bargaining power Each interval of the migration network engages in profit-seeking practices that generate “manageability” in workers. One such mechanism of producing migrant docility involves labour broker strategies of increasing the supply of workers. While foreign employers dictate the quantity of migrants demanded, labour brokerage firms play a significant role in increasing the number of workers allocated for construction projects. The fierce competition among migration industry firms produces the need for labour brokers to broaden their share of the foreign employers’ market, particularly of U.S. employers. Soliciting U.S. projects serves to bolster the rate of fees charged for migrants as well as broadening the pool of migrants for recruitment. In an industry built upon the trade of migrants, labour brokers serve their business interests by initiating and expanding employer solicitation of migrant workers. One of the labour recruiters 85

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in New Delhi named Hari, of S. K. Rao Industries, explains his desire for capturing a larger share of the labour brokerage market: Since I am in the business of sending workers abroad, we [labour recruiters] are in a bind from the top and bottom. There are thousands of agencies who will give you migrants, and the foreign companies they know this. They have so many to choose from, so they just want good workers for a low price. But we have to do the work of finding workers who will work for such wages and still make a profit. That is why we need a large clientele, this way you can make up for the low fees by the number of projects. It pays to own the market, it doesn’t pay to only send migrants abroad. In order to maintain the business, Hari’s agency attempts to solicit a greater number of industrial construction projects from U.S. employers. In particular, Indian labour brokerage agencies are able to charge higher fees from migrants for employment in U.S. work sites than for industrial construction projects in the Middle East. Hari explains the different fee rates: Everyone wants to go to America. These workers they will give everything for that chance. U.S. projects are the ones we compete over the most because the fees [for migrants] can be so much higher. To the Middle East, fees are maybe six months or so of wages but for the U.S. we can ask $10–20,000 and they [migrants] will pay it. In part, collection of elevated fees stems from the possibility of higher worker wages; however, migrant desire to end cyclical migration to the Middle East and find steady employment within western countries is the primary source of fee inflation. To maintain business operations, labour brokerage firms act upon their individual interests to sustain the supply of migrant labour even in the absence of employer demand. On occasion, industrial construction projects will be downsized; in such cases employers need fewer workers than initially demanded. Labour brokers adapt in accordance to revoked or modified client requests by continuing to send migrant labour abroad. Lalu shares difficulties that arise from employer modifications to U.S. projects: Many times everything has gone through, the visas are issued and then the employer changes his mind. Now he only needs half as many workers for the project. We have to manage the extra workers, what do you do with them? Labour brokers manage the surplus labour force by employing various strategies to allocate the remaining migrants. Some labour brokers send workers to their sponsoring U.S employer and let the two parties settle the altered plans overseas. Sameer describes the constraints upon his labour brokerage firm as well as respective migrant preferences: There are many ways but our aim is to maintain the business, that’s our priority.Workers are always willing to work abroad, so we send them, now it’s between them [migrants] and the employer. We’ve done our job. In Sameer’s account, the service of labour brokers ends at recruitment of migrants and issuance of visas. The labour brokerage firm invests time and financial resources into the selection of migrant workers as well as the processing of legal status paperwork. For labour brokers, their job is complete once they have recruited the desired quantity and quality of migrant labourers; the responsibility for surplus migrants remains with the foreign stakeholder. 86

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Another strategy employed by labour brokers to manage altered employer demand is to send migrants to a different set of employers rather than to the initial U.S. employer responsible for sponsorship. Krishnan explains the strategy: You really have to be smart about these things. One employer doesn’t want as many workers, but another might need more. So we send them where there is demand. We can’t have the workers idle with visas sitting on our hands. It doesn’t look good. To maintain placement rates, the surplus migrants are supplied to alternative industrial construction projects. However, the migrant visas are not altered but remain within the sponsorship of the initial U.S. employers. Guest Workers are therefore sent to work sites to be employed by companies that have not sponsored their visa and consequently are not authorized for work. In doing so, migrants arrive with compromised visa status and in many cases with employers who did not request the surplus workforce. In serving their own business interests, labour broker strategies to remain competitive generate conditions that both select for docility in workers and condition compliance through compromised visa status for migrants.

Migratory circuit as conditioning docility Employer expectations in combination with labour brokerage firms’ business practices of increasing the supply of migrants generate a migratory pathway that selects for “manageable” workers. The desired labour force must meet employer expectations of being highly experienced as well as submissive at work sites. As such, labour brokerage firms select for migrants who are compliant, lack a history of labour organizing, and are experienced at labouring in dangerous work sites. In addition, brokers engage in business practices of misinforming both migrants and employers about the supply of workers and respective visa status. The collective business practices of stakeholders located across multiple countries establish a migratory circuit that sustains a supply of compliant workers. While employer demand serves as a catalyst for business activity, labour brokerage practices perpetuate the flow of “manageable” labour within the migratory circuit. Strategies of brokerage firms to remain competitive move beyond the stipulations of employer demand to sustain a supply of legally compromised temporary foreign workers. The transnational migratory circuit centred upon employer demand is a network in which the business interests of multiple dispersed profit-seeking parties coalesce to sustain a supply of “manageable” labourers.

Conclusions and implications My study of the India–U.S. migratory circuit evaluates the system of labour recruitment and the role of formal organizations in generating a compromised workforce through international migration. My work raises questions about the specific skill sets and qualities of foreign workers that are desired by employers and the modes of recruitment by which employers fulfil demand for migrant labour. Furthermore, the findings draw attention to businesses within the migration industry that provide services to employers, providing insight into the role of competition within migration infrastructures that generate a dependent workforce. Employer demand, shaped by trends within the U.S. oil industry, is a critical factor for structuring the business networks and practices of overseas labour recruitment. Employers cultivate business relationships with migration industry providers to fulfil their needs for experienced and disciplined migrants. In turn these business networks establish a migratory circuit that perpetuates international migration of workers experienced in and submissive to labouring at dangerous 87

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work sites. A great degree of specialization has emerged in labour brokerage markets; these agencies occupy market niches by supplying migrants in accordance with specific qualities and characteristics demanded by foreign employers. Broker practices to increase market share are significant factors for generating a labourer pool that is compliant with employer demands. Individual brokerage firms compete for employer bids by consistently providing a manageable migrant workforce as well as by distinguishing their pool of Indian migrants from the larger Asian labour force. These strategies for market expansion select for industrious and compliant migrants; in doing so, the resulting business networks sustain a process that systematically compromises migrant rights. Brokerage agencies have a vested interest in maintaining the quantity of migrants and brokers often surpass employer demand so as to collect fees from migrants and send a greater number of workers abroad. Once underway, the multi-country business networks of recruitment establish conditions that create a migratory circuit that produces “manageable” workers. Findings offer an alternative explanation of how regulated labour markets operate and the role of business networks in perpetuating patterns of international migration. The case study highlights broader processes of restructuring in labour markets. Current debates around immigration reform have centred on the potential expansion of the U.S. Guest Worker Program into non-seasonal industries. These trends in immigration policy are indicative of emerging practices in non-standard employment, as has been highlighted by a number of studies about the growth in temporary work, contracted labour, and similar norms of flexibilization of the domestic workforce (Kalleberg & Sorensen, 1979; Casey, 1991; Kalleberg et al., 1997; Kalleberg, 2000). In a similar vein, this chapter delineates the role of multi-country migrant labour markets for restructuring domestic employment norms. Multi-country business networks for recruitment identified within the framework of industry-driven migration offer insight about the preferred labour force and respective modes of compromising migrant rights. Recruitment of temporary foreign workers into industrial construction projects of the U.S. oil economy serves as a microcosm of broader trends in the management and compensation of labourers globally.

References Calavita, K. (1992). Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS. New York: Routledge. Casey, B. (1991). Survey Evidence on Trends in ‘Non-Standard’ Employment. In: A. Pollert, ed., Farewell to Flexibility? Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Castles, S. and Miller, M. J. (2003). The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. 3rd edition. New York: The Guilford Press. Guevarra, A. R. (2010). Marketing Dreams, Manufacturing Heroes: The Transnational Labor Brokering of Filipino Workers. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Hernández-León, R. (2008). Metropolitan Migrants: The Migration of Urban Mexicans to the United States. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Kalleberg, A. L. (2000). Nonstandard Employment Relations: Part-Time, Temporary and Contract Work. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 341–365. Kalleberg, A. L. and Sorensen, A. B. (1979). The Sociology of Labour Markets. Annual Review of Sociology, 5, 351–379. Kalleberg, A. L., Edith, R., Naomi, C., Barbara, F. R., Ken, H., David, W., Eileen, A. and Spalter-Roth, R. M. (1997). Nonstandard Work, Substandard Jobs: Flexible Work Arrangements in the U.S. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Kent, S. and Scheck, J. (2013). (May 14). ‘North America to Drive Oil Supply’. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from html. Kirka, D. (2013). U.S. Oil Production Rose at Record Rate in 2012: BP. The Huffington Post. 12 June 2013. Retrieved from html.


Labour policy and global Indian diaspora Krissman, F. (2000). Immigrant Labour Recruitment: U.S. Agribusiness and Undocumented Migration from Mexico. In: N. Foner, R. Rumbaut and S. Gold, eds, Immigration Research for a New Century. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 277–300. Kyle, D. and Koslowski, R. (eds). (2001). Global Human Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Massey, D. S. (1990). Social Structure, Household Strategies, and the Cumulative Causation of Migration. Population Index, 56(1), 3–26. Massey, D. S., Goldring, L. and Durand, J. (1994). Continuities in Transnational Migration: An Analysis of Nineteen Mexican Communities. American Journal of Sociology, 99(6), 1492–1533. Piore, M. J. (1979). Birds of Passage: Migrant Labour and Industrial Societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Small, M. L. (2004). Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Small, M. L. (2009). ‘How Many Cases Do I Need?’: On Science and the Logic of Case Selection in Field Based Research. Ethnography, 10(1), 5–38. Xiang, B. (2007). Global Body Shopping: An Indian Labour System in the Information Technology Industry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Zhang, S. and Chin, K.-L. (2002). Enter the Dragon: Inside Chinese Human Smuggling Organizations. Criminology, 40, 737.



Foreign investments figure prominently in most countries’ development narratives. They are reported as signs of international approval and trust in the national economy. While the actual impact of such investments on economic development – let alone human development defined more broadly – is uncertain, together with aggregate figures, such as the growth rate of the total Gross Domestic Product, governments communicate about foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to signal progress, good governance, and modernity. Investments by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) are among the most visible aspects of diaspora engagement by the Indian government.2 Specific government institutions and regulatory frameworks were created to facilitate and induce NRI investments. Figuring prominently in India’s official diaspora engagement discourse, investment narratives served as arguments to transform the official stance from considering emigrants as traitors to applauding them as proud contributors to India’s growth story (Naujoks, 2010).3 Foreign investments made by migrants and diaspora actors may indeed increase capital and technology in the source countries, create employment, add to foreign exchange earnings, and contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction. Although our actual knowledge about the extent, determinants, and impacts of such flows is scarce, diaspora investments are seen as an untapped source of capital. The example of overseas Chinese investments is often highlighted as a model case, and the role of overseas Indians in California’s Silicon Valley in promoting the IT-enabled services sector in India is referred to as another success story (Guha & Ray, 2000). Diaspora investments are not only thought to add to overall foreign investment. They are expected to be more beneficial than non-diaspora FDI, leading to more employment, more technology spillovers, and less volatility in times of crisis (Riddle & Nielsen, 2011). Because of the assumed benefits, governments in many parts of the developing world display a strong interest in encouraging investments from their emigrant populations. Thus, at least 46 countries created special policy measures to encourage investments by their diasporas (United Nations, 2013). As transnational economic activities, diaspora investments are influenced by the transnational networks in which they take place, the policies and regulations in migrants’ countries of origin, and increasingly also activities in countries of residence. For example, Calvert Foundation, in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), through its 90

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International Diaspora Engagement Alliance launched the India Investment Initiative that plans to channel USD10 million to fund small businesses in India.4 At the US–India Business Summit, US President Obama announced that: Our new Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative will allow folks back home to generate a new stream of financing for Indian businesses that are investing in non-traditional, and too often overlooked, markets – from providing healthcare to rural communities, to improving water and sanitation, to opening up those new bank accounts.5 This chapter sheds light on several aspects of Indian diaspora investments from the angle of public policies, investment flows, and their determinants. The chapter starts by elaborating on conceptual links between migration and investments and on different forms of diaspora investments. It discusses critical definitions of Indian diaspora investors, and introduces India’s specific diaspora investment policies and related institutions. Subsequently, it provides an overview of the development of investment flows, such as FDI, foreign portfolio investment (FPI), NRI accounts and diaspora bonds. Lastly, the chapter briefly discusses research on the impact of NRI investments. In addition to the analysis of publicly available data and policies on Indian diaspora investments, this chapter is based on previously unpublished data provided by the Reserve Bank of India, as well as 20 in-depth interviews with key experts and practitioners who are involved in diaspora investment in India, including two directors of the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre, a manager of the Make in India initiative, the former Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission, directors at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industries, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, US–India Business Council, and Calvert Foundation’s India Investment Initiative.

Diasporas and investments Diaspora populations can influence investments in their home countries in four ways. First, overseas Indians can invest their own funds in business operations. Further, they can act as agents for cooperation between third parties and actors in their home country. Third, diaspora communities can exert indirect effects that are further removed from direct actions and activities of diaspora actors. The entire diaspora community (or significant parts of it) can bring a change in the source country’s perception and appreciation. This is often referred to as the ‘branding value’ of migrants that may lead to increased economic cooperation and investment (Naujoks, 2013, 83). Lastly, diaspora actors and returnees can affect their country of origin’s openness to FDI and the regulatory frameworks. In her analysis of FDI liberalization processes, Ye (2014) finds that NRIs had some influence on the gradual opening of India’s FDI policies, which paves the way for larger FDI inflows. Recent studies find that migrant populations are positively correlated with FDI flows from their countries of destination into their countries of origin.6 Gheasi et al. (2011) conducted a metaanalysis7 of nine studies undertaken to test the robustness of the relationship between migration and both inward and outward FDI. They found that highly educated and skilled migrants led to considerably higher FDI levels (in particular for inward FDI), whereas poorly educated and lowskilled migrants have a large and negative effect on both inward and outward FDI.8 While all channels of diaspora engagement can lead to increased investments, this chapter focuses only on direct investment activities by NRIs. 91

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Defining Indian diaspora investors For the purposes of this chapter, investments by overseas Indians include FDI, FPI but also investing in diaspora bonds and special NRI accounts. Different terms have developed to describe people who trace their origins to modern-day India. Some of these terms are colloquially used, and some have different meanings in official policies and legal documents, making it difficult to assign singular meanings and definitions. From a sociological viewpoint, diasporic actors have been defined as all persons who originate from a certain country, self-identify with that country, and who maintain a meaningful cultural and social relationship with the country (Sheffer, 2003; Naujoks, 2013, 12). However, policy and legal definitions only partially overlap with academic conceptualizations and the former are important to understand specific benefits, collected data, and official narratives. The most common term used to describe diasporic Indians is Non-Resident Indians, or NRIs. Originally deriving from a tax category, the term used to refer to Indian citizens living in India for less than 182 days each year. In this sense, it is often used to distinguish Indian citizens living abroad from those who have acquired a different citizenship, who are referred to as PIOs. As an overarching category to include NRIs and PIOs, government documents and policies refer to the Indian diaspora, overseas Indians, or its Hindi equivalent Pravasi Bharatiya. However, when it comes to specific economic rights, different definitions exist. As per the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP)’s Consolidated FDI Policy (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, 2015), an NRI is defined as any individual resident outside India, who is a citizen of India or a PIO. A PIO is further defined as any former citizen; a person, whose parents or grandparents were Indian citizens; and spouses of any of these categories. In May 2015, the Government of India (2015) further amended India’s FDI policy by changing the definition of NRI to mean Indian citizens and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). Initially introduced as a surrogate for dual citizenship, OCI is a diasporic citizenship status that provides Indians who naturalized elsewhere with a status that allows them to live and work in India (Naujoks, 2013). While the Government of India (2015) justified this re-definition with the intention to “align the FDI policy with the stated policy of the Government to provide PIOs and OCIs parity with Non Resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of economic, financial and educational fields”, this amendment introduces a government-control as it requires Indians abroad to register as Overseas Citizens, which previously was not necessary. In any case, other laws still define NRIs as a broad category that is not restricted to overseas Indians with a specific legal status, as is the case for real estate acquisitions or for NRI deposit accounts.9 Until 2003, firms that were at least 60 per cent owned by NRIs were also given NRI investment privileges. Since these Overseas Corporate Bodies have been de-recognized as a special class of investors, from a legal and statistical perspective, investments by an NRI-owned company would not be considered NRI investments.

India’s diaspora investment policies India has a long history of special policies for diaspora investors. Already in 1979, the Malhotra Committee, appointed by the Department of Economic Affairs, suggested a range of incentives to increase NRI investments, which led to the adoption of specific concessions in the early 1980s (Rutten & Patel, 2007, 184). Although, since 1991, the Indian economy has gradually opened up to foreign investment, there are still procedural and sectoral limitations for FDI.10 Thus, it is important to note that there are some special regulations for NRIs. In order to attract 92

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and facilitate diaspora investments, different state actors in India have established a specific regulatory framework, institutions, and diaspora investment promotion policies. Only registered FPIs, foreign institutional investors (FII), that is, entities established or incorporated outside India and that are registered in India, and NRIs can invest through a registered broker in the capital of Indian companies on recognized Indian Stock Exchanges.11 Whereas non-diaspora FDI in the air transport industry is allowed up to 49 per cent of equity and for ground handling services up to 74 per cent only, NRIs can fully own firms in these sectors.12 While India’s FDI policy does not allow any FDI into firms engaged in real estate, FDI can be allocated to build townships, housing, and infrastructure. However, while certain conditions apply to non-diaspora FDI – such as the minimum area to be developed or to invest at least USD5 million within the first six months of the project – these restrictions do not apply to investments by NRIs. NRIs have the right to invest in partnership firms in India on a nonrepatriation basis and, with prior permission of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in sole proprietorship firms with the option to repatriate the investments, which is not open to non-NRI investors unless the Indian government specifically approves.13 Further, in 2015, the Government of India (2015) decided to treat investments by NRIs made on a non-repatriation basis on par with domestic investments made by Indian residents.

Government institutions and investment As early as the 1960s, India had set up the India Investment Centre (IIC) in order to increase remittance inflows and investment. The centre started as an agency of the Finance Ministry and was later incorporated into the Ministry of External Affairs. Its set-up, resources, and mandate turned it, however, into a non-viable enterprise. The High-Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora (2002, 539) notes that the “IIC was a promotional body and not an empowered one and was ineffective in interactions with the states and other organisations”. Similarly, in 1983, the Ministry of Economic Affairs established a special cell for NRI investment (Rutten & Patel, 2007, 184). In May 2004, the new government created the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) in order to provide information, partnerships, and facilitations for all matters related to overseas Indians.14 The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (n.d.) Strategic Plan highlights investment promotion as a key priority and assesses economic engagement with the diaspora as an opportunity, while assessing as concerns the “limited success with FDI from [the] Diaspora due to constraints in infrastructure and investment environment at local level”. In May 2007, MOIA set up the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) in a public–private partnership with one of the two largest industrial associations, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The OIFC’s main mandate is to promote and facilitate overseas Indian investments into India and facilitate business partnerships. This includes its function as a clearinghouse for investment-related information and the objective to assist Indian states to project investment opportunities.15 The government’s recent flagship initiatives Invest in India and Make in India increasingly aim at non-diasporic and diasporic audiences alike, and are planned to take over these services from OIFC.16 This exemplifies the general move towards incorporating NRI investment matters into general policies.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and NRI investments An important part of the government’s programme to connect with the diaspora and strengthen ties is the annual diaspora convention, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD). Since 2003, every 93

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January around the day Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa on 9 January 1915, this conference takes place in different cities in India. During the three-day meet of 1,000–1,500 overseas and resident Indians, panel discussions deliberate upon a wide range of subjects, such as India’s development, remittances and investment, diaspora philanthropy, and grievances among the diaspora.17 Since the first PBD in 2003, every year investments and business linkages play a key role at the annual gathering. For example, at the PBD in 2014, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted, “The Indian community’s contribution to India has also been invaluable . . . the entrepreneurs who bring investments into and promote exports from India”.18 In addition, at the PBDs in 2012 to 2015 the Indian government organized specific sessions on “Investment Opportunities in States”, during which five to seven chief ministers presented their states as promising destinations for NRI investments.19

Membership policies and NRI investments In order to establish comprehensive diaspora engagement policies that often aim at increasing economic contributions from diaspora communities, countries of origin can devise investmenttargeted policy measures or they can create places, platforms, and channels of communication to establish a relationship of communication with the diaspora. Introducing dual citizenship or a special ‘diaspora status’ can ease promotion of the idea of ‘one nation’ and connecting to the migrant communities. It might further serve as the basis for information dissemination or moral campaigns and decrease bureaucratic hurdles in the country of origin (Naujoks, 2013, 46). In 2003, India amended its citizenship act, introducing a new membership status, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) gives people of Indian origin without Indian citizenship the right to live and work in India without granting them any form of political participation. Another, slightly more limited membership status was the PIO card that was available from 1999 until January 2015.20 In December 2005, the first diasporic Indians were able to obtain their OCI certificates, and by January 2015, almost 1.7 million PIOs had OCI status in addition to their primary citizenship. The adoption of both statuses was connected to the expectation that these measures would increase Indian diaspora investment. When Minister of State for Home Affairs Shriprakash Jaiswal introduced the Bill that would implement OCI, he highlighted that: [v]ery soon all people of Indian origin after their registration as people of Indian origin will not only be able to visit India at any time for any purpose but they will also be able to invest in a large way in the Indian economy thus contributing towards our national goal of growth and development.21 Other parliamentarians stressed that “now, by this Bill, definitely a lot of [NRI] investment will come forth”.22 These statements are exemplary for several parliamentarians referring to the link of granting OCI and Indian diaspora investments.23 Examining the actual effects of this legislation, a recent study finds that such a legal status is of particular importance for diasporic involvement in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India. A legal status giving overseas Indians the right to easily implement their transnational livelihood strategies is prone to enhance their investment potential (Naujoks, 2013, ch. 8).

Patterns of Indian diaspora investment Having discussed India’s diaspora investment policies, the following section presents developments of NRI investments. The investment and involvement of diasporic Indians in the Indian 94

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IT and high-tech industry is well acknowledged (Saxenian, 2002; Hunger, 2004; Kapur, 2010). More than 22 per cent of Indian engineers in Silicon Valley invested in at least one start-up, almost 10 per cent of them even more than once (Dossani, 2002). In another study, three-quarters of the surveyed Indian professionals in Silicon Valley (77 per cent) had at least one friend who had returned to India to start a company and half of the respondents (52 per cent) travel to India for business purposes at least once a year. About a quarter of the respondents (23 per cent) self-report investment of their own money into Indian start-ups (Saxenian, 2002). In Chand’s (2014) convenience sample, almost a quarter of Indians in Canada and more than half in the US had invested in India. And in Capps and Nwosu’s (2014) survey, 23 per cent of Indians in the US planned to open a business in India, almost 30 per cent were interested in investing in a private commercial enterprise in India, but only 10 per cent had made an investment of more than USD50,000 in the past three years.

FDI and business operations ‘Foreign investment’ is usually understood as financial contribution to the equity capital of an enterprise or purchase of shares in the enterprise by a non-resident investor. Foreign investment is of two kinds – FDI and FPI. FDI is a category of cross-border investment made by a resident in one economy (the direct investor) with the objective of establishing a lasting interest24 in an enterprise (the direct investment enterprise) that is resident in an economy other than that of the direct investor (OECD, 2008, 17). It has been noted that the Indian diaspora differs strongly from the business diaspora of ethnic Chinese (Hunger, 2004; Kapur, 2010). Guha and Ray (2000) argue that diaspora involvement in FDI in China and India is substantially different because overseas Indians lack the skills in managing export production with low-wage labour. Roy and Banerjee (2007) further claim that the comparatively low level of diasporic investment is rooted in the Indian investment policy under which several products are reserved for SMEs and foreign investment into SMEs is limited to 24 per cent, making it difficult for many diasporic entrepreneurs, who are often retailers, to engage in those economic activities. On the other hand, Indians in the US include a high number of entrepreneurs, as they are 15 times more likely to own an incorporated firm than African Americans, 10 times more likely than Mexicans and 5 times more likely than Filipinos (Portes & Yiu, 2013, 85). Figure 7.1 shows the development of NRI FDI inflows in the period 1991–2016. Previously unpublished RBI data reveals that NRI investments were significant but that with larger overall increases of FDI their relative importance decreased. In the period 1991–1999, NRI investments accounted for almost a quarter of all inward FDI (23 per cent), while they averaged only 2 per cent of total FDI in the decade 2000–2010. In the most recent period, 2010–2015, NRI investments made up 0.5 per cent of total FDI inflows. However, Figure 7.1 illustrates that total investments were significant, ranging from a low of USD35 million in 2001–2002 to USD1.2 billion in 2008–2009. While NRI investments started to increase significantly in 2005, the strongest surge occurred during the time of the recession in the US from December 2007 until June 2009, which led to a global recession. This reflects the fact that the lack of international integration of Indian banks shielded the Indian economy from the first repercussions of the crisis (Bajpai, 2011). However, from 2008, the global financial crisis began to affect India through a withdrawal of capital from India’s financial markets (Bajpai, 2011), and, combined with the ebbing down of the economic crisis in the US and the rest of the world, so did the recorded investment inflows from NRIs. 95

50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0%

NRI Investments (millions USD)

1,200 1,000 800 600 400 200

NRI Investments

Figure 7.1



























NRI Investments as share of total FDI

Daniel Naujoks

NRI investments as share of total FDI

NRI foreign direct investment inflows into India (1991–2015)

Source: Reserve Bank of India.

Investing in capital accounts and diaspora bonds In the 1970s, the Government of India felt the need to stock up the country’s foreign exchange reserves. For this purpose, it authorized special deposit schemes for NRIs. From the 1990s onward, the policies kept in focus that a high volatility of such deposits could be detrimental to the country’s economic stability, which is why it sought to attract stable deposits. In order to increase the attractiveness of such schemes, accounts could be denominated in foreign or domestic currency. They also had a higher than normal interest rate and accounted for certain tax exemptions. Eligible for such accounts are NRIs defined for this purpose as persons resident outside India who are either a citizen of India or a PIO.25 An analysis of the movement in NRI deposits reveals that they grew steadily from USD14 billion in 1991 to USD115 billion in 2015. Today, three forms of such accounts exist, namely the Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee (NRO), Non-Resident (External) Rupee Account (NR(E)RA), and Foreign Currency Non-Resident (Banks) (FCNR(B)). The first two are accounts held in Indian rupees, and the latter is a foreign currency account. Figure 7.2 shows that when the trust in the rupee was low in 1991, only 26 per cent of deposits were held in rupee accounts. In 2015, in comparison, 63 per cent of all deposits were in local and only 37 per cent in foreign currencies. Only the current income and interest earnings from NRO deposits are repatriable, while the principal deposit is not. On the other hand, funds on an NRE account are repatriable, and can be transferred easily to another NRE account or to a FCNR(B) account and local payments can be freely made (Singh, 2006). For this reason, in 2015, only 8 per cent of all deposits were in the NRO category, while 54 per cent were in more flexible NRE accounts. When the Indian economy was in urgent need of foreign exchange, India issued three foreign currency diaspora bond schemes. In total, India received USD11.3 billion in foreign exchange from the three schemes, which were launched in order to help the country over the balance of payments crisis in 1991, strengthen the country when it suffered from sanctions imposed by the US and the World Bank in response to India’s nuclear tests in 1998, and smooth the effects of an adverse global economy in 2000 (Patra & Kapur, 2003, 17; Ketkar & Ratha, 2010, 252). On the first two schemes, there was no ‘patriotic discount’, which is a lower than market interest rate due to the ‘moral benefit of helping one’s country’; and the last bond scheme had only a very small discount. Instead, investors benefited from a higher than market interest rate 96

Indian diaspora investments

Foreign Currency Accounts Rupee Accounts Share of Rupee Accounts

Billion USD


90% 80% 70%


60% 60

50% 40%


30% 20%


10% 0 2015
























0% 1991

Figure 7.2

Share of Rupee accounts in total deposits



Outstanding NRI deposits (1991–2015)

Source: Own calculations, based on data from the Reserve Bank of India.

and India benefited because diaspora investors would not seek as high a country-risk premium as the market would have demanded (Ketkar & Ratha, 2010). An interesting side effect of those schemes is that upon redemption, a large part of the bonds have re-entered the country as current transfers to meet various local currency needs of the non-resident depositors and their families or as inflows into the above-mentioned deposit schemes (Patra & Kapur, 2003, 17; Chishti, 2007). Measuring differences in the success of diaspora sovereign bond schemes in various countries, Burgess and Pérez-Armendáriz (2013) find that bonds issued by India receive high scores both on success indicators, namely, on the funds raised relative to the size of each country’s emigrant population, and as a proportion of its target. Apart from the direct effects, the mere possibility of tapping the diaspora as a source for emergency finance can be beneficial. The resources that the country has to service debt have a determining impact on the country’s credit worthiness. Thus, the actual and potential inflows of capital from the diaspora lower India’s country-risk premium in international capital markets. The higher confidence of the international market in India’s credit worthiness is reflected in better ratings by international rating agencies, which in turn lead to a better and less expensive access to international finance markets (Ketkar & Ratha, 2010).

Diaspora portfolio investment For portfolio investment in shares and debentures through the stock exchanges, NRIs require prior approval of the RBI, which eventually is granted for a four-year period and can be continuously renewed. Overall, portfolio investments into India have grown much beyond FDI inflows. Ye (2014, 124) sees this as a sign that India is no longer opposed to foreign capital, as long as it occurs in the form of investments that do not involve establishing physical operations in the country. In India, only three categories of foreign investors are allowed to invest into the primary and secondary capital markets through the portfolio investment scheme. These are FIIs, NRIs, and PIOs. The ceiling for overall investment by each of these categories is limited as a percentage of the paid-up capital of the Indian company. These limits are 24 per cent of the paid-up capital in the case of FIIs, and 10 per cent of the paid-up capital in the case of NRIs and PIOs, which can be raised to 24 per cent by resolution by the general body of the company. The limit is 20 per cent of the paid-up capital in the case of public sector banks.26 97

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Assets in 100 million INR

900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12


Figure 7.3




Monthly portfolio investment assets held by NRIs (2012–2015)

Source: Custodians of securities.

In addition to the aggregate limits described above, there are also limits on the investment by any individual NRI/PIO – an investment made on a repatriation basis by any single NRI/PIO in the equity shares and convertible debentures in a company may not exceed 5 per cent of the paid-up equity capital of the company or 5 per cent of the total paid-up value of each series of convertible debentures issued by the company (Reserve Bank of India, 2016). Figure 7.3 shows the development of portfolio investments held by NRIs in the period 2012– 2015. The average assets held by NRIs in each calendar year ranged from INR16 billion, approx. USD262 million, in 2014 to INR33 billion, or USD618 million, in 2012. The steep drop of the investments in May 2013, when assets held by NRIs dropped by 90 per cent from INR82.7 billion to 8 billion can be explained by developments regarding US tax regulations. In 2010, the US had adopted the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and in April 2013, it became public that the governments of the US and India were in the process of finalizing an agreement that would make the law applicable to Indian financial institutions.27 This agreement gave the US Internal Revenue Service access to information about accounts and assets held by American tax residents with financial institutions in India, thus scaring US residents who had undisclosed accounts or assets in Indian financial institutions. It also established cumbersome registration, compliance, and diligence obligations for foreign financial institutions that sought US investments, such as mutual funds, and subjected non-compliant entities to severe penalties. For this reason, several Indian funds and investment vehicles adopted policies to exclude US-based customers. Interestingly, the same legislation was responsible for the massive spike in December 2012, when investments rose by 170 per cent from INR30.9 to 83.5 billion. When the US Department of the Treasury released the second model intergovernmental agreement in November 2012, the Government of India officially stated that it would seek ways to shield Indian financial institutions from the effects of the law.28 These links between international tax and financial disclosure policies and investment flows showcase not only the relevance regulatory frameworks can have but also that a large amount of portfolio investments in India are held by US-based NRIs (see Table 7.1).

The impact of diaspora investments More important than the aggregate inflows of investments are the actual development impacts that follow. Unfortunately, we know little about the actual impacts of NRI investments on Indian economic development, or that of foreign investments more generally. 98

Indian diaspora investments Table 7.1 Portfolio investments: annual average of assets under control by NRIs

2012 2013 2014 2015

INR (in 100 million)

USD (in million)

330.7 317.8 159.8 236.2

618.8 542.2 261.9 368.1

Sources: Assets under control by NRIs: custodians of securities; exchange rate: International Monetary Fund, average annual exchange rate.

Scholarship offers three explanations as to why diaspora investment, particularly diaspora FDI, may have a better impact on development in localities of origin than other forms of foreign capital. The first explanation is based on the comparative advantages of diaspora entrepreneurs, who are supposed to be better informed, can make better use of social networks to decrease risk, and generally engage more effectively in investment activities (Balasubramanyam, 2005). Second, it is postulated that diaspora investments could be channelled more into underdeveloped sectors of the economy, which may lead to a lesser crowding out of domestic resources (Riddle & Nielsen, 2011, 234). Lastly, several scholars argue – mostly from a theoretical, or empirically inspired viewpoint – that diaspora investments may be characterized by superior qualities compared with other forms of investments, because diaspora investors are interested not only in financial returns but also in non-financial motives, which makes their investments more stable and benign with particularly positive effects for employment and technology spillovers.29 India’s inward FDI has been much less export-oriented than, for example, FDI in China (Ye, 2014, 121). Apart from investments flowing into the IT sector, the bulk of investments were made by Western multinational companies targeting Indian consumer markets (Ye, 2014, 128). For this reason, India aims at actively encouraging stronger development effects of FDI. In March 2015, India released the latest draft of its Model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that foresees greater protection for the Indian state and its ability to regulate investors (Jandhyala, 2015). The new model treaty aims to align investments with sustainable development and inclusive growth, and it requires investors to make a substantial and long-term commitment of capital in India, to hire a substantial number of local employees, and to make a substantial contribution to India’s development through its operations, along with transfer of technological knowhow. The model agreement requires foreign investors to contribute to India’s development and to operate by recognizing the rights, traditions, and customs of local communities in order to obtain treaty benefits. Investors are also required to avoid corruption, be transparent about financial transactions, and comply with host country taxation policies.30 Assuming a different effect between NRI and other FDI investments, a seasoned Indian MP expresses that: [s]everal NRIs can be brought in instead of leaving it to a multinational. The multinationals will take away the money from our country. How does the country benefit by that? If [UK-based, India-born steel magnate] Shri LN Mittal were to be brought in – he is a Non-Resident Indian – he may bring in some more attractive investment and then spread it to [the] bio-technology area as also [sic] various other areas.31 The impact of diaspora investments depends on several factors, in particular on the motivation and willingness of diaspora investors to share technology with local partners, on the sector of 99

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the economy, and their actual practices. Recent surveys on investment behaviour of Indians in the US show that financial returns are most important for their investment decisions, followed by social impact (Naujoks, 2013, 320–324; US Agency for International Development, 2014, ii). Analysing NRI investments in India in the period 1991–2004, Dreher et al. (2013, 95–96) find that FDI projects undertaken by NRIs appear to be discouraged more strongly by higher relative political risk. The authors interpret this as the effect of better information about political risk in India among NRIs, as compared with other foreign investors. In addition, their findings suggest that FDI projects by NRIs are less reliant on skilled local labour than FDI projects from other sources. However, as there is little systematic evidence on the actual impact of such capital flows, it is unclear to what extent narratives of diaspora investments’ development effects are wishful thinking or actual practice. In fact, recent studies in other countries show that firms with diaspora investments do not create more employment, have stronger local partnerships, or pay higher wages (Graham, 2013; Naujoks & Kriaa, 2016).

Conclusions Indian diaspora investments are multi-faceted. They are omnipresent in India’s discourse on diaspora engagement and have led to a diverse set of institutions and policies. These developments are likely to continue as the international community increasingly shifts the spotlight on migrants’ financial and other development contributions. This is strongly reflected in the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which emphasize the positive contributions of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development. On the other hand, it needs to be recognized that diaspora investment, especially diaspora FDI, is only a fraction of total FDI flows. For this reason, governments that are attempting to attract large-scale investments are not necessarily looking towards their diaspora. The former Director-General of India’s CII explains: [w]e have the infrastructure challenge. But the diaspora don’t invest in infrastructure. It’s too big. They are not keen on putting in a billion dollars or 200 million dollars . . . If they can upgrade 100 schools or they can help to modernize 100 hospitals that will be very worthwhile.32 Also the former Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission expresses that in his view, the typical diaspora investor is rather “an angel investor or is a venture capital guy [who] comes along and says, ‘Look, I’m going to put 20 million dollars into India’. It’s not a big amount of money.”33 For this reason, much of the Indian government’s interest has focused on opening investment opportunities for all foreign investors, while steering investments towards particular development effects. Diaspora investors are thus covered by general institutions and campaigns, such as the new Make in India initiative. At the same time, the government employs an NRI-specific rhetoric and produces special knowledge products to convey to Indian diaspora communities that their investments are appreciated. It remains to be seen whether recent trends, including diasporic social impact investments, and the increasing transnationalization of Indian diaspora communities with its social, political, and economic repercussions, will lead to empowered Indian communities that will not only advance international investment rankings but also bring more equitable opportunities for people in India. 100

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Notes 1 I would like to thank the Reserve Bank of India – especially Monika Pahadekar, Bhupal Singh, and Dhirendra Gajbhiye – for sharing NRI investment data. Special thanks also to my interviewees who generously shared their valuable insights. 2 I will discuss the concepts and definitions of diaspora, NRI, and PIO in more detail later in this chapter. For an introduction to India’s diaspora engagement, see Dubey (2011). 3 In the period 1992–2015, 106 official questions were tabled by Indian parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha (lower house), requesting specific information on NRI investments from the government. 4 For more information, see the archived online information at 5 USAID press release of 26 January 2015, archived at 6 See Kugler and Rapoport (2005); Javorcik et al. (2006); Docquier and Lodigiani (2010); Leblang (2010); Anwar and Mughal (2013). 7 Meta-analysis is the technique of statistically combining the results of different studies that largely address the same impact question (Gheasi et al., 2011, 6). 8 However, these studies generally operate on a highly aggregate level and Leblang (2010, fn 23) notes that if data is restricted to investment flows from rich countries into poor countries, the statistical significance of the positive correlation goes away. 9 Viz. section 6 (3) (i) of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and FEMA Regulations 21/2000-RB, Regulation 4 of the FEM (Acquisition and Transfer of Immoveable Property in India) Regulations, 2000 (as amended in 2006 and 2009), and para 2 (vi) of FEM (Deposit) Regulations, 2000. 10 See Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (2015, para 6.1) for general restrictions for FDI. 11 Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (2015, para 3.1.5), and Schedules 2, 2A and 3 respectively of Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident Outside India) Regulations, 2000. 12 See Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (2015, para–4). 13 However, no investments are permitted for agricultural activities, see Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (2015, para 3.2.2.). 14 Technically, it first created the Ministry of Non-Resident Indian Affairs, which was renamed MOIA in September 2004. In early 2016, MOIA was merged with the Ministry of External Affairs. 15 The OIFC, in cooperation with so-called ‘knowledge partners’, has produced five guides on NRI investments, including the Guide Book for Overseas Indians on Foreign Direct Investments in India (2009). 16 Author’s interviews with managers at the initiatives and OIFC in February 2016. 17 2016 was the first year that the government decided not to hold a single large gathering. For a critical assessment of the PBD, see Mani and Varadarajan (2008). 18 Speech on 8 January 2014, archived at 19 Also outside the centrally organized PBDs, Indian states are wooing their communities residing abroad to invest into their economies, through dedicated websites, such as Uttar Pradesh’s (archived at, or state offices, such as the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department in Kerala or the NRI Cell within Puducherry’s Department of Industries and Commerce. 20 For more details on the privileges and limitations of OCI and the PIO card, see Naujoks (2013, chs. 1, 3), Xavier (2011). 21 Statement made during Rajya Sabha (upper house) debate on 29 July 2005; author’s translation from Hindi. 22 V. Narayanasamy (INC) during the Rajya Sabha (upper house) debate on 29 July 2005. 23 Further examples include the statements by Ajay Maroo (BJP) and Mangni Lal Mandal (RJD) during the Rajya Sabha (upper house) debate on 29 July 2005 and K. S. Rao (INC), Chandramani Tripathi (BJP), Shailendra Kumar (SP), and Ram Kirpal Yadav (RJD) during the Lok Sabha (lower house) debate on 16 August 2005. 24 However, it is acknowledged that, sometimes, investments are made to strip companies of their assets and thus are not for a lasting relationship (OECD, 2008, 22). 25 For this purpose, PIOs are (i) persons, being a citizen of any country other than Pakistan and Bangladesh, who at any time held an Indian passport; or (ii) a person who himself or either of his parents or any of his grandparents were citizens of India; or (iii) a spouse of an Indian citizen; or (iv) a spouse of a person covered under (i) or (ii) above. Viz. para 2 (xii) of FEM (Deposit) Regulations, 2000 to FEMA 1999.


Daniel Naujoks 26 In June 2016, 89 Indian companies allowed NRIs/PIOs investment of up to 24 per cent of their paidup capital and one company with up to 17 per cent (Reserve Bank of India, 2016). 27 The agreement was signed in July and came into force in August 2013; however, the news about its imminent signing was widely publicized in April 2013. 28 See Times of India, Nov 27, 2012, archived at 29 See Gillespie et al. (1999); Javorcik et al. (2006); Riddle and Nielsen (2011, 235–236). 30 See Preamble and Articles 1, 9–12 of the BIT. 31 Statement by K. S. Rao (INC) during Lok Sabha (lower house) debate on 16 August 2005. 32 Author’s interview with Tarun Das, then Chief Mentor and former Director-General of CII, on 23 May 2008. 33 Author’s interview with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, on 6 June 2008.

References Anwar, A. and Mughal, M. (2013). The Role of Diaspora in Attracting Indian Outward FDI. International Journal of Social Economics, 40(11), 944–955. Bajpai, N. (2011). Global Financial Crisis, Its Impact on India and the Policy Response. Working Paper No. 5. Columbia Global Center Mumbai. Balasubramanyam, V. N. (2005). The Diaspora and Development. Malaysian Journal of Economic Studies, 42(1/2), 7–18. Burgess, K. and Pérez-Armendáriz, C. (2013). Explaining the Mixed Record of Diaspora Bonds. Paper Presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL. Capps, R. and Nwosu, C. (2014). Analysis of Diaspora Pilot Meeting Survey Results. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Chand, M. (2014). Diaspora Identity, Acculturation Policy and FDI: The Indian Diaspora in Canada and the United States. Asian Business and Management, 13(4), 283–308. Chishti, M. (2007). The Rise in Remittances to India: A Closer Look. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). (2015). Consolidated FDI Policy. New Delhi: Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. Docquier, F. and Lodigiani, E. (2010). Skilled Migration and Business Networks. Open Economies Review, 21(4), 565–588. Dossani, R. (2002). Chinese and Indian Engineers and their Networks in Silicon Valley. Working Paper. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, CA. Dreher, A., Nunnenkamp, P. and Chaitanya Vadlamannati. L. (2013). The Role of Country-of-Origin Characteristics for Foreign Direct Investment and Technical Cooperation in Post-Reform India. World Development, 44, 88–109. Dubey, A. (2011). India and the Indian Diaspora. In: D. Scott, ed., Handbook of India’s International Relations. London: Routledge, pp. 255–264. Gheasi, M., Nijkamp P. and Rietveld, P. (2011). Migrants and International Economic Linkages: A Meta-Overview. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper, 2011-147/3, Amsterdam. Gillespie, K., Riddle, L., Sayre E. and Sturges, D. (1999). Diaspora Interest in Homeland Investment. Journal of International Business Studies, 30(3), 623–634. Government of India. (2015). Review of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy on Investments by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs). Press Note from 21 May 2015, Press Information Bureau. Graham, B. (2013). Diaspora-Owned Firms and Social Responsibility. Review of International Political Economy, 21(2), 432–466. Guha, A. and Ray, A. (2000). Multinational versus Expatriate FDI: A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese and Indian Experience. Working Paper No. 58. New Delhi: Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. High-Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora. (2002). Report on the Indian Diaspora. New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Hunger, U. (2004). Indian IT-Entrepreneurs in the US and India. An Illustration of the ‘Brain Gain Hypothesis’. Journal of Comparative Policy-Analysis, 6(2), 99–109. Jandhyala, S. (2015). Bringing the State Back In: India’s 2015 Model BIT. Columbia FDI Perspectives No. 154, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment.


Indian diaspora investments Javorcik, B., Özden, Ç., Spatareanu, M. and Neagu, C. (2006). Migrant Networks and Foreign Direct Investment. Policy Research Working Paper 4046. Washington, DC: World Bank. Kapur, D. (2010). Diaspora, Development and Democracy. The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Ketkar, S. and Ratha, D. (2010). Diaspora Bonds: Tapping the Diaspora during Difficult Times. Journal of International Commerce, Economics and Policy, 1(2), 251–263. Kugler, M. and Rapoport, H. (2005). Skilled Emigration, Business Networks and Foreign Direct Investment. CESifo Working Paper No. 1455. Munich, Germany: Center for Economic Studies. Leblang, D. (2010). Familiarity Breeds Investment: Diaspora Networks and International Investment. American Political Science Review, 104(3), 584–600. Mani, B. and Varadarajan, L. (2008). The Largest Gathering of the Global Indian Family: Neoliberalism, Nationalism, and Diaspora at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. Diaspora, 14(1), 45–74. Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. (n.d.). Strategic Plan. Plan.pdf archived at Naujoks, D. (2010). India and Its Diaspora. Changing Research and Policy Paradigms. In: D. Thränhardt and M. Bommes, eds, National Paradigms of Migration Research. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, pp. 269–300. Naujoks, D. (2013). Migration, Citizenship and Development. Diasporic Membership Policies and Overseas Indians in the United States. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Naujoks, D. and Kriaa, M. (2016). Assessing the Impact of Diaspora Investments in Tunisia. New York: United Nations Development Programme. OECD. (2008). OECD Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment. 4th edition. Paris: OECD. Patra, M. D. and Kapur, M. (2003). India’s Workers Remittances: A Users’ Lament about Balance of Payments Compilation. Paper Prepared for the Sixteenth Meeting of the IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics, Washington, DC. Portes, A. and Yiu, J. (2013). Entrepreneurship, Transnationalism, and Development. Migration Studies, 1(1), 75–95. Reserve Bank of India. (2016). Investment in Indian Companies by FIIs/NRIs/PIOs. Available from: (Accessed on 8 January 2016) and archived at www.webcitation. org/6eOWtvET5. Riddle, L. and Nielsen, T. M. (2011). Policies to Strengthen Diaspora Investment and Entrepreneurship: Cross-National Perspectives. In: K. Sharma, A. Kashyap, M. Montes and P. Ladd, eds, Realizing the Development Potential of Diasporas. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, pp. 230–251. Roy, J. and Banerjee, P. (2007). Attracting FDI from the Indian Diaspora: The Way Forward. New Delhi: Confederation of Indian Industry. Rutten, M. and Patel, P. J. (2007). Contested Family Relations and Government Policy: Linkages between Patel Migrants in Britain and India. In: G. Oonk, ed., Global Indian Diasporas: Exploring Trajectories of Migration and Theory. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 167–194. Saxenian, A. (2002). Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California. Sheffer, G. (2003). Diaspora Politics: At Home Abroad. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Singh, B. (2006). Cross-Border Workers’ Remittances: Transmission Channels and Measurement Issues in India. Remittances Statistics: First Meeting of the Luxembourg Group. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund. US Agency for International Development. (2014). The US Indian Diaspora: Investment Preferences and Demand for a Fixed-Income Social-Impact Investment. Washington, DC: USAID. United Nations. (2013). International Migration Policies. Government Views and Priorities. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Xavier, C. (2011). Experimenting with Diasporic Incorporation: The Overseas Citizenship of India. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 17(1), 34–53. Ye, M. (2014). Diasporas and Foreign Direct Investment in China and India. New York: Cambridge University Press.



India has recently joined other sending country governments in acknowledging its diaspora’s potential role in homeland development. Academics have followed suit by debating whether the diaspora’s effect on sending country development has been positive or negative. While this literature has been useful in highlighting sending countries in the migration literature, its emphasis on individual connections to the homeland presents an incomplete picture of diaspora involvement in the migration–development nexus. This chapter introduces a new research project that sheds light on the group-based connections that the Indian diaspora uses to affect India’s development. Such efforts, which are prevalent, take place through transnational organizations that are founded and led by Indian-Americans to send financial and social remittances to India. Understanding how the Indian diaspora’s group-based initiatives shape India’s development agenda is important for several reasons. First, we know that organizations are more than and different from the sum of their individual members (Dimaggio & Powell, 1983). Therefore, transnational diaspora organizations lend insights into a unique actor in the migration–development nexus. Second, unlike individual remittances, group-based diaspora initiatives conducted through transnational organizations create formal, sustained linkages with institutions in India. Therefore, they are easier to examine and highlight migrants’ long-term development efforts. Third, diaspora organizations show the unique role that varying identities have on contemporary development ideologies in India. These identities include religious, ethnic, caste, and gender, as well as professional and political affiliation. Modern organizations reflect the myths of their institutional environments rather than the actual demands of their work activities, because doing so is more likely to ensure organizations’ ability to attain legitimacy, resources, and even survival (Meyer & Rowan, 1977). Drawing from this, I use transnational organizations as an expression of migrants’ varying collective identities, which in turn are shaped by constructed understandings of communities as a social group embedded in particular socioeconomic relations in the homeland. Finally, transnational organizations expose the understudied channels of power dynamics that undergird the contemporary migration–development nexus. They capture the power hierarchies shaping India’s domestic political economy and the international world system in which India resides. In this chapter, I outline the gaps in the migration and development literature with regard to collective efforts. I then detail the research project that I launched to fill these gaps. Third, 104

Transnational diaspora organizations

I explain why the Indian-American diaspora is prone to forming transnational organizations, outlining the characteristics of these organizations and their historical formations. Finally, I review my findings to show how since the 1980s, Indian-American transnational organizations have not only reflected social, economic, and political trends in India, but have also shaped them.

The contemporary migration and development literature It has become a common trope, particularly in the Indian diaspora literature, to note Kapur’s (2010) expression that “migration has become the new development mantra”. In the global literature, a consensus is emerging that migrants’ transnational activities in their host countries, while numerically small, are significant for shaping homeland development patterns (Guarnizo et al., 2003). Migrants shape homeland development through two channels. The first is “financial remittances”, defined as economic transfers that flow from migrant workers’ incomes abroad to their homeland and household (Sirkeci et al., 2012, 16). The second is “social remittances”, defined as non-financial contributions that migrants make to their homeland, such as ideas, identities, practices, discourses, politics, skills, and technology (Levitt, 1999). Both sets of studies, however, are limited.

Financial remittances The most researched impact of migration on development has been the capital flows that it brings to sending countries in the form of remittances from workers abroad (Rodrik, 2005). Nearly 95 per cent of overseas Indians send money to their families and friends in India to support education, health, or other personal concerns (Sampradaan, 2001). From 1990 to 2015, India’s remittances grew from US$2 billion to US$72 billion (RBI, 2006). Since 2008, India has been the largest remittance-receiving country in the world (China received $64 billion in 2015) (KNOMAD, 2016). By the early 2000s, remittances contributed more to India’s national revenue than software exports (OIFC, 2009). India’s remittances have benefited its economy. They have provided the foreign exchange needed to offset India’s merchandise trade deficit through the 1990s (RBI, 2006). In addition, because they are paid directly to families, they assist poor households in purchasing consumer goods, maintaining their homes, increasing social protection and social clout, and financing community projects (NSSO, 2010). Remittances also come with considerable costs. In India, remittances engulf migrants in cycles of indebtedness before departure and unemployment upon return (Khadria, 2007). Persisting power relations within households often pervert the use of remittances towards and from women (Walton-Roberts, 2012). The indirect tax yields from remittances in India are less than the earnings lost due to the emigration of India’s most skilled labour (Desai et al., 2009). Finally, remittances have proved more effective in providing short-term fixes on market failures than contributing to long-term development (Taylor, 1999). The debates on the impact of financial remittances on India’s development, while useful, are limited in two ways. First, they focus on individual migrants’ remittances, providing little insight into remittances sent through collective resource pooling. Second, financial remittances tend to capture the efforts of temporary migrants and lend less insight into the efforts of permanent migrants, who are said to send fewer financial remittances. Given the large number of permanent Indian migrants in the US, combined with the evidence that non-recent migrants are more likely to form transnational organizations, we must strive to better understand the diversity of migrants’ collective interactions with India. 105

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Social remittances Recently, scholars have highlighted social remittances to capture the non-financial contributions that migrants make to their homelands. These studies help us understand how emigrants not only contribute to income growth (or income inequality), but also shape developmental ideologies. As well, social remittances are sent by permanent and temporary migrants, at the individual and collective levels. Several studies on social remittances have highlighted Indians in the US, addressing two aspects. The first involves Indian-Americans’ ability to affect land prices and shape Indian middle class tastes through real estate investments. Indian-Americans have been credited (and critiqued) for the boom in Indian land prices. In Delhi, 20 per cent of properties worth over 10 million rupees (US$250,000) were bought or funded by overseas Indians (Chishti, 2007). Similar trends have been found in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh (Taylor et al., 2007). In addition to boosting land prices, diaspora real estate investments have shaped Indian middle class aspirations and exclusiveness. This can be seen through the growth of “Western-influenced” condominium projects that cater to the assumed tastes of Indian-American consumers (Bose, 2008) and increased investments in distinction where Indian diasporic investments in real estate have been high, such as in Punjab, Gujarat, and Kerala. Such investments include communities marked by gilded gates and water tanks in the shapes of eagles, aeroplanes, and footballs (Osella & Osella, 2000; Ramji, 2006). Second, scholars have noted Indian-American information technology (IT) workers’ transmission of skills and ideas. The Indian community in the Silicon Valley has been instrumental in shaping Indian institutional reforms to develop India’s venture capital industry and policies to deregulate India’s telecommunications industry (Saxenian, 2002). As well, some Indian-Americans have begun to re-channel the infamous brain drain towards “brain circulation”, where they return to India to start new companies while maintaining social and professional ties to the US (Saxenian, 2005). In doing so, they transfer IT knowledge, as well as professional identities and worldviews. As with studies on financial remittances, studies on social remittances’ effects on Indian development have been useful but limited to individual-level interactions, leaving us with little understanding of the role diaspora organizations play in transmitting Western tastes and/or IT know-how to India. Yet we know that Indian diaspora groups are extant and participating in such exchanges.

A research project on Indian-American transnational organizations To address this gap in the literature, we launched a project entitled the Comparative Immigrant Organization Project (CIOP), which includes India, China, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Colombia, and which takes immigrants’ transnational organizations as its unit of analysis. Organizations capture sustained and overt transnational efforts, financial and social remittances, permanent and temporary migrants, and immigrants’ self-expressed motivations. To analyse Indians’ transnational efforts, I first compiled an inventory of 624 Indian transnational organizations that operate nationally, virtually, and in the four metropolitan statistical areas where over 55 per cent of the Indian-American population resides.1 All organizations in the inventory began before 2009, have had at least one project in India since 2005, and are founded and led by a person of Indian origin. Therefore, the inventory reflects immigrant logics, rather than those of multi-lateral organizations staffed by Indian-Americans. This inventory is the first of its kind for the US-based Indian population. Data for the inventory were collected using online databases, Indian business directories, websites, Indian-American newspapers, and advertisements for India Day Parades in the US. 106

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After analysing the inventory, the organizations were categorized based on their self-identified “type” since this is where I found significant variation. These categories are: religious, ethnic/ linguistic, development, arts, professional/alumni, human rights, and political party. Multiple categories were allowed and were primarily employed by religious organizations. By analysing the varying types of transnational diaspora organizations, I am able to examine the differences between financial and social remittances motivated by varying identities. I then conducted semi-structured interviews with scholars, government officials, and leaders of transnational organizations in the US and in India. For the US-based organization interviews, I first drew from my inventory to identify the principal organizations in each category. Principal organizations were defined as those representing a significant portion of the community (be it an ethnic, professional, or religious group) and having a voice that is recognized by individuals, other organizations, and government officials in the US and India. The final list of principal organizations varied in terms of membership size and budgets, enabling me to control for resource-based explanations. I then interviewed the leaders of the principal organizations in the US and their partners in India. I focused on leaders for two reasons. First, leaders provide official articulations of the discursive elements of organizations’ collective efforts, thereby highlighting how different groups (not individuals) publicly interpret and assign meaning to their own identities. Second, leaders are often the key conduits in transnational interactions between the US and India-based organizations and Indian government officials; they thus provide the most insights into how their organizations translate their identities into development goals in India. By limiting my interviews to organizational leaders, I was able to control for intra-organizational politics and difference, which is not my focus. Interviewees were identified using a snowball technique based on interviews with scholars, activists, and other informants knowledgeable about Indian diaspora affairs in the US. Because the network of Indian transnational organizations in the US is close and influenced by the “major” organizations, this purposeful sampling technique offered more useful insights into general patterns than a random sampling approach (Neuman, 2011). I found that organization leaders and government officials were eager to participate in the interviews as a way to increase the visibility of their organizations’ activities; only one person declined the invitation to participate. My interview sample of 69 organization leaders roughly represented the inventory distribution of organizations by type (see Table 8.1). My interviews oversampled “religious combination” organizations, because they yield important insights into the transnational politics and identities of Indian immigrants, and professional/alumni organizations, because they represent a primary focus of the Indian government. Interviews were held in person (at the organization office, the leader’s home, or in a restaurant) or over the phone and lasted one to four hours. In India, I conducted 66 in-person interviews with leaders of the partner organizations interviewed in the US, government officials, and scholars.2 Interviews with Indian government officials, all of whom were involved in issues concerning overseas Indians, provided a useful lens on how the Indian state interprets its interactions with migrant organizations and how it translates these interactions into Indian development ideologies. To capture the differences in Indian state policies towards migrants at the federal versus states level, I conducted interviews and site visits in Delhi, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. Unlike in the US, geographic variation among organizations in India is largely due to the linguistic and cultural boundaries of Indian states. In addition, state-level governments differ in their policies toward expatriates. For these reasons, the Indian-American community has gradually turned away from initial pan-Indian organizations to form state-based organizations. Both states covered in the study are prosperous, have embraced liberalization and globalization, and have 107

Rina Agarwala Table 8.1 Distribution of organization type in interview sample vs. inventory Organization type

Number in inventory

% of inventory organizations

Number interviewed

% of interviewed organizations

Religious/religious combination Ethnic/caste/ linguistic/identity Development/ health/education Professional/alumni Arts/cultural Human rights Political Total













51 50 17 16 624

8.2 8.0 2.7 2.6 100

13 5 3 2 69

18.8 7.2 4.3 2.9 100

Note: “Religious combination” organizations combine religion with development, arts, linguistic identity, human rights, political, or alumni.

pursued their diasporas as a development resource. Politically and socially, however, they differ in ways that have shaped varying forms of transnational connections. The interview transcripts were then coded by theme and analysed to identify the patterns, actions, and interpretations of the different categories of organizations in the US and India. This approach enabled me to uncover the social processes and mechanisms that often remain hidden in survey data. As with most studies that draw from qualitative interviews, the findings in this study do not purport to be generalizable to all transnational religious organizations. Rather, they provide an important, extremely under-examined, meso-level contribution to our understanding of immigrants’ collective transnational religious identities.

Indian-American transnational organizations Studies show that educated, well-integrated, first-generation migrants are most likely to form transnational organizations with their homeland (Portes et al., 2007). Indian-Americans fit these characteristics well. The majority of adult Indians in the US are first-generation migrants who have been in the US for at least a decade. Aside from a small number of farmers who migrated to California from the Indian state of Punjab in the early 1900s, Indian migration to the US did not begin until the 1965 US immigration laws abolished the national origins quota system, enabling Americans to recruit professionals in industries deemed necessary for US growth. Indians’ English proficiency and training in science and engineering (both sponsored by the Indian government’s commitment to industrialization during the 1950s) positioned Indians to take advantage of these shifts in US immigration laws. From 1960 to 1990, the Indian-born population in the US jumped from 12,296 to 450,406 (Gibson & Lennon, 1999). This wave of migrants was largely permanent. The second wave of Indians in the US, constituting nearly half of the Indian-born population in the US today, arrived after 1999 when employers recruited skilled Indians to staff the expanding IT sector. Between 2000 and 2008, the Indian-born population in ten states increased by more than 50 per cent (Terrazas & Batog, 2010). This wave of migrants has been largely temporary. In both waves, Indian immigration to the US has been elite. Nearly 75 per cent of Indians in the US over the age of 25 are college graduates, 67 per cent are professionals, their median 108

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household income is over $90,000, and their poverty rate is 4.6 per cent. Indian-Americans’ socio-economic status is higher than that of average Americans, Asian-American immigrants, and Indians in India (GOI, Ministry of External Affairs, 2000). Nearly 80 per cent of Indian-Americans report being able to speak English “very well” (American Community Survey, 2009). Today, Indians continue to receive the bulk of H-1B visas, which allow skilled overseas employees to temporarily work in the US. Given these characteristics, we should expect Indian-Americans to be active in forming transnational organizations. Not surprisingly, I found that in just four US cities, IndianAmericans have founded and head up over 600 active transnational organizations. Two-thirds of these organizations operate in a single city, while one-third operate at the national or international level with local chapters. Approximately 10 per cent serve as umbrella organizations. Although there are a few large, high-profile groups, most Indian transnational organizations are small. Seventy per cent have fewer than 1,000 members, and 75 per cent have an annual budget under US$1 million. Over 70 per cent have no paid staff and operate through volunteers. Several traits about Indian-American transnational organizations are worth noting for their consistency with other countries’ diasporas. First, I find the highly educated, most integrated, elite Indian-Americans are most active in leading the transnational organizations. Although working class Indians are active in some religious organizations, they are nearly absent from leadership positions across Indian transnational organizations.3 Studies have attributed these trends to the surplus human and social capital that more integrated, educated migrants have. Second, I find that men are more active in Indian-American transnational organizations than women. Although women’s participation is higher in religious and ethnic organizations where membership is family-based, women are nearly absent from leadership positions across all organizations. Scholars have argued that women gain power through migration and thus focus on their host countries, while men lose power through migration and thus look “homeward” (Grasmuck & Pessar, 1991). This trend may also reflect patriarchal norms among Indian diasporic families, where men assume leadership positions, rather than women. Finally, I find that first-generation Indians are more active than the second generation, although some religious and development organizations provide exceptions. Among firstgeneration immigrants, the younger cohort (largely IT professionals aged 25–40) is more active and has more trust in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) than the older cohort (traditional professionals aged 50 and above). These consistencies with other diasporas’ transnational organizations call on scholars to fold India into the global discussions on the impact of diaspora organizations on homeland development.

The Indian state and transnational diaspora organizations in the US From the start, Indian-American transnational organizations have been a function of social and political factors taking place in India. But since the 1980s, they have also begun to shape social and political factors in India (Agarwala, 2015a, 2015b). Specifically, Indian-Americans use transnational organizations to affect Indian development outcomes and discourses. IndianAmericans’ elite status in the US, alongside the US’s elevated status as the super-power role model for India’s contemporary economic agenda, bolsters the legitimacy of Indian-Americans’ input.

Early state–diaspora relations Indian-American transnational organizations have long risen and fallen according to Indian government support. The first Indian-American organizations emerged in the early 1900s 109

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among the minority of Muslim and Sikh men who migrated from Punjab to California to work as agricultural labourers. Rather than dividing along their religious differences, they united along their common language and socio-economic status as poor farmers. In the US, they created organizations to fight for South Asian representation in the US government and for Indian independence. The leaders of the independence movement in India targeted diaspora members for financial and human support and thus encouraged their transnational organizational efforts. In response to this support, nearly 2,000 Punjabi farmers in the US participated in the Ghadar Movement, where they travelled to India to fight British colonial rule. After these early initiatives, however, the newly independent Indian government did not retain links to its diaspora, and new Indian transnational organizations did not emerge in the US for decades. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Indian migrants in the US formed organizations to create familiar communities and help them assimilate in the US. By the mid-1970s, many Indian religious organizations had purchased physical structures (a temple, gurudwara, or church) where religious rituals could be formally and publicly practised. Most of these institutions retained close ties to a parent body back in India. Rarely, however, did Indian-Americans during this period sponsor group-based development initiatives in India (although individual contributions to family members at home continued). During this period, the Indian government relied on Indian migrants to ease India’s labour surplus and build its foreign exchange reserves through remittances. However, the government also worked hard to keep migrants’ inputs to Indian development invisible and did little to foster diasporic ties to the homeland. Instead, after India gained independence in 1947, the Indian government urged its emigrants to identify with their host countries, rather than India. This message fit well with India’s nationalist import-substituting industrialization paradigm of the time and its efforts to ensure national order. The Indian government was reeling from the bloody partition of independence, and Muslims who chose not to emigrate to present-day Pakistan were being treated with suspicion by the majority Hindu population. To ensure national unity, the Indian government used the newly drawn physical boundaries of the Indian state (rather than religious or ethnic affiliation) to define the nebulous boundaries of national identity. This message was also welcomed by Muslims in India and by Indian emigrants (of all religious identities) in Africa and the Caribbean whose own loyalties were being questioned in their host countries. Several Indian-Americans, however, expressed remorse in my interviews about this early message from the Indian government. Indian migrants to the US during this period were educated professionals, who intended to move permanently. By the 1970s and 1980s, most had sponsored family members to join them in the US. In my interviews with Indian government officials and leaders of Indian organizations, it was often noted that the training received by most high-skilled Indian emigrants was sponsored by the Indian government and was designed to create a cadre of technicians who could help India industrialize and achieve self-sufficiency. Indians are also quick to note that the high quality of this training is what enabled Indian emigrants to take jobs in the US that paid more than the jobs done by classmates who remained in India to advance local development. These messages were perceived by Indian-Americans as guilt-inducing and delegitimizing and thus did not invite them to invest in organizations that could create sustained, official linkages with India.

A shift in state–diaspora relations in the 1980s In the mid-1980s, the tide between the Indian state and the Indian diaspora shifted. The Indian government began to promote diasporic ties to the homeland, and the Indian diaspora in the 110

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US began to re-build its collective attention to India. Despite the Indian government’s consistent reliance on emigrant remittances throughout the 1970s, it was not until the mid-1980s, when India began to alter its development ideology away from state-sponsored Fabian Socialism and toward liberalized markets and increased privatization, that the Indian government officially reduced the institutional barriers and negative stigma attached to the international exchange of goods and people. From the mid-1980s through the 2000s, the Indian government increasingly framed the Indian-American diaspora as a source of opportunity for Indian development. First, IndianAmericans’ elite socio-economic status in the US and their rising ranks in US-based multinational companies could be tapped for investments in India. Second, their American citizenship and access to US politicians could be tapped for assistance in improving US–India bilateral relations (which had been tense during the Cold War). Finally, the swelling population of temporary Indian IT workers in the US could provide an even larger source of remittances. In 1988, during his first visit to North America, India’s new pro-West, pro-business Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi hosted the first official reception for the Indian-American diaspora to personally encourage them to reconnect with India. He invited the leaders of all transnational organizations to the embassy for the first time. He also hosted the first Indian cultural festivals in Washington, DC and Paris. In 1991, India faced an economic crisis and the government was forced to officially launch its version of neoliberal reforms, which included a series of policy reforms designed to attract Indian-Americans (and other foreigners) to invest in India. To re-engage its diaspora and tap these potential benefits, the Indian government initiated favourable bank accounts for overseas Indians, visas facilitating the diaspora’s entry and property investment in India, and a bill to enable overseas Indians to vote.4 In 2003, the government inaugurated an annual conference, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) or “Overseas Indian Day”, to recognize active diaspora members with awards and to build relations with the various communities. In 2005, India became one of the few countries to create a national Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs. But the Indian-American diaspora was not standing ready to deliver. After years of being shut out of India’s official development agenda, they needed to be wooed to reconnect. More importantly, they wanted not only to give to India, but to shape India. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was during this period of increased government interest in the Indian diaspora that Indian diaspora organizations proliferated. In the US, they formed to pool money for educational institutions (often diaspora members’ alma maters), NGOs (whose funding resources were thinning), and religious bodies. In addition, they formed to articulate and channel particular ideologies towards development discourses in India. It is these post-1980s organizations that form the bulk of my inventory. Unlike the early anti-colonial organizations that held radical stances on class and race, the majority of contemporary Indian-American organizations identify as centre left to far right. This has important implications for how they aim to shape Indian development ideologies and frameworks.

Exporting neoliberal ideals In the post-1980s context of economic liberalization, the Indian government has consistently highlighted the highly skilled, Indian-American diaspora not only as a source of money, but also as a role model of self-sufficiency, achievement, and experience with capitalist market economies. As a result of this focus from the Indian government, combined with the elite status of most Indian-Americans, the majority of Indian-American organizations are supportive of India’s 111

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emerging economic frameworks of liberalization and privatization. As I have detailed elsewhere (Agarwala, 2015b), the Indian-American diaspora has used their transnational organizations to export American ideals of formalized philanthropy, volunteerism, and tax breaks for charitable giving. While surveys of philanthropy in India have shown that traditional forms of individual giving to family members, religious institutions, or beggars are extremely high, institutionalized forms of giving are low (Agarwal, 2010). Underlying these ideals is a distrust of government and a privileging of private charity. In my interviews, some NGO leaders in India said that American notions of formalized philanthropy are “un-Indian” and will not spread to the population.5 Others felt they were necessary because they could ensure that people give “more wisely” rather than on an ad hoc basis.6 A number of Indian NGOs are currently working with government officials to decrease the bureaucratic hurdles involved in international philanthropy and to improve the tax incentive to give from abroad. Another illustration of Indian-Americans’ use of transnational organizations to support neoliberal frameworks is that their organizations focus on a limited set of development topics that rely on donor funding and promote charity or privatized self-sufficiency. Rarely do Indian-American organizations fight for structural economic changes in India or increased government spending. For example, Indian-American organizations have been instrumental in mobilizing funds for natural disaster relief (Gujarat earthquake, tsunami in Tamil Nadu, floods in Punjab). Many organizations focus on children, who are considered an attractive, noncontroversial area of philanthropy for Indian expatriates. By far the most popular cause for Indian-Americans is education in India (Agarwala, 2015b). Most Indian immigrants in the US attribute their own “success” to their education. For most Indian-Americans, their education was completed in India, and they remain loyal to the teachers who supported them. Although they frame education as the path out of poverty for India’s masses, they rarely frame it as a welfare necessity or the responsibility of the government. Rather they support NGOs that aim to serve under-privileged children, raise funds to provide scholarships for poor children among their own community members or in their own home-town, and raise donations for their own alma maters. Although a large proportion of Indian-Americans benefited from India’s public university system, they retain a deep distrust of the government and rarely advocate for public welfare. Even in cases when diaspora alumni associations raise funds for their (publicly funded) universities in India, they have tried to restructure the universities to resemble American universities with differentiated pay, a broader curriculum, and private funding sources (Lessinger, 2003).

Drawing on social identities Another significant trend is that a large number of the post-1980s Indian-American organizations have been motivated by an identity-based mobilization. In my inventory, religious and ethnic/linguistic organizations comprise a striking 60 per cent of the 624 Indian-American transnational organizations. Since Indian-Americans are similar in terms of class, they have chosen to distinguish themselves along linguistic and religious sub-identities. As I have detailed elsewhere, these organizations have important impacts on shaping Indian development ideologies (Agarwala, 2015a). Indian diaspora organizations not only construct these social identities drawing from political and economic interpretations of experiences in India, they also shape Indian development ideologies to address their own constituency in India and thus a particular social relation there. For the diaspora, identity-based organizing legitimizes and preserves their identities in the US and in India – both areas where they perceive their identities to be under threat. 112

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Despite the important (and sometimes competing) role these identity-based organizations play in shaping Indian development discourses, these organizations are rarely acknowledged in the Indian government’s official efforts to link migration to development. Rather, social identity diaspora organizations are routinely written off by academics and Indian government officials as “cultural” and, therefore, not development-oriented and outside the scope of the Indian government’s economic and welfare agenda. We must reverse this misperception of culture as mutually exclusive of development. The anti-Sikh riots that took place in India during the mid-1980s galvanized overseas Sikhs to organize. The impact of this organization should not be underestimated in terms of spurring on Indian diaspora transnational organizations. Indeed, many have examined the Sikh diaspora’s efforts to raise funds in the 1980s to support a separatist movement for Khalistan, a Sikh homeland (Biswas, 2004; Fair, 2005; Oberoi, 1987; Shani, 2005). As well, Sikh organizations have been instrumental in mobilizing group-based remittances through gurudwaras (Sikh places of worship). In 2004, group-based remittances from Sikhs totalled $2–3 billion per year (World Bank, 2004). In the past, Sikh remittances funded large-scale projects such as hospitals, memorial archways, and schools. Recently, they have improved civic amenities and sanitation, which some argue was due to the deterioration of state and economic conditions in the Sikhs’ home state of Punjab (Dusenbery et al., 2009). Despite the wide variety of Sikh organizations in the US, the community has worked hard to create a common Sikh identity with a stronger voice. The World Sikh Council formed in 1995 in the US to create a federation of gurudwaras and Sikh organizations to raise awareness of their culture in the US and to fight the dilution of their religion in India. Support for the Sikh separatist movement in India can be partly attributed to the insecurities immigrant Sikhs were feeling in response to the expanding Hindu-American community. Organizations such as the Khalistan Council, Babar Khalsa International, and the Khalistan Commando Force emerged during the 1980s to signal support for an independent Khalistan and to enable Sikh diaspora leaders to claim legitimacy and enhance their standing in the US-based community. In the 1990s, the rise of Hindu nationalist movements and political parties in India inspired supporting and opposing organizations in the US. Hindu organizations today express their development foci as a function of Hindus’ majority position in India’s middle and upper classes and Hindus’ vulnerable position as a minority global religion. To empower global Hindus, Hindu-American organizations aim to boost India’s position in the world system by defining India as the Hindu homeland, nurturing a shared global Hindu identity, and securing multi-generational support from successful diaspora members. To accommodate the economically diverse Hindu majority population in India, they support individual-level povertyalleviation projects within a development framework of neoliberal capitalist ideals. These are pursued not as an attempt to overturn the structural constraints that created class inequities in the first place, but as an act of selfless service. These development efforts intersect political goals of Hindu nationalism with economic goals of self-sufficiency (Agarwala, 2015a). In contrast, Indian-Muslim organizations express their development foci as a function of the socio-economic poverty and vulnerability that Muslims face in India. Their development efforts, therefore, focus on turning India’s development rhetoric away from political stances of Hindu nationalism and social identities, and towards class inequities, and thus secularism. Drawing on Muslims’ vulnerable position at the bottom of India’s class hierarchy, Indian-MuslimAmerican organizations support national-level education projects to empower Muslims and develop India for the long term (for a more detailed account, see Agarwala, 2015a). Similarly, Christian organizations draw from their highly educated status in India and the US to advocate for secularism and religious equality in India – principles that they argue are 113

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foundational to India’s constitution but are under threat today. Christian organizations in the US are especially involved in raising awareness of anti-Christian violence in India. “When a church in India is burned by Hindutva [Hindu nationalists], we tell the State Department. We want Hindutva to know that these actions will make India poorer,” explained Nehemiah Johnson, general secretary of the National Association of Asian Indian Christians of the USA. Finally, in the early 2000s, the IT boom drew an unprecedented number of educated Indians to the US just as the backlash from the September 11 attacks made Indian immigrants uncomfortable. These events spurred new Indian immigrants in the US to organize together, fuelling the rise of subnational groups, as well as pan-Indian groups. Since then, these Indian identity organizations have encouraged members to pressure their congressmen on US–India foreign policy issues and to bring them to receptions at the Indian embassy. The largest overseas group, Global Organization for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), was instrumental in shaping the recent nuclear deal between India and the United States. They led countless town hall meetings, spearheaded letter-writing campaigns to local congressmen, and advocated in front of the White House. In return for their assistance in affecting foreign policy and spreading Indian culture, identity organizations have advocated for legislative changes in India to facilitate travel, business, and capital transfers through reduced fees, special credit cards, and bank accounts. These efforts have been very successful (Agarwala, 2015b). Similarly, ethnic organizations (as well as alumni and professional organizations) have been instrumental in making Indian-Americans’ contributions to the global economy more visible. These exertions of “soft power” ultimately boost the Indian government’s legitimacy and US–India bilateral relations, which in turn further boosts the image of Indian-Americans. The relationship, therefore, is mutually constitutive. One organization, PAN-IIT, made a list of 800 IIT graduates who have significantly contributed to the American economy and presented it to the US Congress. The list included founders, inventors, and patent holders of flat screens, cell phone towers, LASIK surgery, Sun Microsystems, fibre optics, and more. Indian-American professional organizations have also raised awareness about the import role that Indian businesses and Indian doctors have played in the US. Since the 1980s, Indian ethnic and identity organizations have offered to “spread Indian culture”. Recently, the Indian government created its first Indian cultural centre in the US as part of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. In sum, Indian-American diaspora organizations based on social identities attempt to assist their own social constituency in India and the US. Each group constructs its respective social constituency, drawing from political and economic interpretations of experiences in India. Therefore, each group’s development ideology addresses a different social relation. Hindu organizations address India’s geopolitical inequality with other countries, while Muslim organizations address class inequalities within India, and Sikh organizations address ethnic inequalities at the micro-village level as well as at the global level. These groups differ in the type of poverty-alleviation projects they fund in India and the type of advocacy efforts they engage in with the Indian government. To further their development goals in India, all groups capitalize on their high socio-economic status in the US.

Notes 1 These are the greater regions of New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Chicago, and San Francisco. This information was drawn from our analysis of the US Census and the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA). 2 Government officials were from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Minority Affairs in Delhi; the Department of Industries and Commerce, the Overseas Manpower Company of the Department of Employment and Training,


Transnational diaspora organizations


4 5 6

and the Special Secretary of Non-Resident Indian Affairs in Andhra Pradesh, and the Non-Resident Indian Division of the Government of Gujarat, the Gujarat State Non-Resident Gujarati (NRG) Foundation, and the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gujarat. This finding may reflect an attempt to present a particular image among Indian-Americans. The questions in our survey about education level, English proficiency, and occupation were found to be sensitive among Indian-Americans. In 1983, the government also enacted the Emigration Act of 1983 to manage unskilled labour migration through registered recruitment firms; this Act was more pertinent to emigrants in the Middle East. Interview with Sanjay Agarwal, principal and founder of AccountAid, 18 January 2011. Interview with Dr Pradeepta Kumar Nayak, executive director of Sampradaan, 13 January 2011.

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Rina Agarwala Meyer, J. W. and Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83, 340–363. Neuman, W. (2011). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. NSSO. (2010). NSS Report No. 533, NSS 64th Round: Migration in India 2007–2008. New Delhi: NSSO. Oberoi, H. S. (1987). From Punjab to ‘Khalistan’: Territoriality and Metacommentary. Pacific Affairs, 60, 26–42. OIFC. (2009). Remittances from Indian Diaspora: A Report. New Delhi: Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC). Osella, F. and Osella, C. (2000). Social Mobility in Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict. London: Pluto Press. Portes, A., Escobar, C. and Radford, A. W. (2007). Immigrant Transnational Organizations and Development: A Comparative Study. Internaitonal Migration Review, 41, 242–281. Ramji, H. (2006). British Indians ‘Returning Home’: An Exploration of Transnational Belongings. Sociology, 40, 645–662. RBI. (2006). Invisibles in India’s Balance of Payments. Reserve Bank of India Monthly Bulletin. https://rbi. (Accessed 30 May 2017). Rodrik, D. (2005). Feasible Globalizations. In: M. Weinstein, ed., Globalization: What’s New?. New York: Columbia University Press. Sampradaan. (2001). Investing in Ourselves: Giving and Fund Raising in India. New Delhi: Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy. Saxenian, A. (2002). The Silicon Valley Connection: Transnational Networks and Regional Development in Taiwan, China and India. Science Technology & Society, 7, 117–149. Saxenian, A. (2005). From Brain Drain to Brain Circulation: Transnational Communities and Regional Upgrading in India and China. Studies in Comparative International Development, 40, 35–61. Shani, G. (2005). Beyond Khalistan? Sikh Diasporic Identity and Critical International Theory. Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory, 1, 57–74. Sirkeci, I, Cohen, J. F. and Ratha, D. (eds). (2012). Migration and Remittances during the Global Financial Crisis and Beyond. Washington, DC: World Bank. Taylor, J. E. (1999). The New Economics of Labour Migration and the Role of Remittances in the Migration Process. International Migration, 37, 63–88. Taylor, S., Singh, M. and Booth, D. (2007). Migration, Development and Inequality: Eastern Punjabi Transnationalism. Global Networks, 7, 328–347. Terrazas, A. and Batog, C. (2010). Indian Immigrants in the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Walton-Roberts, M. (2012). Contextualizing the Global Nursing Care Chain: International Migration and the Status of Nursing in Kerala, India. Global Networks, 12, 175–194. World Bank. (2004). Resuming Punjab’s Prosperity: The Opportunities and Challenges Ahead. Washington, DC: World Bank.



Money, migration, gender and the transnational family The feminization of migration is seen in that nearly half (48.2 per cent) of international migrants in 2015 were women (United Nations Population Division, 2015). Women are also principal migrants and do not only migrate accompanying their nuclear families. A large number of women migrate alone for domestic work in the care sector (Piper, 2013). In some countries like Vietnam, women migrate for cross-border marriages (Yeoh et al., 2013). At other times, it is the woman’s job which triggers the migration of her nuclear family (George, 2005). Gender has become an increasingly important perspective in the discussion of remittances and development. This is a step forward from earlier studies that neglected the dimensions of gender in the debates around migration and remittances (Mahler & Pessar, 2006; Naerssen et al., 2016; Piper, 2005). The overall finding is that women remit less than men, but their remittances represent an equal or greater percentage of their income than men’s. The amount sent home depends on migration status, income, position in the household and cultural expectations. Women who migrate alone to work as temporary migrants send a larger part of their income than men, while women accompanying their families and who may not be earning send less (Curran & Saguy, 2001; Monroy & Cervantes, 2015; Robert, 2016; United Nations Population Division, 2015). The literature linking remittances, gender roles, women’s empowerment and the transnational family is uneven. There are two themes. The first relates to women’s roles in sending, receiving and using remittances in the household. The second theme focuses on migration and the changing gender of money. Underlying this change is the notion that monetary remittances also have a social dimension (Carling, 2014; Singh, 2015a; Singh et al., 2010b). The question behind both these themes is whether migration and remittances have led to the empowerment of women. The answer is that migration can have an empowering effect but it is limited (King et al., 2013). Much of this literature focuses on women migrating alone for domestic and care work from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa to the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. These women most often send money to their mothers or extended kin for the care of their children. Migrant women control the remittances in that they decide how much to send and how to 117

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distribute the money in the family. However, migrant women cannot always control the use of remittances. The sending of money also does not necessarily make for more equitable gender roles in the family. Though the woman increasingly becomes a provider, gender ideology may continue to emphasize the man as breadwinner and the woman as the home maker. Moreover, any gains in gender empowerment may disappear when the woman migrant returns (Gallo, 2005; Gamburd, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004; Naerssen, 2016; Palriwala & Uberoi, 2005; Parrenˇas, 2005; Rahman, 2008). In split transnational families resulting from men migrating alone, women’s role in receiving and using remittances is influenced by the household structure, the management of money in the household, together with the nature of the kinship system. Studies in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean show that wives are more likely to receive money in nuclear rather than extended families. In Latin America and the Caribbean women are the main recipients (Monroy & Cervantes, 2015; Naerssen, 2016). Women’s management of household money can be something new as with Latin American migrants to the United States or a continuation of the traditional role of the woman as the money manager in Southeast Asia. Managing money can be empowering when it has not happened before. It may also mean the woman faces additional burdens as she becomes responsible for running the household and the farm and repaying debts related to her husband’s migration (King et al., 2013; McKenzie & Menjívar, 2010). Gender norms embedded in kinship systems override the importance of the household structure. Women in patrilineal joint family households do not always receive or control the use of their husbands’ remittances. This is unlike women in matrilineal and bilateral kinship systems who do receive and manage remittances (Kurien, 2002; Palriwala, 1996). These gender norms also shape the sending of remittances. In patrilineal kinship systems, the norm is for the man to send money to his family, while the woman sends occasional gifts or sends money secretively (Cai, 2003; King et al., 2013; Naerssen, 2016). In matrilineal kinship systems, women traditionally send money to their mothers and sisters, though the practices are changing (Wong, 2006). In bilateral kinship systems, the money flows to both the wife’s and husband’s families, though the balance of funds may not be equal (Akuei, 2005; Kurien, 2002; Lindley, 2009). In cross-border marriages, such as between Vietnamese marriage migrants in Singapore, women negotiate the sending of money home as this is built into the expectations of marriage (Yeoh et al., 2013). The gender of money as seen in the management and control of money in the household does change in some cases with migration. Much of this literature deals with how couples negotiate different ways of dealing with household money, compared with the male control of money in the household in their source countries. This literature ranges across Indian, Latin American and Caribbean couples in the United States. George writes of Syrian Christian nurses from Kerala who are the principal migrants and breadwinners because it is their jobs that have brought their families to the United States. Couples either try to mask the change in earning power and child care by leaving money management to the man, or husbands and wives work with the US partnership model, managing money and home duties together (George, 2005). In the Caribbean and Latin American literature, migrant women often have a greater say in the management of household money than they do in the source country. They fear return, anticipating their husbands would revert to the male dominance model (Curran & Saguy, 2001; Pessar, 1999; Smith, 2006). I build on this research. I also address the way meanings and practices around gender and money change with migration. It is not only that money can become qualitatively different, but that family forms and practices can change with migration. It is the intersection of changes in money and family that are at the centre of my qualitative research on Indian migrants in Australia. 118

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Studying Indian migrants and their families, 2005–2014 This chapter is based on a decade of interviews with 186 Indian migrants from 95 families in Australia and India. This was complemented by participant observation of Indian migrant life in Melbourne from the mid-1980s and my own biography as a twice migrant from India to Malaysia and then to Australia. The research fell into two phases. Between 2005 and 2012 I studied the early Indian migrants in Australia who arrived in the 1970s to the mid-1990s, the second-generation Indian Australians, that is those who were born in Australia or arrived with their families before they were 12 years old, and recent student migrants who have arrived since 2005. From 2011 to 2014 my emphasis was on studying the transnational families of Indian student and skilled migrants. Table 9.1 gives details of the sample. The first phase of the study brought to the fore the changes in the socio-economic background and migration experiences between the early and recent migrants. The early migrants were middle-income professionals who migrated with their nuclear families from metropolitan cities in India. They had a good grasp of English and found work in their fields of expertise, though not always at the same level of seniority. They also came to the country as permanent residents and were entitled nearly immediately to Medicare and social security benefits. The recent migrants were predominantly young males in their early 20s and single. They came on temporary visas. They too were from middle-income families, but were more often from regional cities, small towns and urban villages. Half of them were from Punjab. Not all of them were fluent in English and thus had to take unskilled or semi-skilled jobs that were not commensurate with their educational qualifications. Moreover, they had to pay for their education as a pathway to migration, without the buffer of social security and Medicare benefits. These differences were highlighted as I visited Indian families of recent migrants and saw how modern communication technologies and the economic resurgence of India were changing the ways in which migrants and their transnational families were able to relate. This was mainly in the areas of communication, visiting and relationships in the transnational family, but they spilled over into the flow of money. Table 9.1 The Indian migration project, Australia, 2005–2014 Characteristics of the sample

Number of families

First phase: interviews conducted May 2005–February 2012 Early Indian migrants who migrated 1970s to mid-1990s Second-generation migrants Indian students who migrated 2005–2010 Indian community leaders and representatives Total Second phase: interviews conducted October 2011–February 2014 Transnational families of student and skilled migrants who migrated 1997–2014 Total

Number of persons

15a 16b 32c — 63

19 20 35 13 87





Source: Singh, 2016 a There were four married couples. b There was one married couple. Three of the second-generation sample were children of early migrants interviewed. c There were three sets of married students.


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In the rest of the chapter I will show how these differences in the socio-economic background and migration environment of the early and recent migrants contributed to changes in money flows, the gender of money and the reimagining of the joint family.

Continuity of money and family across borders There is a continuity of money and family in India and across borders. The first characteristic is that in India, the family is variously interpreted by the boundary of domestic money. This could mean the nuclear or joint family household. It is an important characteristic of money that distinguishes money in the Indian family from the couple-centred money of Anglo-Celtic families in Australia. The family boundary of money means that information about money is shared more widely and replicates the circle of care covering people who are expected to contribute money in case of need. The second continuity is that money flows across generations. Unlike the Anglo-Celtic families in Australia, money flows not only from parents and grandparents to children and grandchildren but also from children to parents, grandparents and other extended kin (Singh, 1997). The third characteristic that connects money in India with migrant money is that money is an appropriate and often preferred gift to express caring and relationship. Money is still given as the ritual ‘shagun’ gift at births and weddings. The preference for the gift of money in the Indian community in Australia is expressed by the request for ‘no packaged gifts’. This of course does not include packaging the money in its ritual shagun envelopes. Money sent home to family expresses a continued belonging to the transnational family (Singh et al., 2010a). These characteristics of money are shared by many of the countries of the Global South, but differ from the Anglo-Celtic dominated societies of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The family boundary and intergenerational flow of money together with money as a gift has made migrant remittances to developing countries one of the largest international flows of funds (Singh, 1997, 2013). Indian migrants and their families continue to think of money and family in these normative ways across borders. Money and family practices have changed in different ways for the early and recent migrants, without challenging the norms. The major normative change has been with questioning the gender of money. This has happened at different life stages and phases of migration. Practices may not have changed evenly, but migrants are beginning to ask questions about the traditional maleness of Indian family money. These changes are taking place within the context of recent migrants reimagining the joint family in Australia.

Money flows: early and recent migrants Money flows among the early migrants did not go two ways as is the norm with money and family in India. Money went only one way from the children in Australia to parents in India. This was because Indian migrants in Australia earned more than their parents. It was also because there were foreign exchange controls in place in India until the late 1990s. Among recent migrants, money flows have reverted to the traditional pattern of money moving between children and parents. This two-way flow of money across borders replicates the flow of intergenerational money in India. Money flows changed because of changes in Australian migration policy. Early migrants came with permanent visas, eligible for social security and Medicare. Most often they found work in their professional area. But since the late 1990s, Australia has emphasized the temporary 120

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migration of student and skilled migrants from India. Student migrants have to pay for education as a pathway to migration. Skilled migrants also have to have settlement costs in hand when they arrive. Recent migrants also have no social security buffer. Parents in India in an emergent Indian economy since the 1990s are also able to send money because middle-income groups have more assets and discretionary income. Sending money from India has also become easier because of the progressive liberalization of foreign exchange controls. The new communication technologies have also introduced more immediacy and connectedness to the transnational family. This has also helped mimic the everyday give and take of money in the Indian family.

Early migrants: one-way flow Early migrants in the study spoke only of sending money home. The money was sent most often to the parents if they continued to live in India. For 4 of the participants from the 15 families studied, money was sent home regularly. The others sent money when needed. They took and received gifts when they visited their families. The money was sent to display care and belonging to the transnational family, rather than marking out the option of return. As will be detailed in the next section, the money was sent by men to their families. Women sent gifts home rather than money. The early Indian migrants in Australia valued the emotional support from their families in India. But the “circulation of care” (Baldassar & Merla, 2014) was limited. It was not usual for early migrants to leave their children with kin in India while they were settling in Australia. Only one second-generation participant said she spent the first three years with her mother’s sisters while her mother settled into her professional career. None of the early migrants spoke of their parents coming to help with child care. Their stories reveal the tensions of a perceived one-way flow of money and care. Gifts were not always reciprocated in equal measure. They also felt they were expected to visit family in India and they were the ones to initiate communication. Even the money sent was seen to count for less in India as it was measured negatively against the physical care given by siblings to the parents (Singh & Cabraal, 2012). This is a significant difference when compared with Latin American and Caribbean families in the United States and also the experience of recent Indian student migrants in Australia.

Recent migrants: money flows two ways Recent migrants have had to pay to migrate. They come on temporary visas. Parents fund their children’s education. When their children become permanent migrants then money also may flow to help with housing and the setting up of businesses. There is also a transfer of funds, if possible, with family reunions (Singh & Cabraal, 2014; Singh & Gatina, 2015). Education as a pathway to migration is a major expense. For all but 1 of the 35 students interviewed, the parents paid the initial funds needed to qualify for the education visa. In some cases, the parents sent all the money needed for education and the living expenses. It was more usual, however, for students to contribute to these continued expenses partially or wholly through work in Australia. This story was confirmed in the second phase of the study when I spoke with the families in India. Parents spoke of funding their children’s education as the timely fulfilment of a duty. They saw it as a step that would help build their child’s future rather than a deposit on money the family would receive from the student once he or she had settled. Having a child 121

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settled well, however, did mean that the siblings and parents would benefit because of the greater prosperity of the family. Parents funded their children’s education even when they had to empty out their retirement funds or/and borrow from banks. Charandeep (participants’ names are pseudonyms), in his 30s, came as an international student to Melbourne in 2005. He tells how his father used his provident fund and got a bank loan to pay for part of the Australian education. His father offered to pay for Charandeep’s living expenses by selling some of his property, but Charandeep was able to pay for these expenses through work. He and the other students interviewed were part of the family decision relating to education in Australia and knew of their parents’ sacrifice. This knowledge further fuelled their desire to send money back once they were settled. Charan, a retired academic in Delhi, also funded his son’s education in Australia in 2007. He said, We could afford to give him the money for his studies. After all, what will we do with the money? If it is not used at the proper time, what is the use of that money? If he is settled and has a good life, that will be our satisfaction. It is the same morality of the intergenerational flow of money that is behind financial help given by parents if possible for housing, business establishment and family reunion (Singh, 2016; Singh & Gatina, 2015). This intergenerational flow of money is accompanied by reciprocal visits by migrants and members of their transnational families. The immediacy of mobile and visual communication helps the flow of money because it reveals unspoken needs. So recent migrants tell of what their parents have done for them, rather than an implied complaint of the imbalance of money flows and care (Singh, 2016).

Negotiating the gender of money In India, money is most often male in terms of household management and control, the inheritance of property and the ownership of money. This is particularly true in patrilineal joint families in India, which are seen as the normative form of family. Men continue to inherit family property even though the legislation gives equal rights to men and women in India over ancestral property (Basu, 2005; Kishwar, 2005; Osella & Osella, 2000; Panda & Agarwal, 2005; Shah & Patel, 2011; Singh & Bhandari, 2012). Changes in the gender of money are taking place unevenly among some of the early women migrants in the area of a daughter’s inheritance. The second generation is becoming more gender neutral in diaspora philanthropy. Changes in the gender of money among the student migrants remain nascent, as none of the currently married students sends money home. But there are signs that the negotiation of money in marriage can be a vexed issue.

Early migrants: women slid in financial status Money remained predominantly male for the nine early women migrants I studied. Migration, except in one case, was the result of the husband’s decision to migrate for better professional opportunities. Women who migrated in the 1970s and 1980s slid in financial status because of the need to retrain and the lack of help with child care. Of the seven female early migrants who were in paid work before migration, only one felt she had gained in professional status. She was also the only woman who had instigated the migration. Three stopped paid work altogether. 122

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Migration also did not make women more assertive about the inheritance of ancestral property. In all cases, the women ceded their inheritance in property. There were a range of styles relating to money management and control. The three professional women spoke in terms of independent money management. But one woman who used to be in paid work and stopped found herself locked out of the joint accounts she shared with her husband at one stage of her life. The maleness of money is the background for male family and community remittances. Among the early migrants, men sent regular remittances to their family, whereas women sent gifts. One of the female participants spoke of how her brother-in-law sent money to his wife’s family. It had become a matter of comment among his in-laws in Australia and his family in India. One of the 19 early migrants, a Christian Anglo-Indian, said regular remittances would go to both his family and that of his wife. Another, a female professional, said that she and her husband discussed the occasional remittances that needed to be sent. But as there was little need, potential conflict was minimized (Singh, 2016). Community remittances or diaspora philanthropy also remained male in Australia and India among the early migrants. It was the men who told stories of building a Syrian Christian church in Australia, funding the construction of temples, schools and classrooms in India, and informal giving to the needy (Singh, 2015b). This replicated the experience of Indian migrants to Canada and Chinese migrants to the United States (Dusenbery & Tatla, 2009; Yin & Lan, 2004; Young & Shih, 2003). Some of the early Indian women migrants are changing their minds as they age. They now favour equal inheritance for their daughters. Charan, in her late 60s, told how she had ceded her inheritance rights to her brother because he was her natal family based in India, saying, “he is in our father’s place”. But she aims to divide her property equally between her daughter and son. She says, “I am not going to do the ‘gender’ thing . . . I didn’t get it but I am leaving for my daughter.” But not everyone is moving wholly to new ways. Banta, in her 60s, agrees with her husband that the proceeds of the sale of their land in India will only go to their sons. She says, “Other properties we will divide into four . . . But the land goes to the (three) boys.” One of the second-generation participants also reports how her parents have transferred their family home in Australia to the son, as they are moving back to India (Singh, 2016).

Recent migrants: nascent conflict over remittances Most recent student migrant participants in the study were still receiving financial support and help with child care from their parents. Of the six married women in the sample, four spoke openly about the support they received from their parents and parents-in-law. Of the four single female student migrants, two send money to their parents when they can, as their families are in need. Another receives support from her family in India. The fourth, Ekta, is now a single parent. Ekta, 27, was the principal migrant and the main earner, but her husband controlled their money. She said her husband and his family felt that all the money she earned belonged to them. The male ownership of money was one of the factors leading to family violence and the dissolution of her marriage within three years. Ekta’s story is repeated with another Indian woman in my community network. She is a professional and when she was single, she sent money to her parents. After she got married, her husband objected to the money going to her family. Her marriage has also ended. These stories raise the question: Will the management and control of money and the sending of remittances become a focus of conflict among recent migrants? 123

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Balancing these stories is that of Tirath, 29, a student migrant who came to Australia in 2005. He sends money to his wife’s stepmother. He knows he is exceptional. His parents are dead and his relationship with his sister has ended over disputes over their parents’ property in India. He says the only family he has now is his wife’s family. Moreover, when they got married, it was clear he would need to replace her financial support to her family. His father-in-law drinks up the money, so he sends AUS$800 to AUS$900 every two months to his stepmother so that his wife’s family can survive (Singh, 2016).

Money and the reimagining of the joint family The relationship between money, migration and family is also changing because of a transforming family landscape in Australia. The early migrants came as nuclear families and did not plan for a joint family. Their children also live in nuclear families. But with most of the recent migrants, there is an expectation that parents will join their children on either a temporary or a permanent basis. This is changing the developmental cycle of the joint family as parents join single or married children, instead of married sons joining parents. This expectation of having a joint family is shaping choices in housing and the suburbs where recent migrants choose to live (Chhetri, 2015; Singh, 2015a). The early migrants most often remained in nuclear families. It was a continuation of the kind of families they had left behind in India. In two cases, the father joined the son and in two, the daughter. In three instances, family care networks had dissolved in the source country because of death and/or migration. In the fourth case, the parents had made a choice to be with their son in Australia. With the mother’s death, the father now stayed with his son. But the nuclear family remained the norm, though in practice the family at times has become joint. With the recent migrants, the norm is that of the joint family, though in practice it may be nuclear, at least in its current phase. Half the recent migrants studied in the transnational phase of the study, 2010–2014, have come with the experience of living in patrilineal joint families and its attendant family practices. In the transnational family sample, 16 of the 32 households are, were or plan to be in temporary or long-term extended family households. Parents visit their children to help with child care so often that the term ‘flying grandmother’ has become apt for recent Indian and Chinese migrants. This is a different story from the one told by early migrants where women had to stop paid work or readjust their professional expectations because there was no family help with child care. This is a new kind of joint family with a different developmental cycle. In India when married sons join their parents in the household, the parents at least in the beginning manage and control the money of the joint family household. Different patterns of contribution and management and control emerge over the years, but the parents are normatively in a position of authority and respect, if not of control. Even in these traditional joint families, morals can falter, and parents who have unstintingly given of themselves and their money may find themselves on the outside. This is a story more often told in film and literature than in interviews (Divakaruni, 2002). Ashish Bose wrote tellingly how the notion of filial duty works best when the children stay with the parents. It disappears in different degrees when parents move to stay with the children (Bose & Shankardass, 2008). Joint families are still being newly established among recent migrants. Parents most often have two home bases because they move between India and Australia if resources and health permit. The stories I heard were of the importance of family and a celebration of having the family together in Australia. But as two of the older women in transnational families tell, it is a 124

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difficult balance between the need to be with the son in their old age, and the loneliness of being away from their home environment, language and religious networks. Parents may have contributed to the building of the home and may also contribute continuing financial resources. When parents do not have these, how will money management and control work between the different generations in the joint family unit? Stories are trickling through that a few parents have moved to a separate home in Australia in response to the son or son-in-law’s continual demands for money. Authorities are beginning to recognize the need for housing older Indian couples in distinctive schemes.

Conclusion: emerging research questions This qualitative research over five decades of Indian migration to Australia tells a story of the continued male dominance around money, and of changes that are taking place in the sending of remittances, inheritance and control over money management. Some of these changes are more complicated because family forms have also changed across these five decades of migration. There is uncharted territory around money management and control and normative authority and respect in a reimagined joint family. Some changes will also take place as migrants who have to negotiate Indian norms around money meet with the dominant Anglo-Celtic norms of shared money in marriage. These Anglo-Celtic norms shape the prevalence of joint bank accounts in marriage and the joint ownership of the marital home in Australia. Early migrants also had to face this challenge. However, they migrated after marriage, and usually after they had children, so patterns of money management and control had already been set. Recent migrants, particularly student migrants, most often come when they are single. Many marry women from India who most likely are encountering a different relationship of money in the family from that they saw with their parents. When the students marry women who have already been in Australia, then the clash between the male and joint ownership of money becomes stark. Some of these questions have led to a current research project that aims at a more detailed comparison of the meanings and practices around money and gender in the Anglo-Celtic and Indian communities in Australia. We hope to find out the role of these meanings and practices in intimate partner violence and elder abuse. This is an important subject because of the great incidence of family violence in Australia. It is important to know the way gender, money and family intersect in the Indian and other migrant communities in Australia so as to have effective policies and practices to prevent and respond to family violence.

References Akuei, S. R. (2005). Remittances as Unforeseen Burdens: The Livelihoods and Social Obligations of Sudanese Refugees. Global Migration Perspectives. Geneva: Global Commission on International Migration. Baldassar, L. and Merla, L. (2014). Introduction: Transnational Family Caregiving through the Lens of Circulation. In: L. Baldassar & L. Merla, eds, Transnational Families, Migration and the Circlation of Care: Understanding Mobility and Absence in Family Life. New York: Routledge. Basu, S. (2005). Haklenewali: Indian Women’s Negotiations of Discourses of Inheritance. In: S. Basu, ed., Dowry & Inheritance. New Delhi: Women Unlimited, pp. 151–170. Bose, A. and Shankardass, M. K. (2008). Growing Old in India: Voices Reveal, Statistics Speak. Delhi: B. R. Publishing. Cai, Q. (2003). Migrant Remittances and Family Ties: A Case Study in China. International Journal of Population Geography, 9, 471–483. Carling, J. (2014). Scripting Remittances: Making Sense of Money Transfers in Transnational Relationships. International Migration Review, 48, S218–S262.


Supriya Singh Chhetri, P. (2015). Changing the Cultural Mosaic of Melbourne City: Mapping the Cultural Footprint of Recent Indian and Chinese Migrants, 1941–2011. Presentation. Asia@RMIT. RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Curran, S. R. and Saguy, A. C. (2001). Migration and Cultural Change: A Role for Gender and Social Networks? Journal for International Women’s Studies, 2(3), 54–77. Divakaruni, C. B. (2002). The Unknown Errors of our Lives. New York: Anchor Books. Dusenbery, V. A. and Tatla, D. S. (eds). (2009). Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab: Global Giving for Local Good. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Gallo, E. (2005). Unorthodox Sisters: Gender Relations and Generational Change in Malayali Migrants in Italy. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 12(2&3), 217–251. Gamburd, M. R. (1998). Absent Women and their Extended Families. In: C. Risseeuw & K. Ganesh, eds, Negotiation and Social Space: A Gendered Analysis of Changing Kin and Security Networks in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, pp. 276–291. Gamburd, M. R. (2000). The Kitchen Spoon’s Handle: Transnationalism and Sri Lanka’s Migrant Housemaids. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Gamburd, M. R. (2002). Breadwinner No More. In: B. Ehrenreich and A. R. Hochschild, eds, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan Books, pp. 190–206. Gamburd, M. R. (2004). Money That Burns Like Oil: A Sri Lankan Cultural Logic of Morality and Agency. Ethnology, 43(2), 167–184. George, S. M. (2005). When Women Come First: Gender and Class in Transnational Migration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. King, R., Mata-Codesal, D. and Vullnetari, J. (2013). Migration, Development, Gender and the ‘Black Box’ of Remittances: Comparative Findings from Albania and Ecuador. Comparative Migration Studies, 1(1), 69–96. Kishwar, M. (2005). Dowry and Inheritance Rights. In: S. Basu, ed., Dowry & Inheritance, 298–303. New Delhi: Women Unlimited. Kurien, P. A. (2002). Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Lindley, A. (2009). The Early-Morning Phonecall: Remittances from a Refugee Diaspora Perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35(8), 1315–1334. Mahler, S. J. and Pessar, P. R. (2006). Gender Matters: Ethnographers Bring Gender from the Periphery toward the Core of Migration Studies. Internation Migration Review, 40(1), 27–63. McKenzie, S. and Menjívar, C. (2010). The Meanings of Migration, Remittances and Gifts: Views of Honduran Women Who Stay. Global Networks, 11(1), 63–81. Monroy, P. and Cervantes, J. (2015). Women Move: Mexican Women and Remittances. Available from: (Accessed on 5 May 2015). Naerssen, T. V. (2016). Exploring Gender and Remittances. In: T. V. Naerssen, L. Smith, T. Davids & M. H. Marchand, eds, Women, Gender, Remittances and Development in the Global South (Kindle ed., pp. Location 851–1295). London: Taylor and Francis. Naerssen, T. V., Smith, L., Davids, T. and Marchand, M. H. (2016). Women, Gender and Remittances: An Introduction. In: T. V. Naerssen, L. Smith, T. Davids & M. H. Marchand, eds, Women, Gender, Remittances and Development in the Global South (Kindle ed., pp. Location 214). London: Taylor and Francis. Osella, F. and Osella, C. (2000). Migration, Money and Masculinity in Kerala. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6, 117–133. Palriwala, R. (1996). Negotiating Patriliny: Intra-Household Consumption and Authority in Northwest India. In: R. Palriwala & C. Risseeuw, eds, Shifting Circles of Support: Contextualising Gender and Kinship in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, pp. 190–220. Palriwala, R. and Uberoi, P. (2005). Marriage and Migration in Asia: Gender Issues. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 12(2&3), v–xxix. Panda, P. and Agarwal, B. (2005). Marital Violence, Human Development and Women’s Property Status in India. World Development, 33(5), 823–850. Parren˜as, R. S. (2005). Children of Global Migration: Transnational Families and Gendered Woes. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Pessar, P. R. (1999). Engendering Migration Studies. American Behavioral Scientist, 42(4), 577–600. Piper, N. (2005). Gender and Migration: A Paper Prepared for the Policy Analysis and Research Programme of the Global Commission on International Migration. Available from: attachements/TP10.pdf (Accessed on 23 April 2009).


Money flows, gender, family in Australia Piper, N. (2013). Contributions of Migrant Domestic Workers to Sustainable Development. Bangkok: UN Women. Rahman, M. M. (2008). Gender Dimensions of Remittances: A Study of Indonesian Domestic Workers in East and Southeast Asia. Bangkok: UNIFEM. Robert, E. (2016). A Gender Perspective on Migration, Remittances and Development: The UN-INSTRAW Experience. In: T. V. Naerssen, L. Smith, T. Davids & M. H. Marchand, eds, Women, Gender, Remittances and Development in the Global South (Kindle ed., pp. Location 474–849). London: Taylor and Francis. Shah, A. M. and Patel, T. (2011). Family. In: K. A. Jacobsen, ed., Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, pp. 46–58. Singh, S. (1997). Marriage Money: The Social Shaping of Money in Marriage and Banking. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. Singh, S. (2013). Globalization and Money: A Global South Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Singh, S. (2015a). Beyond the Dichotomy: Money and the Transnational Family in India and Australia. Working Paper Series: From Economic to Social Remittances: an International Overview–TSI Working Paper No. 5 January 2015. Available from: . ./5-singh2015_tsiworkingpaper. pdf (Accessed on 28 September 2015). Singh, S. (2015b). Transnational Community and Money in the Indian Diaspora in Melbourne. In S. Singh, Y. Nadarajah, M. Mulligan & C. Chamberlain, eds, Searching for Community: Melbourne to Delhi. Delhi: Manohar Publishers, pp. 59–76. Singh, S. (2016). Money, Migration and Family: India to Australia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Singh, S. and Bhandari, M. (2012). Money Management and Control in the Indian Joint Family across Generations. The Sociological Review, 60(1), 46–67. Singh, S. and Cabraal, A. (2012). Contested Representations of Remittances and the Transnational Family. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 35(4), 825–844. Singh, S. and Cabraal, A. (2014). ‘Boomerang Remittances’ and the Circulation of Care: A Study of Indian Transnational Families in Australia. In: L. Baldassar & L. Merla, eds, Transnational Families, Migration and the Circulation of Care: Understanding Mobility and Absence in Family Life. New York: Routledge, pp. 220–234. Singh, S. and Gatina, L. (2015). Money Flows Two-Ways between Transnational Families in Australia and India. South Asian Diaspora, 7(1), 33–47. Singh, S., Cabraal, A. and Robertson, S. (2010a). Remittances as a Currency of Care: A Focus on ‘Twice Migrants’ among the Indian Diaspora in Australia. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 41(2), 245–263. Singh, S., Cabraal, A. and Robertson, S. (2010b). Remittances as a Medium of Relationship and Belonging. In: A. Babacan & S. Singh, eds, Migration, Belonging and the Nation State. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 85–104. Smith, R. C. (2006). Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California. United Nations Population Division. (2015). International Migration Wallchart 2016. Available from: (Accessed on 30 March 2016). Wong, M. (2006). The Gendered Politics of Remittances in Ghanaian Transnational Families. Economic Geography, 82(4), 355–381. Yeoh, B. S. A., Chee, H. L., Vu, T. K. D. and Cheng, Y. E. (2013). Between Two Families: The Social Meaning of Remittances for Vietnamese Marriage Migrants in Singapore. Global Networks, 13(4), 441–458. Yin, X.-H. and Lan, Z. (2004). Why Do They Give? Chinese American Transnational Philanthropy since the 1970s. In: P. F. Geithner, P. D. Johnson & L. C. Chen, eds, Diaspora Philanthropy and Equitable Development in China and India. Cambridge, MA: Global Equity Initiative, Asia Center, Harvard University, pp. 79–127. Young, N. and Shih, J. (2003). The Chinese Diaspora and Philanthropy. Paper Presented at the Diaspora Philanthropy to China and India. (Accessed 23 May 2017).



Cultural dynamics

10 PROGRAMMING BOLLYWOOD Media and the Indian-American diaspora, 1965–2010 Aswin Punathambekar

Introduction In a widely circulated article entitled “Bollystan: The Global India,” Khanna (2004) explains how globalization has reframed relationships between India and the vast Indian diaspora. He writes: “increasingly linked by culture and technology, they form a Global India, which I call Bollystan. ‘Bolly’ connotes culture (e.g. Bollywood) and ‘Stan’ (Farsi for ‘land’) represents the transcendence of borders and sovereignty.” Khanna’s neologism first appeared in the autumn 2004 issue of Another Generation, a magazine targeted at “young, upwardly mobile South Asians.” Featuring Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai on the cover, the magazine declared: “Bollystan is a state without borders, defined by a shared culture and common values.” Using the term Bollystan to refer to a vast space of transnational cultural production that includes everything from henna tattoos and remix music to literature and films, Khanna and other writers sought to map how rapid flows of people, culture, and capital across borders have rendered difficult any easy separation between nation and diaspora. Khanna proceeded to argue that Bollystan is “cosmopolitanism’s inversion: instead of one person being at home anywhere, it is re-rooting Desis everywhere in a real and imagined shared cultural space.” In this chapter,1 I examine the production of this “real and imagined shared cultural space” by focusing attention on one of the most visible and compelling sites of mediation between India and the diaspora: Bollywood. In particular, I focus on the role played by diasporic media entrepreneurs in shaping Bollywood’s transnational circulation. Diasporic media companies have historically operated as small-scale and often, though not always, family-run enterprises. Tracing how this has changed since the mid-2000s, I examine two highly publicized diasporic media initiatives—MTV Desi, a television channel that sought to target South Asian-American youth but only lasted eighteen months, and, a New York-based digital media company that has emerged as the most prominent aggregator and distributor of Bollywood content in North America. The central question that drives this chapter is: what does it take to conjure the diaspora as a viable scale of media production and circulation in an age of global media capitals? Through a close examination of MTV Desi and, I examine both the possibilities and challenges facing diasporic media entrepreneurs as they negotiate a decidedly new phase of links between Mumbai and Los Angeles, and at the same time, a vast and networked culture of Desi 131

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media that crisscrosses and transcends regional and national boundaries. However, these transformations in the media sector only make sense when situated within longer histories of migration. As Hegde (2016, 3) points out, “examining media and migration together provides a vantage point from which to understand the politics of mobility in the global present.” Thus the stories I narrate here about MTV Desi and are also stories about Non-Resident Indian and diasporic media professionals working in a space defined on the one hand by a rapidly changing American media system, and on the other, by increasingly influential Indian media companies that are actively courting diasporic audiences and reshaping the terrain of Desi culture. “Desi,” which means “from the homeland,” is a term that is increasingly used to refer to people of South Asian origin in various locations around the world (but most prominently in North America and the United Kingdom). More importantly, the term signals, as Shankar (2008, 4) points out, “the shift from South Asians as immigrants longing to return to a homeland to public consumers and producers of distinctive, widely circulating cultural and linguistic forms.” The term Desi thus moves discussions of cultural identities past territorial boundaries and distinctions between those who reside in the Indian subcontinent and those who live outside. There is, of course, a politics to the term Desi, especially given the hegemonic position that India assumes in terms of culture, politics, economics, and geography. Moreover, as Singh (2007, 15) points out, “Dravidian languages, for instance, do not have the word Desi, thus potentially limiting the recognition or usefulness of the term even within South Asia.” I will return to this issue in greater detail at a later point in this chapter to explore how these issues around the term Desi identity shape media industry practices. Further, the word “stan” has typically been associated with physical geographies—Hindustan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and so on. Using the term Bollystan, which connotes place, dwelling, habitation, belonging, and experience in a world defined by Bollywood, this chapter also adds to ongoing debates about how transnational media flows have reframed relationships between geography, cultural production, and cultural identity. As we will see, where commercial media ventures are concerned, Bollystan has a very specific Anglo-American cultural geography and, as a consequence, re-roots only certain kinds of Desis. The network of cities that are part of diasporic entrepreneurs’ imagination of Bollywood’s global reach includes cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto but not, for instance, cities in other culturally vibrant diasporic spaces such as Trinidad. And even within these cities in the Global North, it is only a certain narrow, largely middle and upper-middle class cultural sphere of South Asians that informs the imaginations and practices of media industry professionals.

Media and diasporic culture(s) In the scholarship on media and migration, diaspora and diasporic media production have been privileged sites for understanding the shifting and often disjunctive relations between cultural production, geography, and identity. In the South Asian context, it is possible to now trace an arc beginning with Gillespie’s (1995) analysis of media use in a predominantly Punjabi community in a London neighbourhood, through Sunaina Maira’s (2002) exploration of Indian-American youth culture in New York City, to Shankar’s (2008) ethnography of Desi youth culture during the tech boom in Silicon Valley as a way to emphasize transformations in understandings of South Asian diasporic identity and the South Asian mediascape. Where Gillespie documented the creative and strategic ways in which youth in diasporic communities drew on media and popular culture to initiate dialogues between their parents’ ideas of culture and their experiences in British society, Maira illustrated how a range of media (from mainstream Indian films to subcultural remix music) functioned as triggers for discussions 132

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and contests over broader issues of ethnic authenticity and cultural hybridity, assimilation and race relations, multiculturalism and citizenship. While these issues remain deeply relevant in the lives of Desi teenagers that Shankar documents and analyzes, her ethnography also illustrates the extent to which being and becoming Desi has changed as South Asians from diverse class, linguistic, religious, and geographic backgrounds have established themselves in high-tech regions like California. Arguing that it is no longer productive to characterize second-generation youth as being “culturally and inter-generationally conflicted”—of being “American” at school, “Indian” at home, and “caught in limbo” between these two worlds—Shankar (2008, 4) asserts that Desi youth now “exhibit a far more nuanced consciousness about what it means to be Desi.” As we will see, the heterogeneity of Desi youth culture that scholars like Shankar emphasize poses a formidable challenge to media industry professionals’ efforts to forge a Desi demographic. Further, where the South Asian diaspora is concerned, popular and scholarly accounts have tended to privilege cinema, Hindi-language films from Bombay, and English-language diasporic films in particular, over print, television, and other forms of cultural production. While one could argue that this provides too narrow a template for understanding the relationship between media and diasporic identity, there are several reasons for the privileged position cinema occupies. The first is simply the enduring popularity of films and film music (mainly Hindi-language cinema from Bombay) among South Asian families who migrated to the United States following changes in U.S. immigration law in 1965. From the late 1960s, when enterprising families began screening films in university halls and other venues, to the recent forays into film exhibition by Bombay-based media companies like Reliance Entertainment, Hindilanguage Bollywood films continue to dominate the Desi mediascape. These film screenings were usually held in university halls rented for a few hours during the weekend, with films screened on 16mm, and later, 35mm reels. These weekend screenings, with an intermission that lasted thirty to forty-five minutes, were an occasion, apart from religious festivals, for people to wear traditional clothes, speak in Hindi or other regional languages, and participate in a ritual reminiscent of “home.” At a time when there were no cultural institutions in place and little on offer in mainstream media that resonated with their emotions, nostalgic longing, and cultural values, let alone addressing the difficulties of life in a new cultural space, these screenings were marked as an exclusively Desi space, away from mainstream society, where families could meet and participate in a ritual of sharing personal and collective memories of life in various parts of South Asia. A second reason that films and film music figure prominently in discussions of youth culture relates to Desi youth appropriating and remixing film songs and dance sequences in college events, dance clubs, and so on. Third, it is in and through cinema that diasporic writers and directors like Hanif Kureishi, Mira Nair, and Gurinder Chadha began addressing the complexities of claiming and defining South Asian identities in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Finally, the limited influence of television production in the South Asian-American context (and more broadly, the Asian-American one), can be attributed to the relatively small-scale nature—both in terms of finance and geographic reach—of the many initiatives that were launched in the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. While radio programs featuring Hindi film music, Indian classical music, and other forms, including ghazals and qawwalis, had been on the air in areas with large concentrations of South Asian immigrants, it was only toward the mid-1980s that television became part of the Desi mediascape.2 The limited reach of this early phase of South Asian television programming in the United States was largely a function of policies and regulatory frameworks that created the opportunity for such programming in the first place. Without exception, content from the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry was vital to every such local television production. However, given the small 133

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scale and limited reach of these television programs, there were no formal links established with industry professionals in Bombay. The only notable exception to this was a weekly television series (Indigo) produced by a New York-based company called the Bombay Broadcasting Network (BBN). Established and managed by a husband-and-wife team (Anita Ratnam and Giri Raj), BBN claimed that it reached “7 million South Asian immigrants from coast to coast, in 9 cities across the country” (TV and Video World, 1987, 23). This program premiered in August 1987 on what was then the newly launched Travel Channel, but ended by February 1989 when the company went bankrupt. Broadly speaking, then, South Asian diasporic media production has always occupied a space between “national” media capitals, between Mumbai and Los Angeles. However, I would argue that for diasporic media producers, pre-liberalization Bombay had no specificity either as a “switching point” for capital or as a center of media production capable of and/or interested in mediating the experience of migration and diaspora. It is this dynamic that changed in significant ways as India embarked on a program of economic liberalization during the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a number of scholars have elaborated, three interrelated shifts and emergences defined this sociohistorical conjuncture: the growing cultural, political, and economic influence of the Indian diaspora on different spheres of life in India and, conversely, the growing influence of Indian media in the diaspora; the transformation of film, television, and advertising industries in cities like Bombay, Chennai, and Hyderabad with the entry and establishment of transnational media corporations; and the state’s creative responses and efforts to refigure its relationship with both the Indian diaspora and the media industries (Rajadhyaksha, 2003; Nigam, 2004). I have framed this discussion so far by positioning diasporic media and culture between Bombay and Los Angeles, but it is crucial to also take into account the influence that Chennai and Hyderabad, two other centers of media production, wield. Chennai and Hyderabad are centers of Tamil and Telugu-language film and television production, and home to powerful media conglomerates, including the SUN TV network (Chennai) and the Ramoji Group (Hyderabad). In contrast to Bollywood during the 1990s, Tamil and Telugu cinema did not address diasporic communities or wrestle with the issue of reterritorializing diasporic Indians. Moreover, the distribution of Tamil and Telugu films across the world remains largely unorganized and defined by informal networks involving merchants and grocery stores that cater to South Asian communities, pirate networks that ensure the availability of DVDs within a few days of the film’s release in India, and a large number of streaming video and BitTorrent websites. Television, however, is a different story, as McMillin’s (2010) overview of the SUN TV network makes clear. Managed by Kalanidhi Maran, member of the powerful Karunanidhi family in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, SUN TV was launched as a Tamil-language channel in 1993. Beginning with just three hours of programming, SUN TV developed into a twenty-four-hour channel by 1995, and went on to expand its line by adding a news channel in 2000 (Sun News), a music channel in 2002 (Sun Music), and a film-based channel (KTV) in 2004. During this time, the network also expanded into Telugu (Gemini TV), Kannada (Udaya TV), and Malayalam-language (Surya TV) programming. By 2002, audiences in the United States had access to SUN TV via the Dish Network, and on other carriers in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Singapore, Malaysia, China, and Russia. What McMillin’s account of the landscape of Indian television companies’ global reach makes clear is the segmented nature of the diasporic audience for Indian television and more importantly, the difficulty of imagining a pan-Desi audience demographic. It is in relation to these transformations in the media industries in India, particularly their growing capacity to define media circulation in the diaspora, that I explore the launch and failure of MTV Desi. 134

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“I want my hyphenated-identity MTV!” In July 2005, MTV Networks announced the launch of MTV Desi, a niche channel for South Asian-American youth. Launched with great fanfare, MTV Desi sought to respond to ongoing changes in South Asian-American culture and create a space within mainstream media that would speak to the particular experiences of Desi youth. In addition to Bollywood song sequences and Indi-pop music videos, the channel would feature U.S.- and U.K.-based artists like DJ Rekha, M.I.A., and Jay Sean alongside popular American stars in order to create a multi-ethnic, multi-genre playlist that would resonate with Desi youth. While music would remain the primary focus of programming, MTV Desi would also develop new segments covering a range of topics related to life in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora worldwide, including original shows such as “Live From,” which would track Desi youth culture in cities across North America and the U.K., “Desi Sweet 16,” which was modelled on the Sweet 16 series on MTV USA, and hit shows like Roadies from MTV India. Recognizing the transnational nature of Desi youth culture, writers, producers, and VJs worked hard to define MTV Desi as a unique site of cultural production that neither mainstream American television nor the India-centric programming on Dish TV and DirecTV could match. Declaring that MTV Desi would soon become the “pop culture destination for Desis,” Nusrat Durrani, General Manager and Senior Vice President of MTV World, explained: “But more than the music, it is also about articulating the stories from this community—young South Asian-Americans who have grown up in the country, but have not seen themselves on TV” (Mozumder, 2005). At the same time, Durrani aimed to fashion MTV Desi not simply as a channel for South Asian-American youth but as a space that would showcase South Asian cultural production and invite participation from as diverse an audience as possible. MTV Desi, furthermore, was part of a larger MTV World initiative, which involved channels targeting Korean-American (MTV K) and Chinese-American youth (MTV Chi) (Sontag, 2005). As the very first mainstream media initiative that targeted diasporic youth culture, these “hyphenatedidentity” MTV channels attracted a great deal of positive attention despite the fact that they were available only through an international programming package on DirecTV’s satellite television service. MTV Desi was part of the “Hindi Direct” package that included five other Indian television channels and cost $29.99 per month. Eighteen months later, MTV Networks pulled the plug on MTV Desi, MTV K, and MTV Chi, stating that the premium distribution model failed to attract audiences and, hence, advertising revenues. In press releases and interviews, MTV executives also pointed out that a larger process of corporate restructuring that the parent company Viacom had undertaken at the time shaped the decision. On the one hand, the cancellation of the MTV World initiative did not come as a major surprise to either audiences or media journalists. As one prominent journalist remarked on the widely read blog of the South Asian Journalists Association: [w]e published next to nothing on the channel, because I couldn’t find anyone who watched the satellite channel: no college students, no twenty-somethings with spare change. And it wasn’t just me. All the tastemakers I interviewed—DJs, other music types—said they didn’t know any MTV Desi subscribers either. (Venugopal, 2007) On the other hand, given the fact that all other attempts to carve out a space for Asian-American programming on television—AZN, American Desi, and ImaginAsian, for instance—had failed or struggled to remain viable, the dismay among Desis and other Asian-American groups was 135

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understandable. Relying on advertising and marketing discourse that had, over the past decade, constructed the “Asian consumer” and the Asian-American community as an increasingly important audience demographic, protest letters and petitions suggested that these failures reflected a lack of commitment on the part of mainstream media corporations to develop and sustain Asian-American programming. Although letters to MTV Networks urging the company to keep MTV World alive and to make these channels more widely available did not have any effect, it is possible that they did influence MTV’s decision to rethink their content production and distribution model. In December 2008, MTV Networks announced the launch of, a website for Desi, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese youth across the world. While media attention has moved on, focusing instead on mainstream American television networks’ attempts to create South Asian-themed programming, analyzing this moment of “failure” is crucial because it brings into sharp relief the challenges facing media professionals in imagining diasporic audiences (Andreeva, 2010). In this case, it also encourages us to reflect on the limits of television as a site for the articulation of Bollywood with contemporary diasporic youth culture. Nusrat Durrani, who was largely responsible for developing the MTV World initiative, understood very well that the relationship between “diaspora” and “home” was much more ambivalent for Desi youth compared with their parents’ generation, and that MTV Desi could not succeed by mimicking MTV India or other Indian television channels. Born and raised in North India, Durrani had worked for a decade in India and Dubai before moving to the United States and joining MTV in the early 1990s. Indeed, that his taste in music and popular culture had been shaped by transnational circuits of cultural flows that were not limited to the Anglo-American cultural sphere that his colleagues at MTV were steeped in, seems to have played a key role in shaping his approach to the MTV Desi initiative. Recalling his early years as a junior executive at MTV, Durrani reflected on the music channel’s narrow programming outlook as something that came as a surprise to him. Durrani went on to talk at length about other diasporic artists and groups including Talvin Singh, Fun-Da-Mental, Nitin Sawhney and others associated with the Asian Underground, a music and cultural formation involving primarily second-generation British-born youth with ties to different countries in the Indian subcontinent. This immersion in this diasporic cultural phenomenon during the mid-to-late 1990s shaped his understanding of diasporic youth culture and its location between and betwixt “national” cultures. However, despite Durrani’s efforts to position and brand MTV Desi as a uniquely diasporic space, MTV Networks entered into a distribution deal with DirecTV and located MTV Desi firmly within an India-centric programming package. This decision was partly a function of television industry professionals grappling with a changing distribution landscape in the United States, and certainly spoke to their uncertainty about a channel like MTV Desi reaching audiences via satellite television. Even though Durrani and others at MTV Desi recognized that it would be a mistake to imagine Desi youth and their engagement with media and popular culture in the same terms as their parents or, generally speaking, first-generation migrants from the Indian subcontinent, statements from others at MTV Networks revealed that this was how Desi identity continued to be mobilized. A particularly telling press release from MTV described the entire MTV World initiative as an attempt to “tap into the rich transcultural nature of the target audiences in a manner that uniquely connects local audiences to their homeland” (my emphasis) (Sheth, 2005). Statements from other industry executives also revealed how this advertising/marketing discourse positioned Desi youth outside the boundaries of American national culture, rehearsing the contradictory nature of American responses to Asian immigration that has tended to position “Asians ‘within’ the U.S. nation-state, its workplaces, and its market, yet linguistically, culturally, 136

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and racially marked Asians as ‘foreign’ and ‘outside’ the national polity” (Lowe, 1996, 8). Narrow imaginations of the Desi audience, one that flattened out linguistic, regional, and other forms of diversity in the diaspora, also had an impact on programming decisions. A majority of the programs on MTV Desi relied on content that was either sourced from MTV India or adapted from MTV USA’s programming lineup. Not surprisingly, Bollywood-inspired material dominated the content that was imported from MTV India—programs such as Bollywood on Ice and a countdown program called MTV 123—and did little to distinguish MTV Desi from the other India-centric channels available through DirecTV or other satellite and cable systems. In one sense, then, MTV Desi is symptomatic of a larger problem confronting diasporic television production—of being caught between the nationalist logics of two powerful media industries. But we could also understand MTV Desi as an initiative that represented an opportunity for Bollywood to become part of a broader arena of diasporic cultural production instead of remaining ensconced in the ethnic cable and satellite TV packages that target primarily first-generation immigrants. However, given the difficulties of creating programming that cuts across and speaks to the diversity of Desi youth culture while also becoming commercially viable, perhaps it is also worth asking if we can expect television, in its current form and structure, to play a crucial role in expanding Bollywood’s reach. Do digital media platforms allow for more flexible and productive links across spatial scales? What might the fortunes of a company like tell us about the work of creating a circuit of media circulation that is able to leverage changing relations between national, global, and diasporic in ways that a television channel like MTV Desi could not?

“It’s not your Dad’s Bollywood” In 2008, the South Asians in Media and Marketing Association (SAMMA) organized a convention focused on the growing influence of South Asian-origin professionals in the media and cultural industries in the United States. One panel in particular, titled “It’s Not Your Dad’s Bollywood: The Upstarts behind a New Generation of South Asian-Inspired Content and Distribution Companies,” brought together three diasporic entrepreneurs who had launched digital media companies with ties to Bollywood. Given that the title signals a generational break, we might begin by asking: what was Dad’s Bollywood for Vin Bhat (, Anjula Acharia-Bath (, and Geetanjali Dhillon ( As Bhat and Dhillon recalled, Dad’s Bollywood was what they grew up with in their homes and communities in the United States: weekend screenings at a community hall or in a university auditorium, often arranged by an enterprising South Asian family; film music played at home or in cars on road trips with other South Asian families; dances performed at community events; and most crucially, one-hour programs featuring Bollywood songs on the local Public Access Station every Saturday or Sunday morning. For Acharia-Bath, who grew up in the U.K. and moved to the United States as a working professional, the experience was not that different either. All the panellists, as well as the moderator for the session, Vipin Goyal, agreed that this was not their Bollywood. What, then, was their Bollywood? The answer, it turned out, rested on a set of shifts in the cultural production and perceptions of value—of what was “cool”—that unfolded in seemingly parallel tracks. The first site of change involved these entrepreneurs’ rejection of “Dad’s Bollywood” early in their lives as they struggled with and against films and film music that resonated deeply with their parents, but that they themselves could not draw upon to articulate their hybrid identities. Well into their teenage years, Bollywood films, film music, and indeed all things Indian were embarrassing. However, their tastes as well as modes of valuing Bollywood changed 137

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dramatically when they entered college and encountered a larger, if still marginal to the mainstream, Desi cultural space in which Bollywood songs, as remixed dance tracks, for instance, were deemed “cool.” In one-on-one interviews that I conducted with each one of these entrepreneurs, they all narrated a similar story of coming to terms with Bollywood. Acharia-Bath’s account of growing up in England, initially under pressure to shun Desi markers but gradually coming to terms with her sense of self and belonging in a larger Desi community, echoes comments from a range of Indian-American youth that Sunaina Maira has documented in her 2002 ethnography. The stories I heard from these three entrepreneurs spoke to the difficulties faced by diasporic youth in navigating two starkly different cultural fields. On the one hand, diasporic youth have to deal with parental pressure to preserve an “authentic” ethnic identity that is, as Maira and others have argued, fraught with the politics of nostalgia and often constructed on the basis of a highly “selective importing of elements and agents of Indian culture” (Maira, 2002, 55). On the other hand, they had to contend with their positions as minorities in the racial and class economies of the United States or the U.K. as they spent the week in schools and colleges. And it is when they entered college that they discovered a community of students with more or less similar backgrounds, with comparable stories of growing up “Indian” in the United States or the U.K. Away from home for the first time, many of them begin engaging with issues of cultural identity through coursework concerning multiculturalism, postcolonial literature, South Asian studies, and so on, but also in a more lived way through involvement in events such as the “India Night” shows on multicultural college campuses across the United States. As Kavoori and Joseph (2011, 30) suggest, India Night works as a “space-clearing gesture” and as a place for diasporic youth to come to terms with their identities “before they enter the workplace, or parts of regular America, where the place/space for a hybrid, cosmopolitan, and ethnic identity are often absent.” It is this very particular experience of coming to terms with Desi culture and identity, especially through remixed Bollywood songs and other hybrid forms of popular culture, that these diasporic entrepreneurs all narrated as they tried to explain what their Bollywood meant. The stories of growing up and coming to terms with Desi identity and culture that I heard from Acharia-Bath, Bhat, and Dhillon, and that I also came across in newspaper and trade press coverage of their companies, do need to be understood in relation to policies of multiculturalism in the United States and the U.K., especially as they play out on college campuses. They also need to be situated in relation to the commodified nature of “Indo chic” or “Asian cool” that has become such a prominent part of American and British public culture since the early 2000s (Maira, 2002). In addition, I also want to draw attention to how these stories about their selves, their sense of being and becoming Desi, became intimately tied to media industry logics. In the United States, these entrepreneurs’ lived experiences as second-generation diasporic youth was regarded as crucial to their ability to understand the particularities of Desi culture, and thereby positioned them uniquely well to build a commercially viable Desi media business. In other words, these entrepreneurs came to be regarded as representatives of a larger ethnic market, and in this capacity, they had to render themselves knowable and intelligible to media industry professionals and venture capitalists in the technology sector. Personal life histories had become a crucial source of cultural capital at a historical conjuncture in which marketing discourse surrounding the South Asian-American consumer and the growing presence of Bollywood in the global media landscape had generated new opportunities. If their own lives and identities as diasporic subjects constituted one trajectory of change, the other sense of a generational break for these entrepreneurs involved Bollywood itself. Echoing the Indian state and media industries’ narratives of corporatization, these entrepreneurs emphasized that their ventures would not have been possible had it not been for changes in the film 138

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industry in Mumbai and, in particular, the emergence of corporate studios such as UTV Motion Pictures and Reliance Entertainment. In this sense too, it was not their “Dad’s Bollywood,” one represented by family businesses and kinship-based practices. Rather, their Bollywood was a corporatized media industry with global ambitions that they, as professionals embedded in the American media system, could work with. Thus, these diasporic entrepreneurs argued that they were uniquely positioned to respond to the transcultural dimensions of diasporic culture and establish new trajectories of circulation for Bollywood films and film music in ways that were not possible either for professionals working primarily in Bombay or American media professionals who at this point simply did not possess the necessary cultural expertise. In the following section, I draw on an in-depth interview with Vin Bhat, in addition to his presentation at the SAMMA-Summit, to narrate the emergence of as one of the largest and most influential Bollywood-centric digital media companies. While all three companies are interesting cases to consider, I concentrate on because it is focused exclusively on Bollywood, unlike or’s industrial identity is defined by its focus on Bollywood, as evident not only in the slogan that accompanies all advertisements—“Bringing Bollywood to the World”—but also in its claim to offer a “Passport to Bollywood.” a passport to Bollywood The story begins in the early 2000s when Vin Bhat decided, after a few years in the world of investment banking in New York City, to try his hand at being an entrepreneur. With three other colleagues, Bhat launched a software company that focused on servicing media clients and designing contextual advertising. As with several such ventures in the post-boom dot-com economy, Bhat and his colleagues sold their company to a venture capital firm and, in a move that would bring them in close contact with the media world in Bombay, decided to spend a few months in India. “This was 2003–04 and we didn’t really have a plan. It was about taking some time off while also getting to know the media industry in a place that was attracting attention across the world,” Bhat recalled. Through contacts at major banks in India, Bhat and his colleagues were able to meet a range of media industry professionals across the film, television, and music sectors in Bombay. According to Bhat, this experience was formative. In particular, what sparked their interest was the recognition that Bombay-based professionals were struggling to establish a presence in overseas territories. “When we heard from so many people that it was difficult to get a sense of the [overseas] market when there isn’t proper reporting and the distribution chain is opaque, it got us thinking,” Bhat recounted. “We wanted to go back to the drawing board, to figure out how to solve this problem in the industry.” Back in the United States, Bhat and his colleagues began by approaching cable operators. With the help of former advisors, one of whom had been an executive vice president at Fox Broadcasting and another a vice president at Bravo, they were able to initiate conversations with major companies such as Time Warner Cable early in the autumn of 2003. As it happened, their visit took place in the context of cable companies across North America exploring the possibilities of Video-on-Demand (VOD) services as a way to tap into the sought-after “Asian-American audience.” To be sure, cable television in the United States has been a vital space for a range of transnational, ethnic, and exilic media. This has, however, been limited to public and leased access television. As Naficy (1993, 144) and others have shown, exilic and diasporic media producers have had to work “at the intersection and in the interstices of culture industries; transnational, national, federal, state, local, private, ethnic, commercial and noncommercial funding agencies.” In 2003, Vin Bhat and his colleagues entered into conversations 139

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with companies that now aimed to create a space for diasporic audiences within mainstream cable television. “It was a surprise, yes,” Bhat continued: Time Warner Cable was telling us that customers were emailing call centres and calling customer service asking for Bollywood channels. But of course, in 2004, Time Warner could not carry those channels. Unlike Dish and DirecTV, their issue was one of space, of capacity. So they wanted to get individual Bollywood movies that they could put on VOD, which was a new service they had launched. And this is where we came in. Vin Bhat and his team struck a deal that involved securing licensing agreements from film producers in Bombay, designing a marketing campaign for Time Warner, and developing a revenue-sharing agreement. In October 2003, Bhat and his colleagues launched BODVOD Networks in partnership with two New York-based companies, [212]Media and Schramm Sports & Entertainment, and began supplying Bollywood films and other South Asian media content to cable operators and creating marketing plans for cable operators to attract South Asian audiences. Over the next few years, BODVOD expanded to other cable carriers (Comcast and Rogers, for example) and was able to claim a distribution base of 19 million homes across North America. Further, having negotiated rights for global distribution, Bhat also explained that their objective was to expand to other overseas markets as well. Securing distribution arrangements with film producers in Bombay was not, however, a straightforward affair. When Vin Bhat and others at BODVOD approached various production companies and studios with a revenue-sharing proposal, they found themselves unable to persuade anyone that focusing on the cable television market and, subsequently, online and mobile phone platforms would be just as crucial as intervening in theatrical distribution and exhibition practices. The fact that BODVOD was primarily a New York-based company managed by people who did not have deep ties in the film industry did not help matters either. According to Bhat, one production company finally agreed to a revenue-sharing agreement and this in turn made it possible for BODVOD to raise investor capital. These funds were used to pay minimum guarantees to the production company, an arrangement that soon attracted several other producers with interests in the overseas market. “Once we had minimum guarantees in place and got prominent companies like UTV and Adlabs to sign up, things got easier,” recalled Bhat, going on to explain that BODVOD positioned itself in relation to the rhetoric of “corporatization” that had come to define the transformation of the Bombay film industry into Bollywood. Industry professionals in Bombay, for their part, were interested in the increasingly lucrative overseas territories and were more than pleased with the level of transparency in reporting when it came to VOD services. With pirate networks remaining robust and the theatrical distribution chain just as opaque and unreliable, BODVOD seemed to offer a way forward. Having forged relations with the media industries in India and the United States, BODVOD moved beyond Bollywood films and the cable business to enter the Internet and mobile phone sectors as well. Adopting the name “,” Vin Bhat and his colleagues entered into a joint venture with Hungama Mobile, a Bombay-based media company that is one of the largest aggregators of content for the mobile phone platform across Asia. By 2007, had established a distribution network that included films and film music, and more importantly an audience network that spanned the globe. In contrast to South Asia-centric television channels,’s distribution network held the potential to move Bollywood beyond a niche audience. As one of the largest aggregators of Bollywood content, could track consumer purchases across a wide range of media platforms, including Apple’s iTunes,, and a number of mobile phone services. In turn, this meant that could aggregate audience 140

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demographics for marketing and advertising companies on a scale that no “ethnic” media company could match. As Bhat explained, “A lot of South Asian media isn’t measurable, Nielsen doesn’t come in and rate any South Asian television network which prevents advertisers from entering, and there is only one newspaper, India Abroad, that is audited.” Thus, while Durrani and his team at MTV Desi found themselves unable to forge links between the national scale-making projects that Indian and American television corporations were invested in, Bhat and his colleagues at succeeded by positioning themselves as brokers between Indian and American media companies to forge a lucrative audience interested in Bollywood films and film music. The distribution network that had built in collaboration with the Bombay-based company Hungama Mobile enabled the circulation of Bollywood content beyond the realm of “ethnic television” and into other media networks that included prominent players in the television, Internet, and mobile phone industries. By 2010, Vin Bhat could declare at the SAMMA-Summit that had worked toward, and in large measure succeeded in accomplishing, its declared goal of “Bringing Bollywood to the World.”

Conclusion Narrating the fortunes of two recent diasporic media initiatives, this chapter has examined how the restructuring of the media industries in Bombay, and changing relations between Bombay and Los Angeles, have reconfigured the space of South Asian diasporic media production and circulation. MTV Desi and are, without a doubt, mainstream media ventures and are strikingly different in comparison with diasporic film and television production up to the mid-1990s. Far from being exilic or interstitial, the scale at which these media initiatives operate cannot be grasped without accounting for the ways in which relations between global media capitals—in this case, Bombay, New York City, and Los Angeles—have begun to define media circulation in the diaspora and structure the conditions for diasporic media production. Focusing on industry logics and production cultures allows us to understand MTV Desi and as projects that sought to re-imagine the diaspora as a commercially viable scale of media production and circulation. And surely this is what Vin Bhat, Nusrat Durrani, and their colleagues were doing—imagining and mobilizing different visions of the South Asian diaspora, from New York City, as Desis, in collaboration with professionals in Bombay, Los Angeles, and other cities in the world, building on shifting notions of Desi identity and ongoing changes in Indian and American media industries. The two ventures I have described conjured the Desi diaspora in different ways, and encountered different sets of challenges and opportunities. Where MTV Desi was limited by the niche marketing logics of the American television industry, managed to not only construct an enumerable and commercially viable “Desi audience” but also define itself as a company interested in bringing Bollywood to the world. Institutions, nation-states, media companies, and the social worlds of diasporic media industry professionals—it is the interactions among and between these sites and actors that we need to examine in order to discern the workings of diasporic media in an era of global media capitals.

Notes 1 Portions of this chapter are drawn from a version published in From Bombay to Bollywood: The Making of a Global Media Industry (Punathambekar, 2013). 2 For example, “Rang Hi Rang, Zaidi Ke Sang” was a highly popular radio program that covered most of the West coast of the United States. Launched in 1977 and hosted by Shamim Zaidi, the program aired on KMAX for 18 years before migrating to KYMS in 1995 (both KMAX and KYMS are Bay Area radio stations).


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References Andreeva, N. (2010). Indian-Themed Comedies a New TV Trend. Hollywood Reporter. Available from: (Accessed on 12 January 2016). Gillespie, M. (1995). Television, Ethnicity, and Cultural Change. London: Routledge. Hegde, R. (2016). Mediating Migration. New York: Polity Press. Kavoori, A. and Joseph, C. A. (2011). Bollyculture: Ethnography of Identity, Media and Performance. Global Media and Communication, 7(1), 17–32. Khanna, P. (2004). ‘Bollystan—The Global India.’ Globalist, December 3. printStoryId.aspx?StoryId=4279. Lowe, L. (1996). Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Maira, S. (2002). Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. McMillin, D. C. (2010). The Global Face of Indian Television. In: M. Curtin and H. Shah, eds, Reorienting Global Communication: Indian and Chinese Media Beyond Borders. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, pp. 118–138. Mozumder, S. G. (2005). Desi Television Comes Alive. India Abroad. January 7. Naficy, H. (1993). The Making of Exile Cultures: Iranian Television in Los Angeles. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Nigam, A. (2004). Imagining the Global Nation: Time and Hegemony. Economic and Political Weekly, 39(1), 72–79. Punathambekar, A. (2013). From Bombay to Bollywood: The Making of a Global Media Industry. New York: New York University Press. Rajadhyaksha, A. (2003). The ‘Bollywoodization’ of the Indian Cinema: Cultural Nationalism in a Global Arena. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 4(1), 28–34. Shankar, S. (2008). Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Sheth, J. (2005). ‘Desi Making Waves,’ ABCD Lady, July 2005. Singh, A. (2007). ‘Names Can Wait’: The Misnaming of the South Asian Diaspora in Theory and Practice. South Asian Review, 28(1), 13–28. Sontag, D. (2005). I Want My Hyphenated-Identity MTV. The New York Times, June 19, 2005. Venugopal, A. (2007). ‘Obit, MTV-Desi,’ SAJAforum (blog), February 18. obit_mtv_desi.html.


11 MIGRATORY SOUTH ASIAN PERFORMANCES Between nationalism and assimilation Priya Srinivasan

I was looking at Bharata Natyam (an Indian classical dance form) performances on YouTube when my attention was grabbed by a caption title that read “Malibu Srinivasa dance.” I was quite taken with this title because Indian classical dance like many other classical arts of that region is dedicated toward the divine, and Srinivasa is a subject of many musical and dance compositions. The Srinivasa temple that is most often referred to is in the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India known as Tirupathi. In the online recording of the performance at the Malibu Temple, when the dancer invoked the famed God Srinivasa, the Lord of the Seven Hills, she described the topography of the land both from a bird’s eye view and from a devotee’s perspective while climbing the seven hills to reach the Lord. This Indian American body was laying claim to the land in the nation state, calling into being vast geographies across time and space to animate diasporic consciousness and nostalgic longing for the nation. In effect the dancer also brings the audience to these spaces through the device of transportation embedded in the dance form itself. I mobilize the term transportation to refer to the imagined worlds and peoples that are created in the act of dancing. Through his/her body, hand gestures, and facial expressions, the dancer conveys the meaning of the song text that is rendered by a musician. Usually the text of the song in Bharata Natyam provides descriptive details about the deity, and identifies features of the temple, and local legends and miracles that accompany the deity. The dancer uses the lyrics in the song to elaborate and portray through mimetic gestures details about the deity using its geography. The audience is then clued in very quickly as to which deity at which site is being referred to in the dance piece. Once the audience knows which deity is being performed, then the knowledgeable spectator will “fill in the blanks” in his/her own mind and subsequently wait for the dancer’s interpretation of the deity to “fact check” details and then engage more fully when the improvisation takes place. However, when the lyrics were repeated as they are in most dance items, I found myself startled . . . “America vasa jaya govinda” (Assisi, 2005) or Victory to Govinda who lives in America. I realized immediately that this was not the usual piece about the Srinivasa temple deity in South India. The song was in praise of Sri Venkateswara Temple in Malibu, California: “America vasa jaya govinda, Malibu Hills nilaya radhe govinda, sri guru jaya guru, vithala govinda,” which means, “Victory to Govinda who lives in America; Govinda who with Radha resides in Malibu Hills. Victory to Govinda, Vithala, the sacred Teacher.” The dancer danced this piece as she 143

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would any other, but strikingly this was the first Indian dance performance in the U.S. laying claim to U.S. land and space. This seems to be a dual process of Hinduizing the American sacred space and staking a political claim to land through the bodily movement of the dancer, the text, and the music from the site of the Hindu temple. In this chapter, it is this dual claim to citizenship that I investigate. I demonstrate how the Indian dancing body makes visible the tensions between nation state and diaspora and in particular the divergent pulls of cultural nationalism and multicultural assimilation. First, I connect the idea of dancers as laborers and the ways that migration allows us to examine the contradictory relationship of power, nation states, and bodily practices. In particular I build from my earlier work (Srinivasan, 2009) which focused on the relationship between Indian dancers traveling to and from the U.S. in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and having a critical impact on labor and cultural formation in the U.S. Second, I examine these issues within the nexus of deep racial and misogynist anxiety present in the U.S. and the emergence of the problematic development of the Hindutva government in India (extreme right wing Hindu political party) that encourages Hindus all the over the world to proselytize Hinduism, raise capital (political, economic, national, and cultural), and take over spaces to mark them as Hindu (Maira & Raja, 2006; Pandey, 2005; Thapar, 2013). I suggest that in being caught between nation states and citizenry obligations, migrants produce contradictory responses as racialized minority subjects in the U.S. on the one hand and as majority powerful subjects of the brahminical/caste system order in India on the other. Third, I look at how diaspora makes visible the pulls of multiple citizenship and dance practices in particular, and enables us to see contradiction and simultaneity in response to the pulls of nation and diaspora. I connect current performances by Indian diasporic communities in California with a longer history going back to the nineteenth century of the flows between nation and diaspora through the arts. In examining current performances by diasporic communities in California that demonstrate the contested relationship between resistance and assimilation, I focus on the ways that the binary demands and the weaving of the community’s pressures to stay Indian versus becoming American fold into the politics of the nation state. I suggest that dance and the dancing body simultaneously stage forms of protest and assimilation that make visible the tensions within cultural nationalism and assimilation. With an eye on the past and looking at transnational circulation and performance in the nineteenth century, I disrupt the fixity of the relationship between the citizen and state, arguing that the articulations of citizenship are always partial. I use three case studies to examine the ways that young female bodies respond to power at different geographical spaces and moments in time. In the first example, I look at an online performance of classical Bharata Natyam in the Malibu Temple in California. Dance reveals a claiming of land and a Hinduizing of America that both co-opts the right wing Hindutva agendas, even while playing with multicultural assimilation projects, and settler colonial models. In the second case study I look at the historical precedents that did not allow Indians to claim land and citizenship in the U.S., and the death of citizenship enacted by dancing women. This provides the context with which to understand Indian immigrant anxieties and claims to land. In the last case study I examine the ways that young dancers resist the power of the far right Hindu nationalist agenda to shape young female bodies within the master narrative of patriarchal brahminical discourse. Young dancers, even while laying claim to Hindu gods and goddesses and their alternative bodily aesthetic of having multiple arms, heads, and body parts, that is different to a western norm, also resist Hindu patriarchal discourses of power in innovative and transgressive ways. In all three diaspora performances spanning digital bodies on YouTube, archival bodies in New York public library archives, and live bodies in California rehearsal rooms, I examine how multiple and competing modes of citizenship are performed and made visible through dance practices. 144

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Claiming land, claiming citizenship through dance Malibu conjures up TV shows like Baywatch, “Malibu, CA” and iconic products such as the Malibu Barbie (1971–1977). Images of tanned, blond haired, blue eyed, white muscular male and lithe female bodies with large breasts in bikinis abound in our imagination as we link these bodies to the crystalline waters of the coast, sand, surf, and hills. So when we hear the words “The Malibu Hindu Temple,” we are propelled into new geographic imaginaries and the linking of differently raced and ethnic bodies that may also lay claim to the Malibu land space. That is, images of Indian American bodies that might be brown skinned, brown eyed, black haired bodies clad in saris and dhotis praying to Hindu deities. In this section I examine the performance of Bharata Natyam by some Indian American bodies as they lay claim to the Malibu temple and the land it is built on, originally named as “Humaliwo” by the Chumash who populated this land with about 20,000 people prior to Spanish contact in 1502 (Gamble, 2008). I read this claiming of Malibu as a political act that moves against the U.S. state’s hegemonic imperatives of de-naturalizing the Asian body but at the same time shies away from any radical claims to citizenship or professing political solidarity with Native American issues over sovereignty rights. What I refer to here is the notion that Hindu temples in North America are examples of cultural citizenship (Lowe, 1996; Ong, 2006) but that Indian dancing bodies’ cultural practices are not pure resistance or pure commodities. A reading of cultural citizenship as either resistance or commodity fails to address the messy intersections that are a part of the process of citizenship making. The dance that I discussed at the beginning of this chapter reflects these claims of citizenship making. Hindus in America have begun to cultivate the strains within their own religious tradition that foster a sense of the sacred earth through myth, ritual, ceremonies, and spirit power that I argue also reflects Native American cultural practices. Indeed, Hindus would not be doing this if they did not realize the land was sacred in some intrinsic way, something Native American Indians knew for thousands of years. These migrants are locating, establishing, and embellishing sacred spaces in America by Hindu ritual rites of co-mingling the waters of the Ganga and the Kaveri with the Mississippi and Rio Grande, and by invoking holy Indian rivers in the local waters (Assisi, 2005). In the process they have made the land of the Americas ritually sacred in at least four ways: composing songs and pious Sanskrit prayers extolling the American state where the temples are located; identifying America as a specific dvipa or island as noted in the Hindu Puranas; physically consecrating the land with waters from sacred Indian and American rivers; and literally recreating the physical landscape of certain holy places in India, as in Pittsburgh or Barsana Dham, Texas. This is a process by which land or shrines held sacred by indigenous people are coopted by Hindus and the sacrality is re-articulated with Hindu motifs. Manalansan (2000) has argued that, for immigrants, “rituals provide the terrain in which the consciousness of communal boundaries is heightened, thereby confirming and strengthening individual location and positionality as well as social identity.” These rituals become the signs at the crossroads that re-territorialize migrants so that their identity is then rooted to a new geography, space, and place. The rituals, however, can be read in multiple ways. Laying claim to the land is also a laying claim to American cultural citizenship and capital accumulation. This is of particular significance in light of early twentieth-century anti-Asian immigration policies that rendered Indians and other Asians ineligible for political citizenship in 1924 and de-naturalized American citizens of Asian origin. In California it was particularly felt by Indian men who, because of anti-miscegenation laws and laws barring the entry of Asian women, were prevented from consolidating themselves and placing new roots. Many Indian men who did not leave the U.S. found a way around this law especially in the areas of 145

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Yuba City and El Centro in California (Leonard, 1992). Some cohabited with and married Mexican women, often to hold on to property by transferring their lands to their wives in name only, and their descendants remain in these towns in California even now (Leonard, 1992). It was only after 1965 that Indians re-entered the U.S. in large numbers mainly as professionals rather than as the laborers and unskilled migrants who had arrived earlier in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But the new immigrants and their descendants have an aporea about their earlier counterparts separated by time and class differences. Despite the lack of awareness of these contradictory histories and contestations over land in the early twentieth century, I argue that the dancer’s body on YouTube lays claim to North American land, signaling an access to ownership that was previously denied to Indians and other Asians. Hindus in America have embraced the benefits of the post-1965 law heralding the emergence of a transplanted cosmology in America that has led to more than 1,500 places of Hindu worship in North America. It could be argued that this claim and Hinduizing of the land helps these migrants experience the life force of the land, enabling them to see the land of their adoption as a distinct being deserving of respect and something that they belong to, and that it is not necessarily the nation space they need to return to in order to feel at “home.” In this ideal multicultural scenario immigrants claim land and establish their citizenship rights in their new home. However, Kim (1987), in her classic essay, signals ambivalence as she provides a complex interpretation of Asian Americans’ claim to Americanness: So much writing by Asian Americans is focused on the theme of claiming an American, as opposed to Asian, identity that we may begin to wonder if this constitutes accommodation, a collective colonized spirit—the fervent wish to “hide our ancestry,” which is impossible for us anyway, to relinquish our marginality, and to lose ourselves in an intense identification with the hegemonic culture. Or is it in fact a celebration of our marginality and a profound expression of protest against being defined by domination? (Kim, 1987, 88) The tension between identification and marginality is exposed in the dance performance. The dancer is making a claim to not only the divine but a diasporic citizenship that acknowledges the history of the land they live on. The importance of dance is that the body imagines and represents the past while still in the present. It also requires the audience to be transported across space and time. Dance is happening in the absolute present and invoking the past and another space simultaneously. The Indian dancing body in diaspora invokes ancient and ritual spaces through the kinesthetic traces that reside in the form, but it also claims contemporary spaces even if this is not a radical undoing but a continuation of citizenship based on property ownership, and therein lies the danger. I would argue here that we cannot simply delink settler colonialism and migrant claims to land (Sharma, 2006). We would then be ignoring the act of claiming land itself as a violent and capitalist act. According to Native Americans, land is not to be owned by an individual, it is meant to be harnessed by communities who are owned by the land. If Hinduism in its manifestation through Indian dance is attempting to control land through sacral geography, then there is a dark side to this performance. These are the tensions around the building of Hindu temples on North American land. This Hindu claiming of American land is not a radical undoing, but a continuation of citizenship based on property ownership (Lipsitz, 2011), putting them on a path toward the assimilation and “whiteness” they seek and fear (Roediger, 2006). It has become increasingly evident that Asians, Indians included, are complicit in America’s system of 146

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hierarchy by passively accepting the privileges of whiteness (Wong, 2014). The post-1965 Indian immigrants are not like the pre-1928 migrants, given that the term of whiteness itself has shifted now to include them in key and important ways. Although in this performance the music and dance text purports to align itself with “nature” and the Native American relationship to land, in some ways this is a dangerous move that can be understood within the frameworks of the increasing diasporic identification with the activities of the BJP, Shiv Sena, or Hindutva. Such fundamentalist moves offer no political support or recognition of Native American sovereignty rights and struggles over land in the Americas. They are also examples of the increasing right wing, militant, masculine, neoliberal, capitalist dominated forms of Hinduism that have spread both in India (for example, with the recent election win of the BJP with the controversial Narendra Modi as the new Prime Minster of India) and in the diaspora. Indian immigrants in North America, along with other immigrants, have followed in the footsteps of colonial settler movements in laying claim to land and participating in the transactions required to participate in U.S. forms of citizenship. Like other immigrants from various religious backgrounds, they have formed ethnic communities that have created religious spaces for themselves whether it is through building temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches, and the like through the act of buying and owning land. What is hidden in this dance performance is the $40 million it cost to buy the land in Malibu and build the temple, which was raised by the Hindu Society of Los Angeles. Ironically the dedication of the dance to the God Srinivasa in Malibu is perhaps apropos given that this deity in Tirupathi is heavily in debt to Kubera the God of Wealth. Legend has it that the God Vishnu in his human avatar of Srinivasa found himself insolvent and needed money quickly in order to marry his consort the Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth personified) in her human avatar as Padmavati. Apparently the wedding costs were quite high and subsequently Srinivasa found himself indebted to Kubera at an unfair interest rate, and therefore his temple in Tirupathi continues amassing great wealth to pay his debts to Kubera (which according to accounts still remain unpaid despite the vast sums of money accumulating in the temple). The temple in Malibu is also, by all accounts, quite solvent and attracts wealth, be it due to this insolvent Srinivasa and/or the sacred geography of Malibu itself. It is then important to ask how Indian immigrants might re-imagine themselves differently to a capitalist accumulation approach to land. A different imaginary might urge us to consider the politics of laying claim to land as problematic in the first place. Asian immigrants in North America have shouldered this burden in a particular way, as the constant figures of non-belonging and foreignness. The burden of belonging falls upon them—often having to prove themselves as exceptional and exceeding the performance of American values: individualist self-making through capitalist production, family values, model citizenship, etc. Racialization of South Asians post-9/11, the rise of India as a super power, and cultural performances such as “Malibu Srinivasa” leave open the recognition of unrealized connectivities and potentialities through shared beliefs in the sacred earth, power of myths, understood within the force of contemporary politics rather than transcendent of them. However, there is ambivalence to these forms of belonging, because in the process of assimilation and trying to become “white,” Indians in America may in fact be perpetrating the same kinds of violence as earlier colonial settlers with this process of “claiming land.” This claiming of land, citizenship, and the processes of belonging have a long and complex history in the U.S. for Indians and other Asians. I turn to another example in the nineteenth century to understand this complexity from a different perspective. In the following section I discuss the failure of citizenship for early Indian performers who came to the U.S. What I suggest 147

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is that this failure helps us understand later waves of Indian migration to the U.S. that mimic white settler forms of control over land that were denied to earlier migrants.

Nautch dancers and the death of citizenship Some of the best-known early records of Indian dancing women known as Nautch dancers in the U.S. are in dance historical records. There are brief mentions of Indian dancers who traveled to the U.S. in 1904 and performed in Coney Island in a sideshow called “the Durbar of Delhi.” These performers just happened to be seen by a vaudeville dancer, Ruth St. Denis. Her subsequent performances then catapulted her solo dance career on to the American stage and arguably made her a premier foremother of American modern dance. But the Indian dancers are not given credit for this inspiration; instead, Ruth St. Denis is written up as a genius figure who just happened to be interested in the dancers’ costumes and not their dance techniques and practices. St. Denis is seen as the penultimate Orientalist who is a good researcher – a historian who went to the library rather than an ethnographer who encountered actual bodies she then appropriated dance moves and ideas from. The Nautch dancers’ bodies were naturalized and perceived to be doing their “native” thing as if in everyday life and therefore became invisible in the archives like other subalterns (Amin & Chakrabarty, 1997; Spivak, 1995). While these Indian dancers seem to be an anomaly on the American landscape and disappear until the 1970s and 1980s when new waves of Asian immigration brought in middle class Indian dancers, there is another history that has not been accounted for. That is the history I focus on in this section, a history that predates the St. Denis encounter with Indian dancers and problematizes the encounter as a one-off event. Indian dancers were traveling to the U.S. from as early as the 1880s, moving between theater productions, circus acts, street performances, dime museums, world fairs, and sideshows up to 1907. They then disappeared from both the U.S. and Indian stages for a variety of reasons including racist immigration policies in the U.S. and the nationalist response to colonialism that removed traditional Indian dancers from their practices, called the “anti-Nautch” campaign. Traditional Indian dancers did not appear again on the U.S. stage till 1941 and certainly not in great numbers till the 1970s and 1980s as new middle class and upper caste Brahmin dancers from India arrived in the U.S. to perform and set up dance schools. Their dance forms became perceived as ethnic Asian American minority forms having no relevance to mainstream American culture. The early history of the transnational movement of Indian dancers to the U.S. has not been accounted for. I argue here that such a recognition of the movement of these dancers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would problematize what we think of as American mainstream dance and culture and what we perceive as minority/ethnic Asian American dance and culture. Early Indian dancers disappear from historical archives for a multitude of reasons. Nautch women dancers and other early Indian dancers disappear because not only were they used as bodies for hire but they also became bodies on display as objects being viewed in spectacle. Race and gender collide in fixing these dancers as natives doing their natural thing. Their dancing body is a racialized, gendered body, it becomes naturalized and is not thought to have technique, so they are not performing, and therefore are perceived to have no skill. Indian dancers like other women of color performing on New York stages in the late nineteenth century had to manage several discourses of power simultaneously. As transnational travelers and not permanent residents or citizens, their situation was extremely precarious and different from other women of color residing permanently in the U.S. How did they negotiate their performances? What does an examination of their performances on nineteenth-century New York stages offer us in understanding claims of citizenship? I ask what a focus on Indian women as cultural laborers allows us to make visible. 148

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The performances Two of the women are of the party which performed the “Nautch” dance before Gen. Grant. They are of a soft olive complexion, and one of them is a Cashmere girl. All the women are considered in Bombay to be very beautiful, but the American standard of beauty is essentially different from that of India, and it is not for their beauty that they are brought to this country. Three of them are married to members of the party of jugglers who accompany them. Sahebhjan, the principal dancer and singer, is 18 years old, and the darkest colored of the women. She is one of the best “nautch” dancers in India, and is looked upon there as a great beauty. Bhooribai, another of the most prominent of Indian dancers, is 26 years old. The other three women are named respectively Vagoirbai, 15 years of age; Ala Bundi, 14 years of age, and Oondabai, the latter being a mere child of 12 years. Of the men, Abdoolally Esmailjee is the manager of a theater in Bombay, and comes with the company to supervise their performances. Goolamhoosan is a juggler and snake-charmer, as is also Oomerkhan. (New York Times, November 21, 1880, p. 2) When Indian dancers were first mentioned in New York newspapers in 1880, they engendered deep curiosity, interest, and even admiration. This passage is perhaps the first piece of writing to describe Indian Nautch dancers in the U.S.; it tells of five female dancers, along with male jugglers and snake charmers, who arrived in New York from India in November 1880. Brief excerpts from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York Clipper, New York Mirror, New York Times, and from the book The Life of Augustin Daly, reveal that Nautch dancers were brought to the U.S. by Augustin Daly, a theater impresario, to perform at Daly’s Theater in New York for an opera production titled Zanina. Nautch women were a curiosity and an exotic commodity on the American landscape in 1880, especially considering that few women of color were performing on the stage at this time. The New York Clipper has a front-page photo and article devoted to three of the Nautch women, Oomdah, Boorie, and Sahebjan, who are to be featured in Daly’s show Zanina the following week. Since they have not performed as yet, there is great curiosity and an imagined exoticism that accompanies this photo about what their dancing might look like. Soon after their first performance, however, two “reviews,” and notes in theater magazines and newspapers lead us to believe that audiences and critics, although initially curious, lost interest in Nautch dancers very rapidly, finding them to be “ugly” and “disappointing.” According to another writer, it seemed more likely that the audience was disappointed because the Nautch women were not “improper, suggestive or licentious.” The Hindoos—The National Theater was crowded to excess last night to witness the genuine Nautch Dancers. The copper colored females came on the stage during the musical burlesque. It was an exceedingly grotesque dance in which they indulged, and is said to be the national dance of their country. Their movements were peculiar, their bodies swaying back and forth and their hands going through numerous gyrations. Augustin Daly had to close the show early because the revenues were not as high as expected. Many blamed the “dark” tricks of the Nautch girls as causing the early shut down of Daly’s show. Yet somehow this troupe of performers managed to earn some amount of money 149

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exhibiting themselves and their performance techniques for a limited period of time. As John Tchen suggests, Asian people had been displayed as freaks, oddities, and exotics since at least 1831, and their function had been to help shape American identity as it was constantly changing. By 1884 it appeared that Indian dancers were now performing with P. T. Barnum along with jugglers, acrobats, and other “Hindus” to be displayed in the show.1 There were several advertisements for Barnum’s show during this period that feature Nautch dances; however, it is not possible to determine accurately where they were from, since Nautch is a term used for all Indian and even some Middle Eastern dance practices. Lithographs and posters advertising the show depicted both North and South Indian and Sri Lankan dancers. Also it must be remembered that national boundaries during the colonial period did not differentiate between what we know of today as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka to name a few. By 1885, there were casual references to Nautch dancers on display in a dime museum in Boston, and since no performers’ names were mentioned, it is unclear whether these were the same dancers brought to the U.S. by Barnum in 1884. Periodically, Indian dancers continued to appear in P. T. Barnum circus shows and world fairs on the East Coast until 1907, at which point they disappeared altogether, primarily due to racist anti-Asian immigration policies enacted by the U.S. on Indian women. The appetite for colored bodies waned in favor of the imagined one. It became much more palatable to have white bodies perform oriental dances, that is, an “imagined” Asian coded through frames of Orientalism, than viewing actual Asian performing bodies. As Eric Lott and David Roediger and others have argued, white men caricatured black men and women through blackface minstrelsy throughout the eighteenth and particularly nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries because of a quixotic mixture of fear and desire toward the black body. For Asian men and women, however, the story is slightly different. Not subject to slavery in the same ways as black men and women, Asian men and women were subjected to racist immigrant acts that prevented them from contesting their own representations by whites in significant ways, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Robert Lee has also argued that the popularity and acceptance in the late nineteenth century of white bodies performing Asian others through “yellowface” or “brownface”, as I would add, is significant as it heralds a period in American history when the state issued racist immigrant acts preventing Asian bodies from entering the American landscape. So while whites valued, needed, and re-performed Asian practices to constitute whiteness and Americanness, they did not embrace actual Asian bodies. Some middle and upper class white women echoed this practice, particularly in the establishment of oriental theater productions such as Lalla Rook (by P. T. Barnum) and modern dance in the twentieth century with its more hidden links to brownface minstrelsy. Nautch disappeared, and writings on modern and Indian dance do not account for this fact. Thus, Nautch women were no longer wanted, since their practices had already been absorbed. This was the changing face of Orientalist desire and discourse.

Death of citizenship It appears that the youngest and the most beautiful of the dancers, 14-year-old Ala Bundi, developed a typho-malarial fever complicated by pneumonia in the New York winter and died a few days after her friend Sahebjan had given birth to a child, who also died. On the one hand, the young child is an American who never lived to see the promise of citizenship. On the other, Ala Bundi left her bodily remains on U.S. soil. For audiences who had seen the Indian dancer’s performance on stage, and for many who had not, Ala Bundi’s death and “wake” was yet another performance to be reviewed, recorded, and memorialized. Yet what is particularly 150

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significant for this chapter is to think through the symbolic significance of their deaths. On the one hand, we have the birth of perhaps the first American child from Indian parents on U.S. soil and then the subsequent death of the child (a brown American citizen). On the other, we have the death of a beautiful Indian dancer, the failed dancer (failed because she never appeared on stage due to her ill health), and the failed immigrant who did not capitalize on her trip to the U.S. Her/their sacrifice was two fold and produced the abject Indian American body.2 As Shimakawa (2002) argues, the Asian American body is in and of itself an abject body.3 Drawing from Julia Kristeva’s notion of the abject body, Shimakawa brings this theoretical framework to bear in thinking through the contemporary Asian American body onstage. I use this theorization to rethink the literal corpse of the Indian dancer and Sahebjan’s Indian American child in 1881 in symbolic terms. This contradictory expulsion/inclusion of the Asian American subject that is constantly re-performed is of particular relevance in understanding the wake of Ala Bundi and Sahebjan’s baby, and what their corpses signify. It could be argued that the ultimate sacrifice of the Indian dancer, even while she is laboring to produce the ideal American citizen, is for naught, at least in the nineteenth century. The child born on American soil was a brown child of Indian descent. It could not be reconciled within the needs of a national identity that privileged the white male Euro-American subject. Luckily, it did not have to be reconciled because it conveniently died and expelled itself. However, seeing the corpses of two brown bodies, one Indian and the other American, created a crisis for white audiences. I suggest that these bodies amplified the horror felt by white mainstream Americans when they came to realize that Indian dancers weren’t aesthetic bodies on stage, but that they were material and thus could live and die. They were living, breathing, and dying material bodies that had entered the boundaries of the nation state and not oriental imaginary bodies in the dream-space. Here was the great crisis; the dark brown Indian dancing corpse of Ala Bundi had clearly manifested itself as a material and not just an aesthetic body. The great Orientalist fantasy had well and truly been ruptured. The material bodies of brown Indians thus had to be expelled. These deaths were the harbinger of the Asian exclusion policies that followed in the decades to come, culminating in the 1924 Anti-Asian Immigration Act. Indians, along with other Asians, were prevented from entering the U.S., let alone claiming citizenship. Therefore, it behoves us when we examine contemporary artistic practices to keep in mind the changing nature of Indian claims to U.S. land. It was not until 1965 that we saw the doors opening to highly skilled Indian migrants. Thus the dance and song from the Malibu Temple performance reminds us to understand why claiming land and re-sacralizing it has a long and contradictory history. Finally, I would like to turn to a live performance discussion in a rehearsal space in California to understand citizenship from a gendered perspective.

Giving the finger: co-opting and resisting cultural citizenship In this section I am interested in examining what happens in a dance classroom in diaspora where the often first-generation female guru from India conditions and disciplines the secondgeneration female dancer in accepting the tenets of a nationalized version of Indian womanhood. Indian nationalist, often far right Hindu agendas of disciplining the female body play along with the fear of miscegenation and the mainstream assimilation that condition young girls’ bodies into models of ideal Indian womanhood. Dance as part of cultural practices in the diaspora is presumed to be holding culture and passing it on to the next generation. However, the body often does otherwise. Although power operates in both blatant and hidden ways with the guru assuming control, she also finds herself destabilized by the ways girls’ bodies resist nationalist conditionings. 151

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Tam tata kita naka jam.Takun tari kita taka.Tata kita taka naka jam. Kukkum tari kita taka. Taka jam taka nam taka rum taka dhim. [Tam tata kita takita dikita tat dit ta kirkirtaka tom]x2 tam tata kita takita dikita dhalanku ta kirkirtaka tom. We are in a rehearsal room in California and rhythmic syllables of the dance are repeated in the background. This is not just any dance classroom. At the back of the room and on the wooden dance floor, there is a large bronze statute of Nataraja, the Dancing God. The bodies here are many, their histories and contexts varied. The guru sits wearing a cotton sari in the front of the room, beating out rhythms with her stick and wooden block. I am sitting next to her dressed in a salwar and bindi, clapping to create the tala, the rhythms. There are five female dance students aged between 14 and 16, dressed in either salwars or saris and wearing bindis. Their mothers are wearing saris, pants, sweaters, or salwar, sitting on the side watching the class as it unfolds. The dance teacher beats out the rhythm as the dancers follow the beats, slapping their feet, moving their bodies, manipulating their hands and arms with gestures and using the breadth of the rehearsal space to rush forward in the final section of this jathi, or pure dance section. With the final beat of the rhythmical cycle, the pure dance section changes into a dramatic interpretation of telugu text that is sung by the teacher. As this dramatic section begins, there is an abrupt stop. The guru interjects loudly: “Your face is just not working. You are not moving elegantly like a graceful Indian woman would. What is wrong with you girls?” She chastises the students for their awkwardness, rebuking them for their “western” (read uncouth) ways of moving. “You should listen and watch your mothers more often.” She turns to me and the mothers who are sitting on the side watching their daughters dance and comments: Girls these days are not like us in our day. We listened to our parents and did what we were told. I don’t know what to do with these girls, how can I begin to make them understand the importance of elegance, of devotion, of spirituality that is so essential to our form? I’m sure your guru had similar problems too isn’t it Priya? I half smile and nod. I don’t want to join with the guru and alienate the students. I want to make sure I’m in the middle taking no sides. I’m only half concentrating because I notice that with their guru’s face turned away, the students roll their eyes upward and signal to each other half snickering, mocking the teacher. Their posture is casual, their legs are spread apart and their backs are limp. The girls stand still but their bodies are communicating many complex messages. Power is enforced in the classroom. Bodies are disciplined. Body parts resist and rebel but cannot be studied in isolation, only in interaction. Abruptly the guru turns toward them and becomes angry as if sensing their momentary resistance. She says snidely: Excuse me girls. Did I say the class was over? Where is your posture? Did I ask you to look at each other? When I look away you suddenly have wonderful communicative emotions on your face and yet when I ask you to do it in the dance, you cannot move your stone-like faces. The girls’ faces are now deadpan. Their feet are together, their backs straight, and they look at the floor in seeming penitence, paying deference to their guru. “Next jathi ready . . . dhalanku taka dhiku taka tadhinginatom.” With a stern voice, the guru thus forces them to pay attention and uses her full authority to make them take notice of her power. She co-opts their resistance 152

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back into the disciplinary frame she requires. She is satisfied for the moment and moves on with the next section of the dance. The girls ready themselves and begin the next section. “Tat kita jam, tata kita jam tatdhiku didiku dhalangu ta.” I almost burst out laughing but control myself in time. The girls, having pretended to be penitent for their actions, are now resisting the guru’s authority by inflecting a simple gesture very differently. This turns the kartari mukaha from a classical interpretation in the dance into a rude rebellion. Literally, they are giving her the finger. The guru does not notice at first but gradually it dawns on her, but she can do nothing at this point since they are not breaking any rules blatantly and she is in the middle of chanting jathis. “Tatdiku didiku ta, dit thalangu taka ta.” She makes a note of it and will undoubtedly discipline them accordingly when this dance section is completed, but for the moment, the dancers are very pleased with themselves and beam proudly. The mothers sit on the side oblivious to these undercurrents, satisfied their daughters are being disciplined into model Indian womanhood. After a water break the guru sings a different song and the girls know it is the Song of the Goddess and they smile. The song shifts to a descriptive section on the Goddess Durga, a multi-armed, warrior goddess who destroys lecherous, violent male demonic energy. The girls seem to really get into this piece and I can see them relishing their manifestation of the goddess herself as they describe the various weapons she holds in her eight arms. The guru sings the song: Ayigiri nandini nanditha medhini Vishwavimodhini jishnu nuthe Giri vara hey mahishasura mardhini Ramyaka pardhini shaila suthe The song describes the goddess as the rider of the lion, holding various weapons, destroying male ego, and emerging all powerful and feminine. What is powerful in this dance sequence is the description of a female body unlike any other female body in the western imaginary. The dancers embody the goddess holding the conch and discus in her first two hands; in the third and fourth she holds the sword and a lotus; in the fifth and sixth, a bow and a mace; and in the seventh and eighth, she has a scythe and a trident. The girls’ faces and bodies show that they are enjoying manifesting this deity very much. They then describe her body as having full breasts, narrow waist, elegant, and masterful, as she rides a lion. She has three eyes, one symbolizing desire, the other action, and the third is knowing, represented as the moon, sun, and fire. The guru is pleased and smiles. “Well done girls! You seem to really relish this role as the goddess. You could improve a bit on the rhythmical aspects, however.” Although not all the girls are equally powerful dancers, there is a sense of the female body here that is beyond the usual parameters and boundaries. The girls experience pleasure in finding other ways of imagining the body, especially when manifesting the goddess who wears a sari while holding weapons, can be simultaneously sensual, erotic, creative, and destructive. There is a sense here of the different ways a brown female body can move in the world, an alternative and powerful aesthetic different to the Baywatch bikini-clad babes running on the seashores of Malibu, for example. Such a manifestation of otherness can offer oppositional possibilities to assimilation into white mainstream cultural imaginaries of femininity, while simultaneously supporting visions of the nation state. What we are watching in the classroom is the way that traditional dance is not just reproducing; it is also teaching them to be proper young Indian women fashioning gender norms dictated by the nation state. Diaspora practice here keeps the conservative relationship to the 153

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national culture of the homeland and how the right wing Hindu Indian state is mobilizing diaspora for its fundamentalist politics of separation and difference. In the dance form, diaspora stands in for nation state, which attempts to protect traditional culture. When practizing the dance form outside the nation state, however, the dance begins to reflect the relation between nation and diaspora. We could go back to reading the oppositional politics of diaspora as just harbinger for the conservative nationalist state. However, when the body is accounted for, we actually witness young girls performing something else. In other words, dance is visualizing this problematic relationship between the nation and its diaspora. Performance in its repetition with a difference always offers the possibility of refusal. Young women are performing a refusal of both the Indian nation state and U.S. assimilation, albeit these moments are temporary.

Conclusion In this chapter, I have tracked three genres of performance from a YouTube clip, to a performance of death in the archive, and to a live bodily performance in rehearsal spaces. Each of these performances marks a different approach to negotiating citizenship. These examples enable us to understand the pressures of cultural nationalism, with an increasingly right wing Hindu violent militant state from India and its pressures for women to conform to ideal notions of Hindu womanhood. Whilst in the USA mainstream pressures, with its own set of racial hegemony to assimilate and/or be denied citizenship, forces women into another bind and clashes with Hindu womanhood. The Malibu Temple online performance lays claim to U.S. land and citizenship in Hinduizing North America, while Nautch dancers who arrived in the nineteenth century failed in their performances of citizenship because of racist immigration laws. In the final example, the stark contrast between giving the guru the finger and completely absorbing the goddess in the next piece offers us alternative ways that young girls resist the claims of cultural nationalism, even while accepting it when it offers them modes of empowerment and alternative understandings of racial hegemony in the U.S. and their own relationship to their body. These corporeal examples visualize alternative and often contradictory approaches to the relationship between nation and diaspora, allowing us to see tensions and collusions and ultimately refusal.

Notes 1 Apart from an odd mention of Nautch dance here and there (Odell, 1939, 317–318; “Contagious Foreigners,” New York Times, 16 May 1881, 4), the next time actual Nautch dancers appear in America seems to be between March and April of 1884 (New York Times, 9 March 1884, 11; “Barnum’s Great Parade,” New York Times, 11 March 1884, 2; “Curiosities Showing Off: Nautch Girls, Nubians, and Zulus put through their Paces,” New York Times, 17 March 1884, 8; New York Times, 10 April 1884, 7; New York Times, 13 April 1884, 15; New York Times, 19 April 1884, 7). 2 As Julia Kristeva argues in Powers, the “abject” is radically excluded from the object of desire and its meaning collapses (2). There is thus neither subject nor object. The corpse in particular exemplifies Kristeva’s concept since it literally is the breakdown of the distinction between subject and object. The viewing of a human corpse is thus the utmost of abjection (4). 3 In the case of Asians, American culture has swallowed the Asian other, only to regurgitate her/him back as essentially unassimilable in the American project. In this scenario, Asian Americans are valued and encouraged for the exotic, traditional, and ancient practices they bring to American culture, but are still relegated to the margins and thought of as aliens and not as American citizens. As Shimakawa (2002) has critically and persuasively argued, Asian American bodies are effectively “abject” bodies, always at the margins, repudiated by the center. Several other Asian American scholars have discussed in detail the historical processes that have rendered Asian Americans aliens and not citizens (Lee, 1997, 3; Lowe, 1996, 6–14; Tchen, 1999, 7).


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References Amin, S. and Chakrabarty, D. (1997). Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society, Vol. 9. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Assisi, F. C. (2005). The Hinduization of America. Available from: www.gaudiyadiscussions.gaudiya. com/topic_3684.htnl (Accessed on 25 May 2017). Gamble, L. H. (2008). The Chumash World at European Contact: Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Kim, E. (1987). Defining Asian American Realities through Literature. In: Cultural Critique 6: The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 87–111. Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of Horrors: An Essay on Abjection (trans. by Leon S. Rudiez). Columbia, NY: Columbia University Press. Lee, J. (1997). Performing Asian America: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press Series on Asian American History and Culture. Leonard, K. (1992). Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Lipsitz, G. (2011). How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Lowe, L. (1996). Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Maira, S. and Raja, S. (2006). History Hungama: The California Textbook Debate. Siliconeer, 7 (2), Febuary (2006). Available from:–COV11304 (Accessed on 28 August 2016). Manalansan, M. (2000). Diasporic Deviants/Divas: How Filipino Gay Transmigrants ‘Play with the World’. In: C. Patton and B. S. Eppler, eds, Queer Diasporas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 183–203. Odell, G. C. D. (1939). Annals of the New York Stage, Vol. XI. New York: Columbia University Press. Ong, A. (2006). Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Pandey, G. (2005). Routine Violence: Nations, Fragments, Histories (Cultural Memory in the Present). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Roediger, D. (2006). Working toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs. New York: Basic Books. Sharma, N. (2006). Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Shimakawa, K. (2002). National Abjection: The American Body Onstage. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Spivak, G. C. (1995). The Spivak Reader. New York: Routledge. Srinivasan, P. (2009). “The Nautch Women Dancers of the 1880s: Corporeality, U.S. Orientalism, and Anti-Asian Immigration Laws.” Women and Performance: A Journal Of Feminist Theory, 19(1): 3–22. Tchen, J. K. W. (1999). New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture 1776–1882. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Thapar, R. (2013). The Past before Us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wong, J. C. (2014). The Complicity Cost of Racial Inclusion. Al, 24 August 2014. Available from: (Accessed on 30 August 2016).



Musical performances in the Indian diaspora reinforce local and transnational community affiliations. They do so through the overlapping processes of musical memory and creativity in diverse Indian diasporic contexts, as well as through musical transmission via mass media and digital technologies. While they are rooted historically and geographically, they also contribute to contemporary alignments towards a global Indian community. This chapter provides an overview of musical performances in the Indian diaspora, drawing attention to a wide range of creative practices from ritual performance to film music and focusing on issues around musical performances in global community re-alignments, musical continuity and change, and the dominance of Indian film music in diasporic cultural experiences. Particular concerns are Indian diasporic trajectories formed in relation to British colonialism and labour policies in the Caribbean, Fiji and Mauritius, as well as related Indian diasporic communities in Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and the UK, the last being notable in view of secondary migrations to the former imperial centre. Nineteenth-century British imperial policies relating to the trade in sugar, tea, spices and other commodities gave rise to the indentured Indian labour histories of the Caribbean, Fiji and Mauritius (Dabydeen & Samaroo, 1987, 1996; Bandyopadhyay, 2010a). Indians migrated to the Caribbean (largely to Trinidad and Tobago, British Guiana (Guyana) and Suriname during the period 1838 to 1917), as well as to Mauritius and Fiji. Musical performances in these contexts provide insights into interlinked music, human and plant histories (Ramnarine, 2001, 2013). In other words, the story of diasporic musical performance is related to the stories of sugar or tea cultivation (Mintz, 1985; Ballantyne, 2010). The Indian diaspora that was formed during the nineteenth century has become increasingly prominent in developing India’s international cultural and economic relationships. It links the modern Indian nation-state to diverse geographic locations (New World, Indian Ocean, Europe and Pacific) through primary and subsequent migrations. Many Indian-Caribbean migrants to the UK, USA and Canada have interacted with other migrants from South Asia in those contexts since the 1970s. Likewise, since the 1980s, Indian communities in Fiji, which were established because of indentureship histories, have migrated to Australia and New Zealand. There, they have overlapped with other Indian diasporic communities, tracing their histories to the late eighteenth-century settlement of Indian sailors who crewed the East India Company’s ships in New Zealand, as well as to migration during the late nineteenth century under British imperial 156

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restructuring of Punjab and Gujarat, where cash economies gave rise to rural debts, tax demands and agricultural commercialisation (Leckie, 2010, 48–49). The work of musicians who entertained nineteenth-century Indian communities in places such as Singapore, which has been a long-established site of maritime trading relationships between India and Southeast Asia, also shows how diverse migration histories interact with global musical circulations. That various Indian migrations have contributed to a contemporary global re-alignment emphasises different kinds of diasporic relations with India. As this chapter argues, this reorientation has a performative dimension, which includes the circulation of musical practices. The Indian diaspora that formed in relation to nineteenth-century British labour policies retains cultural links with Britain, as well as with India. It forges new connections within Britain’s other former colonial territories (Australia and New Zealand, for example) to articulate a variety of subject positions that call for a continued focus on differentiated nationalisms and on what Gikandi (2005) describes as the modern temporality of global culture conceived with regard to colonial government. Musical performances in the re-alignment towards a global Indian community can be partially understood within the frame of colonial histories and the legacies thereof, which include musicians’ diverse creative encounters. They can also be understood in relation to the spread of music, especially Indian cinema soundtracks, through mass media and digital circulations.

Musical performances and global re-alignments Music circulates between India and its various diasporic sites through live performances, touring networks, media artefacts, digital technologies and India’s major film industries (for example, Bollywood and Kollywood, based in Mumbai and Chennai respectively). Musical circulations establish a number of relations from the maintenance of a sense of diasporic connection with India to the strengthening of transnational networks, notably across the many Indian cultural centres worldwide to which musicians from India also travel. Since musical performances connect people between different Indian diasporic sites, they help to foster a sense of multi-local belonging. Turning to both macro- and micro-level analyses contributes to understanding these sensibilities of multi-local belonging and the global re-alignments that invigorate the diasporic gaze towards India. The popular genre chutney, for example, connects people across the Caribbean, Britain, USA, Canada and India (Ramnarine, 1996, 2001), as well as across Mauritius and Fiji. It is an example of how musical performances can be interpreted in terms of their broader, macro-level roles in the constitution of social life and transnational networks. Micro-level analysis of specific musical features reveals how chutney – in its Caribbean contexts – draws on Indian-Caribbean ritual music and the broad range of Caribbean popular music. It also has been influenced by and, in turn, influences the music of Indian cinema: chutney is related to the Hindi songs of Bollywood and the soundtracks of the Bhojpuri film industry. This points to the micro-level analysis of musical styles and the macro-level perspective on geographic connections. This multi-scalar dynamic is also evident in considering musical instrumentation and timbre since the traditional chutney ensemble consists of a singer, dholak (double-headed cylindrical or barrel drum of South Asia), harmonium (patented by a French instrument maker and disseminated by colonial powers in India) and dhantal (an iron or steel rod struck by a horseshoe-shaped beater). This combination of instrumental and vocal resources constitutes a sound world associated with India, Europe and the Caribbean respectively (Ramnarine, 2001, 63–68) and it generates postcolonial readings of the politics of musical timbres (see Ramnarine, 2011a, 147–148). As the chutney example shows, insights from macro- and micro-level analyses are mutually informative. 157

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Musical performances in the Caribbean, Fiji and Mauritius Tracing the history of a popular genre such as chutney poses several methodological problems, not least because a variety of ritual, popular and classical music genres are performed in diasporic contexts formed by nineteenth-century labour histories. Music appears in the earliest narratives that relate to the formation of this diaspora, including ships logs and song texts. For example, Theophilus Richmond (the surgeon on board the Hesperus in 1837–1838 sailing from India to British Guiana) refers to music in Calcutta and in Mauritius (Dabydeen et al., 2007). Captain Swinton of the ship Salsette (chartered in Calcutta to take indentured migrants to Trinidad in 1858) and Captain Angel of the ship Sheila comment on musical life during maritime voyages (Ramdin, 1994, 52–53; Ramchand & Samaroo, 1995, 106; also see further details in Ramnarine, 2011a). Research interests in these diasporic music practices have grown since the 1960s and various publications cumulatively provide insights into changing musical performance environments up to the present day. This literature includes Usharbudh Arya’s collection of Surinamese song texts (Arya, 1968); Ved Prakash Vatuk’s ethnographic recordings of almost 900 songs in Guyana, the majority of which were sung in Bhojpuri (Vatuk, 1964); Myers’s (1998) ethnographic study alongside recordings from Trinidad and Tobago made in the 1970s and held in the British Library; analyses of creative practices, ritual music and popular music trends in the Caribbean with respect to chutney (Ramnarine, 2001; Niranjana, 2006) and similar analyses in Fiji regarding genres such as kavvali and cautal (Brenneis, 1985; Miller, 2008). Usharbudh Arya undertook his study of the music of Indians living in a diasporic context as part of doctoral research after having travelled to Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago in the 1950s as an Arya Samaj Indian missionary. Arya Samaj was a Hindu religious movement reaching across India and its diaspora, which emphasised equal rights for women, the eradication of the caste system and anti-colonial politics. Usharbudh Arya’s study is an important indication of the ways in which missionaries promoting Indian religious movements overseas continued to shape Indian diasporic musical performances (especially those in ritual contexts) throughout the twentieth century. The inclusion of the song “Sita’s Lament” in his collection Ritual Songs and Folksongs of the Hindus of Surinam (1968) can be understood in relation to the Arya Samaj movement, as well as to the cultural dominance of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, and to ethnographic and folkloric interests in ritual music practices. In the Caribbean (encompassing Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana), the Indian migrants were not a homogeneous group. They came from different regions and spoke different languages. The majority were from the northern provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where Bhojpuri was spoken. The Bhojpur tradition, therefore, which had produced religious heroes such as Rama, Krishna and Buddha, as well as the epics, the Ramayana and the Maha Bharat, became dominant. “Sita’s Lament” aptly focuses on women’s political and musical voices. Her story is a retelling of a well-known narrative from the Ramayana and it includes themes of exile, capture, rescue, fidelity and kinship resonant with diasporic nostalgia. In brief, the prince of Ayodhya, Rama, marries Sita after managing to break the bow of the god Siva. They are exiled in a forest where Sita gives birth to two sons. Sita is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, but is rescued with the assistance of an army of monkeys. She demonstrates her faithfulness to her husband by entering a fire after which she is reunited with Rama, who returns home to Ayodhya to begin his rule. This story from the Ramayana spread from northern India across Southeast Asia from the first millennium BC onwards. The story travelled across the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the nineteenth century to be narrated in Ramayana recitations, wedding songs and bhajans (religious songs) in the musical practices of the Indian diaspora. “Sita’s Lament” is an 158

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example of how Indian mythological texts have travelled with diasporic populations, who reiterate moral emphases on fidelity and loyalty in relation to both domestic spaces and an Indian homeland, which is remembered nostalgically through the continued performance of these epic traditions. The publication of “Sita’s Lament” is also a testament to ethnography’s capacity to capture specific performative moments for future generations, who might be interested in retrieving past performance worlds. The performance worlds of the mid-twentieth century have changed considerably due to processes of oral transmission, cultural transformation and new recording technologies. Nevertheless, ethnographic collections inform music revival processes, as Indian diasporic populations seek to retrieve the past and present it anew for current generations. For example, traditional songs have been revived in Caribbean contexts, such as the genre of biraha in Trinidad. Biraha is a Bhojpuri folk song genre featuring a vocalist accompanied by nagara drums. In Trinidad, biraha singers perform for weddings and stage shows. The genre was promoted via a revival process by the cultural entrepreneur and activist Ajit Praimsingh (1954–2015), who made some commercial CD recordings alongside those of the successful popular genre of chutney. Some performances posted on YouTube (in 2013 and 2014) include biraha accompanied by a tassa ensemble. One online example (a performance by Sam Boodram with notes by Praimsingh) informs the viewer that this music originated from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where it is was popular amongst the Ahir community of cattle farmers. Praimshingh noted differences between the past and present, commending performers for maintaining this genre, and mentioned a 1991 biraha competition in Trinidad.1 Music revivals based on song genres often reveal changes in language. In another Caribbean context, in Guyana, Indian populations sang traditional songs for ceremonial, religious and festival occasions much as they were sung in India during the early 1960s. Some of the songs were more recent, based on analysis of subject matter and linguistic use. These more recent songs dealt with the recruitment of Indian labour, the voyage to the New World, experiences on the sugar estates, historical events in British Guiana and aspirations towards independence, which were expressed through musical tributes to Gandhi. These more recent songs were not sung in Bhojpuri like the older repertoire, but in a form of Hindi without the grammatical conventions of the language as spoken in India and with a blurring of gender and caste distinctions (Vatuk, 1964). In Fiji, the importance of both the Ramayana and language change was noted by Brenneis (1985) in relation to kavvali singing. While kavvali is associated in South Asia with Muslim performers and Sufi traditions (qawwali), it is performed in Fiji by Hindus. Kavvali are accompanied by drums, cymbals and harmonium, and are often performed at religious meetings where they are called bhajan kavvali (Brenneis, 1985). In mentioning narrative and linguistic considerations, Brenneis writes: [t]he texts most commonly present scenes and events from the Ramayana or points of Hindu doctrine . . . The language of kavvali is not the local variety of Hindi but is somehow marked as special. Bhajan kavvali are marked by the use of a heavily Sanskritik vocabulary, even if the meanings of specific Sanskrit terms are not easily apparent to most listeners. (1985, 400) While music revivals emphasise the past, they are located in the present and interact with new performance genres. The popular music genre chutney is an excellent example of these processes of continuity and change. Chutney emerged as a popular musical genre in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname during the 1970s. By the 1990s, it was the main musical 159

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medium for articulating issues around Indian-Caribbean populations in Caribbean identity politics, and it had spread to the UK, USA and Canada alongside further diasporic migrations. Chutney displays influences from diverse sources, including Indian devotional songs and film music, as well as calypso, soca and rap. Many chutney song texts are in English with a few Bhojpuri or Hindi words added. The overall structure is that of verse and chorus, and the melodic range generally falls within an octave. Chutney song texts often focus on the figure of the dulahin (the bride). Once seen as the keeper of tradition, the dulahin is often depicted as increasingly independent of her male counterpart, flaunting her sexuality and consorting with whomever she likes. She does not abandon tradition but brings it into a public performance space. An example is the chutney song by ‘Ragga Dulahin’ by Double D (1998), describing the dulahin who still wears her sari, as well as her miniskirts. Chutney invites a mixed reception. Some people enjoy dancing to the music while others regard it disapprovingly (most vocal in this respect is the Hindu organisation the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sahab). Yet, audiences are found in other Indian diasporic contexts and in India. Singers such as Rikki Jai and the ensemble D’ Bhuyaa Saaj from Trinidad and Tobago have undertaken concert tours in India (see Ramnarine, 2001 for further details about chutney in the Caribbean). In Mauritius, chutney music, paralleling its Caribbean counterpart, can be traced back to Indian diasporic musical memory, although in this context to Indian Ocean plantation cultural practices. As in the Caribbean, Indian diasporic musicians have been interested both in the performance traditions that have been preserved and in the new musical genres encountered in the diaspora. Mauritian musicologist and teacher of Indian classical music Iswarduth Nundlall explains “how interesting the discovery of sega was as a dancing rhythm and a technique of improvisation”. By evaluating similarities with Indian musical styles, Iswarduth Nundlall saw in this music “‘the aptitude of a population to live in the present moment’. . . this was a music so lively that no one can listen without taking part” (cited in Servan Schreiber, 2011). As well as sega, other musical influences on chutney musicians in Mauritius include Bollywood film music, nineteenth-century Western art music, popular music from Europe and the USA, and Indian classical music. This last influence results from formal international relationships to promote knowledge about Indian classical music in the diaspora. In 1964, the governments of Mauritius and India entered an agreement whereby students from Mauritius were given opportunities and scholarships to study Indian classical music in India at institutions like the National Academy of Lucknow or with renowned individual practitioners. In the same year, a School of Indian Music and Dance was established in Mauritius (Mungur, 2014). In Fiji and in the Caribbean, just as in Mauritius, Indian classical music has been promoted through state-level agreements between Indian diasporic communities. Popular music, on the other hand, finds its way through other channels. As in Mauritius, chutney has been popular amongst Indian-Fijian listeners since the late 1990s with Trinidadian singers such as Sundar Popo being played on the radio in Fiji (Miller, 2008, 417–418).

Musical continuity and change Overlapping musical processes of continuity and change characterise diasporic performances. Music is sustained through diasporic memories in religious practices and festivals. It is also reworked, newly composed and performed in public spaces such as concert halls, clubs, carnivals and virtual domains as part of everyday creative processes in music-making. Musical memory is often conceptualised in terms of cultural preservation and continuity, though contemporary discussions also centre on cultural sustainability, a concept promoted in UNESCO’s convention on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. 160

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Musical creativity is safe-guarded through institutional infrastructures. For example, various kinds of Indian cultural centres, established as part of diplomatic relations between nation-states, provide training in Indian classical music in diasporic contexts. Such pedagogic infrastructures sustain classical music practices. Often, they also offer instruction in Indian musical performance to students from all backgrounds. Other pedagogic infrastructures include ensemble and stage performance opportunities. In Britain, the South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (SAMYO), established in 2001, combines Hindustani and Carnatic classical traditions to provide specialist training and performance opportunities for young musicians from all backgrounds. It was awarded National Youth Music Organisation status by the Arts Council of England in 2012 and it has formed partnerships with other youth organisations such as the National Youth Jazz Collective and the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain. The orchestra gives opportunities both for improvisation and for learning compositions specially written for it by leading Indian musicians. Guest teachers from around the world work with its young musicians and performances are given at major concert venues in Britain. Another example of pedagogic infrastructures is the arangetram, often a lavish debut performance occasion attended by the student’s guru, family and friends to mark the transition from ‘student’ to ‘musician’. Unlike the youth orchestra which draws on musicians nationwide from different backgrounds, including representation from a wide range of Indian diasporic communities, the arangetram is a performance event specifically associated with Tamil diasporic identity construction (Hornabrook, 2016, chapter 6). In parallel with the idea of musical continuity, new practices in diasporic creativity are signalled by prefixing descriptive labels such as ‘experimental’ or ‘fusion’ music. Musicians speak about ‘combining’ musical elements, for example raga-based sitar, steelpan timbres and jazz improvisation in Caribbean collaborations (see Ramnarine, 2010) or Carnatic vocalisation and rap in Tamil hip hop. Another example is British bhangra, which emerged in Britain in the 1980s to become the dominant South Asian sound during that period. British bhangra shows the interactions between Punjabi folk music and popular music from the Caribbean and USA, notably in the genres of rock bhangra and house bhangra. One singer, Bee2 Singh, based in Southall, London, emphasises diasporic creativity: “what bhangra means today over here is a totally different meaning . . . bhangra is a fusion [between] Western and folk music” (cited in Leante, 2004, 115), though British bhangra co-exists with a more traditional form (Leante, 2004) and retains the dholak drum playing a characteristic syncopated eight-beat cycle. Descriptive labels like ‘fusion’ indicate that musical performances are interlinked with identity politics, cultural memory and fluid demarcations of diasporic spaces in multicultural societies. Fusion is based on shared practices across transnational networks forged by diasporic routes and global markets. Creative collaborations described in terms of fusion generate various distinctive genres such as chutney-soca in the Caribbean, Tamil hip hop in Malaysia and Singapore, and British bhangra. Yet, these musical practices do not speak only to the diasporic communities from which they emerge. The example of British bhangra is pertinent. Although the genre did not become part of the UK’s mainstream and commercial popular music market, its texts spoke against racism and discrimination in Britain and revealed an unwillingness of British-Asian youth to remain identified as a minority community. The texts were also related to political conflicts in India and represented attempts to remain a unified Indian community in Britain (Farrell, 1997, 209–218). Bhangra is an example of how diasporic musical creativity in any specific genre cannot be considered as an ‘ephemeral contribution’ to its musical context. Thus, British bhangra represents “a new music, a Western music, in which Indian music and imagery plays an integral and increasingly complex role” (Farrell, 1997, 218). This perspective emphasises the capacity of musical performance to assert a politics of belonging in the diaspora (Ramnarine, 2007). 161

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There is a broad spectrum of music-making in the Indian diaspora in which ‘old’ and ‘new’ musical practices co-exist, overlap and are transformed. While musical continuity in the diaspora is often emphasised in relation to ritual contexts (for example, music in temples or in festivals like Diwali), ritual musical performances sometimes become part of popular culture, moving from the sacred to the secular and from private to public spaces. One example is the transformation of the south Indian Hindu religious festival, Thaipusam, into a tourist spectacle in Malaysia (which features in state policies about different population groups; see Manoharan, 2015, chapter 5; with reference to the later discussion, it featured, too, in the film Kabali). Another example is the women’s pre-wedding celebration of mathkor, thanking Mother Earth and observed by followers of a generalised form of Hinduism found amongst many diasporic Indian communities, Sanatan Dharm (literally ‘eternal duty’), which has been recontextualised as the popular genre of chutney (Ramnarine, 2001, chapter 4). Musical changes often become more pronounced amongst the descendants of first-generation migrants, who not only promote their own new genres but also respond creatively to the new musical performances emerging from India that circulate via global music industries, digital technologies, the distribution of Indian film soundtracks, and recordings. Temple spaces are also used for the performance of non-ritual music, such as Indian diasporic bagpipe bands in London playing Scottish traditional repertoires alongside Bollywood arrangements (see Swamibapa Salute, Marsden, 2012).2 In this latter example, the bagpipe band usually performing in temple spaces also appeared in London’s Wembley Arena as part of large-scale performances organised for the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the UK in 2015 to discuss trade relations. This event illustrated how the dialectic between musical continuity and change contributes to the construction of imaginaries of belonging beyond nation-state borders.

Indian film music in the diaspora Indian film music, both songs and orchestrated tracks, is a significant part of diasporic cultural experiences. Film songs are widely known and they circulate through recordings, touring shows and festive occasions, including weddings. Film songs, as Bhattacharjya (2009, 54) suggests, “help affirm that characters based in the diaspora hold authentic Indian cultural identities and that the Indian diaspora constitutes part of the Indian nation”. Indeed, they have been referenced by political parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to promote: [a] concept of “cultural nationalism” through slogans taken from film song titles – including “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” (“But My Heart is Still Indian”) from the film Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000) and “Yeh Mera India/I Love My India” from the film Pardes (1997). (Bhattacharjya, 2009, 56) Since the 1990s, films have been shot increasingly in Indian diasporic locations and feature characters returning from the diaspora while also promoting more positive narrative images of them. Songs thus rework “the audience’s understanding of diaspora as a foreign space to reclaim the visual depiction of the diasporic space as being within the Indian nation” (Bhattacharjya, 2009, 57–58). While song texts explicitly convey narrative content about diasporic fidelity to India, the Indian film orchestra as the instrumental medium for distinctive film soundtracks also contributes to this moral stance towards the homeland. Today’s global circulation of musical practice is itself rooted in histories of musical circulations, such that colonial and postcolonial musical circulations overlap and underpin diasporic experiences. 162

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Indian film orchestral music, which has been shaped by a variety of local musical practices in India (including classical, theatre and qawwali traditions), as well as by the global flows of commodities (including moving pictures, instruments, sheet music and gramophones), illustrates this point. On the one hand, it draws on the principles of raga and tala (dealing respectively with the organisation of pitch and rhythm). On the other, it has been shaped by a variety of historical conditions, including the histories of eighteenth-century concert life in Calcutta and the performance of works by composers like Corelli, Handel and Haydn (Head, 1985) and the spread of brass bands through military and colonial routes (Herbert & Sarkissian, 1997). AfricanAmerican jazz musicians and jazz orchestras also influenced Indian film music. There are precedents and continuities to these kinds of exchanges. Regimental bands provided music for ballroom dances and other social occasions (Shope, 2017). During the twentieth century, the performances of African-American jazz musicians in cities like Mumbai in India extended music markets and used the touring networks that had been established in the nineteenth century by touring minstrel troupes, the demand for sheet music and musical instruments, and steamship travel (Shope, 2008, 2017). Gramophones contributed significantly to the success of jazz orchestras in India. Studios, disc-pressing and distribution facilities were located in Calcutta. Early gramophone recordings indicate there was also widespread demand for Indian theatre traditions and qawwali, and Hollywood film music was also available on record. Film music during the silent era (from the early twentieth century until 1931) was based on live performance by Indian light-classical or theatre ensembles featuring melody instruments, voice and drum, which played in big venues. Live dance was part of the cinema-going experience as well. Indian diasporic audiences have been able to chart changing film music trends since the advent of sound recording technologies beginning with the large ensembles playing mostly in unison by the late 1930s to the incorporation of contemporary popular music styles in orchestrated soundtracks in the 1940s, a trend which continues in present day film music. The violin-dominated sound of Hindi cinema became standard in the 1950s and is recognised today as the Bollywood sound. Since the 1990s, film music has drawn on a variety of global music traditions and has been increasingly produced in studios. Film composers explore the soundworlds of Indian diasporic locations as part of their explorations of the global music market. One example is the use of Caribbean repertoires, notably the title track for the 2007 film Om Shanti Om (Ramnarine, 2011a). In turn, orchestras in the Caribbean (ranging from small Indian diasporic ensembles comprising harmonium, dholak, voice and some other instruments to large steel orchestras) rehearse and perform the repertoires that musicians hear in Indian films, as well as local popular songs. Bollywood is influential across the Indian diaspora, evident in dance choreographies and in the provision of dance classes in various diasporic sites: in the Caribbean, in Britain and in Fiji. Ray’s (2001) point that Bollywood has been successful in Fiji because it draws on Ramayana themes, folk cultures and bhakti (devotional) traditions to provide cultural continuities and tapping into prior cultural capital is true for all the old diasporic contexts. Bollywood has strategically broadened its terrain in linking Indian diasporic cultures to India (Ray, 2001), as have other Indian film industries. By 2006, the Bhojpuri-language film industry had become successful in India (attracting superstars like Amitabh Bhachan), and it was circulating its media products in Fiji, Suriname and Mauritius where there is still some knowledge of Bhojpuri. The circulation of Bhojpuri films through the Indian diasporic transnational network has encouraged a greater sense of fellowship, with diasporic communities sharing a common origin in the Bhojpuri belt of northeast India. Indian film industries also negotiate relationships with counterparts in Indian diasporic locations. The relationships between the Indian and New Zealand film industries have been based 163

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on advocating support for Indian film makers, encouraging them to include New Zealand in film shoots, and on negotiating protection for local film makers, who work on independent contracts in a deregulated environment (Kunin, 2010, 208). Most of the Indian film industries shooting in New Zealand are from the south, from Chennai and Hyderabad, and produce Tamil- and Telugu-language films, although one of the most successful was a Hindi-language Bollywood film, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, released in 2000, which contributed to a rise in Indian tourists to the Pacific (see Kunin, 2010, 213–215). New Zealand has been featured as “an exotic location for romantic song sequences” in line with widespread use of locations outside India, shot for their picturesque qualities to “illustrate the narrative progression of love between a film’s central characters” and as a “response to the increasingly transnational distribution” of Indian films which are part of a global entertainment market (Kunin, 2010, 208–209). Although it has declined as a film location for the Indian film industries since 2003 (Kunin, 2010, 222), Indian cinema in New Zealand helped to change definitions of national identity, recognising communities beyond Maori and European, and forging a space for the so-called ‘Kiwi-Indians’ (Bandyopadhyay, 2010b, 7–9). These changing definitions of national identity are promoted in off-screen musical performance spaces such as Diwali, which presents “a potpourri soundscape of sonic tourism” (Johnson, 2007, 81–82) consisting of Indian classical music, puja (prayer ceremonies), Bharata-Natyam dance and, the most popular, Bollywood music and dance performed at the open-air site of the Civic Square stage in Wellington (Johnson, 2007, 83). Indian film music in the diaspora contributes both to changing concepts of national identity in the diasporic homelands and to maintaining a sense of cultural connection with India. Tamil hip hop in Malaysia is a way of promoting Tamil diasporic visibility within the nationstate (Manoharan, 2015, 189). Yet, young musicians are keen to demonstrate musical affiliations with India. One hip hop musician, Coco Nantha, who is influenced by Tamil cinema, commented on the importance of sounding like Indian playback singers (Manoharan, 2015, 125). Coco Nantha and other Tamil hip hop musicians such as Vivek, Yogi B and Emcee Jesz are connected with the Tamil film and record industries in India and have set up their own studios in Malaysia. They explore combinations of Carnatic vocalisation and rap, and they have been influenced too by the emergence in the 1980s of rock and heavy metal amongst Malay youth, which is connected with Singapore’s music scenes (Manoharan, 2015, 126). With its inclusion in religious festivals like Thaipusam, hip hop introduces a global voice within traditional Indian diasporic performance spaces (Manoharan, 2015). Moreover, it is worth emphasising the increasingly complex role of music in identity politics. Music shapes a politics of belonging that takes many forms. This is illustrated by the use of Tamil hip hop in the 2016 Tamillanguage film, Kabali, an example which shows how distinctive musical genres serve to reinforce specific ethnic-based nationalist identities within India and across the diaspora alike. Thus, diasporic musical practices in Kabali concern identity representations in the Indian context even though the film narrates a story about a leader protecting the rights of Malaysian Tamil workers. The interest generated prior to its official release led to employers in south India giving people a day of leave to watch the film. Despite a potentially contrasting political orientation, ethnic-based nationalisms and global Indian identities are articulated simultaneously as Indian film industries reach out to diasporic communities. In addition, these political orientations articulate with diasporic musical expressions arising from creative engagement with different kinds of national imaginations, as elaborated in the following discussion. What is at stake in an example like Tamil hip hop in Kabali, though, is an identity politics defined by ideas about ethnicity, language and regional origin. In these respects, diasporic populations play a crucial role by highlighting new creative expressions that are connected, nevertheless, with traditional cultural practices. 164

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Despite its prevalence, film music is not uniformly incorporated in musical performance practices in Indian diasporic contexts. In Singapore, orchestras such as the Ramakrishna Sangeetha Sabha (a photograph of which is on display at the Singapore Indian Heritage Centre depicting instruments like harmonium, tabla, flute, mandolin, guitar and violin) were established as early as 1939. These orchestras included both male and female musicians. An all-women’s orchestra was also established by members of the Ceylon Tamil community, giving performances at public venues in and around Singapore before the Second World War. (This kind of Indian diasporic musical activity paralleled a broader trend of gendered orchestral musical performances before the Second World War, across the USA for example, when women had limited employment opportunities in professional orchestras.) In Singapore, orchestras sponsored by the state since the 1980s have been organised along lines of ‘ethnic’ affiliation. One example is the Singapore Indian Orchestra. This was established in 1985 by Lalitha Vaidyanathan, a chemistry teacher, to highlight south Indian Carnatic music, and most of its members share a south Indian cultural background. The orchestra’s manifesto is to showcase Indian classical music, and its core repertoire consists of harmonised Carnatic songs, though it also uses symphonic techniques of the Western art music tradition. When a Bollywood-inspired performance was requested by a national statutory board, the People’s Association, Vaidyanathan refused on the basis that an ensemble of national status should be associated with elite culture. But the orchestra has pursued collaborations with other state-sponsored ensembles such as the Youth Chinese Orchestra and Orkestra Melayu (Tan, 2017). Nevertheless, orchestras can also be agents for the performance of Indian film music oriented towards diasporic audiences, as shown in the following example of repertoire choices amongst British symphony orchestras.

Orchestras, film music and the national imagination The discussion so far has highlighted the political work of musical performances in two respects. The first is in the circulation of musical performances in the diasporic global re-alignment towards India. The second is in Indian diasporic performances reconfiguring ideas about national identities. The examples mentioned earlier included chutney as a marker of IndianCaribbean identities, Indian film music and Diwali reshaping the national landscape of New Zealand, and Tamil hip hop providing a musical voice for Indian diasporic communities in Malaysia and Singapore. One of the most interesting examples of Indian diasporic musical performances in the reconfiguration of the national imagination is in the British context. Indian musical performances in this context highlight the extent to which different diasporic routes have converged in the former imperial centre. One of the most striking examples of how imperial legacies are experienced in Britain is the symphony orchestra performing Indian film music in projects reaching out to diasporic communities in the multicultural society and engaging new audiences in orchestral concert life. A notable performance was one broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with Asian Network. This was a BBC Proms Late Night concert, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall on 22 July 2015. It featured the Indian singers Benny Dayal and Palak Muchhal performing contemporary and classic Bollywood music. The BBC Philharmonic conducted by Richard Davis provided supporting orchestral sonorities for Indian film songs. The concert included an orchestral performance of the hit single ‘La La La’ by songwriter and producer Naughty Boy. The Indian playback singer Kanika Kapoor joined Naughty Boy to perform Bollywood classics from films such as Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). The latter, as the publicity material noted, had reached its 20th anniversary. There were also musical tributes to well-known musicians in the Indian film industries such as A. R. Rahman, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. 165

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This collaboration, programmed as part of a large classical music festival (the Proms), marked the 50th anniversary of Asian programmes on the BBC. It added further dimensions to the BBC Proms’ founding ambitions, as set out by the conductor Henry Wood, to bring the best classical music to the widest possible audience. The BBC Asian Network also reaches a wide audience as a national digital radio station that broadcasts to an average 619,000 listeners weekly and features Bollywood film, bhangra and new musical artists on its programmes.3 The soundtrack for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, composed by the duo Jatin-Lalit, merits particular mention. In addition to inclusion of its songs in the Proms concert, there was a 20th anniversary celebratory screening of this film at the British Film Institute, Southbank Centre, London in November 2015. The screening seemed appropriate given that the film included opening scenes of London’s Trafalgar Square amongst other locations. In an interview (published online 10 December 2014), Lalit Pandit noted that: BBC Asia conducted a poll and asked people to vote for the best musical Indian films of all time.They shortlisted 40 films and it included films like . . . “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and others. From the list, people selected the soundtrack of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” as the greatest musical film. He also explained that more than fifty musicians played for each song in the film and it was recorded using the latest technology at the time from the UK. His description of the playing and recording process reveals much about the changes in film music production since the late 1990s, which has shifted increasingly from live playing and an orchestral sound to studio production: We had a good team of technicians that helped us creating a song with so much clarity. We wrote the whole song down before we started working on the sound. That time the way songs were created was different. That time, “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” interludes were composed by my assistant Richard Mitra, orchestra arranger Babulda and me. It was a completely different way of recording. There is a huge difference in the way music is made today compared to the time the music for “DDLJ” was composed.4 The orchestral sound is still widespread, though, in performances of film music. British symphony orchestras have given Indian film music concerts as part of their social and marketing agendas to remain commercially viable through thinking about diversity issues in the consumption of orchestral music in multicultural societies. Notable in this respect is the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), which programmes a regular South Asian performance as part of its main concert season. One of the CBSO’s recordings is Rafi Resurrected (produced by Saregama Ltd in 2008), which features the repertoire of the film playback singer Mohammed Rafi, a very popular film song performer who undertook tours globally, including to several Indian diasporic locations in the 1960s. The songs were recorded by another playback singer, Sonu Niigaam, to pre-recorded orchestral tracks sent from Birmingham. The recording resulted from an earlier collaboration, in 2004, between the CBSO and the Indian film composer A. R. Rahman, who worked on film scores such as Slumdog Millionaire, 2008, and Jootha hi Sahi, 2010 (Ramnarine, 2011b).5 These examples demonstrate the complex relationships between national and diasporic sensibilities. They also show the creative relationships between revival processes and global circulations arising from both human mobility and the technological dissemination of music. 166

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These complexities and relations have been central to this chapter, which has explored a range of musical performances in the Indian diaspora to highlight different kinds of community affiliations and the ways in which music is configured in forging a global Indian sensibility, albeit one fraught with internal contradictions and shaped by local interests. Across Indian diasporic sites, musical performances highlight the importance of aesthetic practices in forging communal sensibilities. These kinds of musical performances provide an overarching category to think about global re-alignments and the reconfigurations of cultural and political forms in a globalising era. The overarching category corresponds with recent trends to study global histories and the multilevel complexities of borders. These take into account cultural productions and social practices across borders and not just along the geopolitical lines of nation-states (Brambilla et al., 2015; Ramnarine, 2017). Musical performances in the Indian diaspora are cultural practices connected geographically, though resulting from different kinds of historical migrations, some of which are nevertheless related. Thus, to understand musical performances in the Indian diasporic context of the Caribbean, it is fruitful to consider corresponding performances in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and British contexts. Geographic connections are also forged in musical circulations through transnational networks, film industries, internet and media technologies, festivals, cultural tours and creative exchanges. The new media through which music circulates have given rise to new research considerations, augmented further by increasing travel possibilities and critical historical revision based on new questions about the past. These kinds of considerations, together with interdisciplinary research foci in border studies, regional studies and global histories, promote thinking on a large scale about musical performances in the Indian diaspora.

Notes 1 See full details at (Accessed 10 January 2016). 2 See Hannah Marsden’s 2012 film, Swamibapa Salute, at dethnographicfilm/student-archive/2012/ (Accessed 10 January 2016). 3 See full details at (Accessed 7 January 2016). 4 See full details at (Accessed 7 January 2016). 5 Film music is not the only genre to involve the symphony orchestra. In Britain, Indian musicians perform with symphony orchestras in musical representations of India’s vast array of musical traditions to audiences including diasporic listeners. Some of the best-known examples include performances of Ravi Shankar’s Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra (1971) premiered and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and his Symphony (2010) premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Langa and Manganiyar hereditary musicians from Rajasthan have also performed with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony and have reached audiences beyond Indian diasporic communities.

References Arya, U. (1968). Ritual Songs and Folksongs of the Hindus of Surinam. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill. Ballantyne, T. (2010). India in New Zealand: The Fault-Lines of Colonial Culture. In: S. Bandyopadhyay, ed., India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, pp. 21–44. Bandyopadhyay, S. (ed.). (2010a). India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press. Bandyopadhyay, S. (2010b). Introduction. In: S. Bandyopadhyay, ed., India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, pp. 7–18. Bhattacharjya, N. (2009). Popular Hindi Film Song Sequences Set in the Indian Diaspora and the Negotiating of Indian Identity. Asian Music, 40(1), 53–82.


Tina K. Ramnarine Brambilla, C., Jussi L., James W. S. and Gianlica B. (eds) (2015). Borderscaping: Imaginations and Practices of Border Making. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. Brenneis, D. (1985). Passion and Performance in Fiji Indian Vernacular Song. Ethnomusicology, 29(3), 397–408. Dabydeen, D. and Samaroo, B. (eds.). (1987). India in the Caribbean. London: Hansib. Dabydeen, D. and Samaroo, B. (1996). Across the Dark Waters: Ethnicity and Indian Identity in the Caribbean. London: Macmillan Education. Dabydeen, D., Morley, J., Samaroo, B., Wahab, A. and Wells, B. (eds) (2007). The First Crossing: Being the Diary of Theophilus Richmond, Ship’s Surgeon Aboard the Hesperus, 1837–8. Coventry, UK: The Derek Walcott Press. Farrell, G. (1997). Indian Music and the West. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. Gikandi, S. (2005). Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality. In: G. Desai and S. Nair, eds, Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism. Oxford, UK: Berg, pp. 608–634. Head, R. (1985). Corelli in Calcutta: Colonial Music-Making in India during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Early Music, 13(4), 548–553. Herbert, T. and Sarkissian M. (1997). Victorian Bands and their Dissemination in the Colonies. Popular Music, 16(2), 165–179. Hornabrook, J. (2016). ‘Becoming One Again’: Music and Transnationalism in London’s Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. PhD Thesis, Goldsmiths: University of London. Johnson, H. (2007). Happy Diwali! Performance, Multicultural Soundscapes and Intervention in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. In: T. K. Ramnarine, ed., Musical Performance in the Diaspora. London: Routledge, pp. 71–94. Kunin, R. (2010). A Stormy Affair: Indian Film Production in New Zealand (1993–2003). In: S. Bandyopadhyay, ed., India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, pp. 207–223. Leante, L. (2004). Shaping Diasporic Sounds: Identity as Meaning in Bhangra. World of Music, 46(1), 109–132. Leckie, J. (2010). A Long Diaspora; Indian Settlement. In: S. Bandyopadhyay, ed., India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press, pp. 45–63. Manoharan, P. (2015). Tamil Hip-Hop in Malaysia: The History, Politics, and Sounds of Diasporic Identity. PhD Thesis, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Miller, K. C. (2008). A Community of Sentiment: Indo-Fijian Music and Identity Discourse in Fiji and its Diaspora. PhD Thesis, Los Angeles: University of California. Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking-Penguin. Mungur, S. (2014). A Historical Perspective: Introduction of Indian Music and Dance in Mauritius., 3 May 2014. Available from: (Accessed on 7 January 2016). Myers, H. (1998). Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the India Diaspora. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Niranjana, T. (2006). Mobilizing India: Women, Music, and Migration between India and Trinidad. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Ramchand, K. and Samaroo, B. (eds). (1995). A Return to the Middle Passage: The Clipper Ship ‘Sheila’. Trinidad: Caribbean Information Systems and Services. Ramdin, R. (ed.). (1994). The Other Middle Passage: Journal of a Voyage from Calcutta to Trinidad, 1858. London: Hansib. Ramnarine, T. K. (1996). ‘Indian’ Music in the Diaspora: Case Studies of ‘Chutney’ in Trinidad and in London. British Journal of Ethnomusicology, 5, 133–153. Ramnarine, T. K. (2001). Creating their Own Space: The Development of an Indian-Caribbean Musical Tradition. Trinidad and Tobago: University of West Indies Press. Ramnarine, T. K. (2007). Beautiful Cosmos: Performance and Belonging in the Caribbean Diaspora. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press. Ramnarine, T. K. (2010). Beyond Borders: Memory and Creativity in the Diaspora. In: S. Chaudhuri and A. Seeger, eds, Remembered Rhythms: Issues of Diaspora and Music in India. London: Seagull Books, pp. 84–106. Ramnarine, T. K. (2011a). Music in Circulation between Diasporic Histories and Modern Media: Exploring Sonic Politics in Two Bollywood Films, Om Shanti Om and Dulha Mil Gaya. South Asian Diaspora, 3(2), 143–158.


Musical performances in the Indian diaspora Ramnarine, T. K. (2011b). The Orchestration of Civil Society: Community and Conscience in Symphony Orchestras. Ethnomusicology Forum, 20(3), 327–351. Ramnarine, T. K. (2013). World Heritage and Imperial History: Landscapes and Music through the Lenses of Botanical Cultivation and Cultural Survival. Conference Paper Presented at the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, Bern, Switzerland. Ramnarine, T. K. (2017). Orchestral Connections in the Cultures of Decolonisation: Reflections on UK, Caribbean and Indian Contexts. In: T. K. Ramnarine, ed., Global Perspectives on Orchestras: Collective Creativity and Social Agency. New York: Oxford University Press. Ray, M. (2001). “Bollywood Down Under: Fiji Indian Cultural History and Popular Assertion. In: S. Cunningham and J. Sinclair, eds, Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 136–184. Servan Schreiber, C. (2011). Indian Folk Music and ‘Tropical Body Language’: The Case of Mauritian Chutney. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. Available from: (Accessed on 7 January 2015). Shope, B. (2008). The Public Consumption of Western Music in Colonial India: From Imperialist Exclusivity to Global Receptivity. Journal of South Asian Studies, 31(2), 271–289. Shope, B. (2017). Orchestras and Musical Intersections with Regimental Bands, Blackface Minstrel Troupes, and Jazz in India, 1830s–1940s. In: T. K. Ramnarine, ed., Global Perspectives on Orchestras: Collective Creativity and Social Agency. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 226–241. Tan, S. E. (2017). State Orchestras and Multiculturalism in Singapore. In: T. K. Ramnarine, ed., Global Perspectives on Orchestras: Collective Creativity and Social Agency. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 261–281. Vatuk, V. P. (1964). Protest Songs of East Indians in British Guiana. Journal of American Folklore, 77(305), 220–235.

Discography Double, D. (1998). ‘Ragga Dulahin’. Hot and Spicy Chutney. Nascente. NSCD 032: UK.

Filmography Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. (1995). Yash Raj Films. Director, Aditya Chopra. Music, Jatin-Lalit. Jootha hi Sahi. (2010). Cinergy Productions and Tell Tale Pictures. Director, Abbas Tyrewalla. Music, A. R. Rahman. Kabali. (2016). V Creations. Director, Pa. Ranjith. Music, Santhosh Narayanan. Kabhie Kabhie. (1976). Yash Raj Films. Director, Yash Chopra. Music, Khayyam. Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. (2000). Filmkraft Productions. Director, Rakesh Roshan. Music, Rajesh Roshan. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. (1998). Dharma Productions. Director, Karan Johar. Music, Jatin-Lalit. Om Shanti Om. (2007). Red Chillies Entertainment. Director, Farah Khan. Music, Vishal-Shekhar. Pardes. (1997). Mukta Arts. Director, Subhash Ghai. Music, Nadeem-Shravan. Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. (2000). Dreamz Unlimited. Director, Aziz Mirza. Music, Jatin-Lalit. Slumdog Millionaire. (2008). Director, Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan. Music, A. R. Rahman, Celador Films and Film4. Swamibapa Salute. (2012). Director and producer, Hannah Marsden, available from: music/research/musicandethnographicfilm/student-archive/2012/.



Cinema as assemblage Considered an appropriate form of entertainment for South Asian indentured workers during the colonial era, Indian popular cinema, now known as Bollywood, has been travelling to British colonies with South Asian diasporic populations since the silent era. Indian films were regularly screened in tent cinemas from the 1930s in the British Malaya, one of the earliest sites of Sikh military and kangani Tamil migration, and both Hindi and Tamil films began to be exhibited in theatres with the advent of theatrical exhibition of films.1 As opposed to in the sending areas, ‘going to the movies’ in the South Asian diasporas has always been associated with forms of pleasure that are not just visual but also auditory, kinetic, olfactory and even tactile. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari proposed their notion of assemblage in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (2004) in relation to the book to argue that we must not ask what a book means but what it “functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities, in which other multiplicities its own are inserted and metamorphosed, and with which other bodies without organs it makes its own converge” (2004, 4). Film scholars have borrowed Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblage to call attention to the significations of cinema that extend beyond the semantic to the acoustic, kinetic, tactile and olfactory economies connected to the visual regime of signs, which are produced by the cinematic text in conjunction with other semiotic systems such as music, dance, food, fashions, lifestyles and so on. The term Bollywood has been interpreted to mean the complex assemblage of the popular Hindi film with Bollywood-centred music, dance, fashion, food and lifestyles and the pleasures they provide to widely dispersed diasporas. Following formalist or interpretative analyses of ‘newly discovered’ popular Hindi cinematic texts since the 1990s, South Asian film theory has now turned to unpacking the uses and gratifications of Bollywood that extend beyond the cinematic. It focuses in particular on media assemblages that articulate the visual economy of the cinematic text to both other visual texts and economies such as aural, tactile and even olfactory, to reproduce sub-continental ‘sensuous geographies’ through a diverse audience watching Bollywood films in multiple exhibition spaces. These studies reveal the pleasure of Bollywood cinema to be part of a complex desiring machine in which meanings produced by the cinematic narrative function in a complex system of signification formed through the intersection of discursive with material practices. They engage with the practices of cinema going in India and in 170

Bollywood assemblages in Singapore

the diasporas by locating them in a complex media assemblage through which the cinematic text acquires social centrality (Dudrah, 2006; Rai, 2009; Devadas & Velayutham, 2012).2 For Singaporean cinegoers, too, watching Indian movies is imbricated with a wide range of material practices – music, dance, art, fashion, food, advertising and so on – through which complex meanings are produced. Viewing Bollywood cinema as an assemblage (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004), this chapter examines the multiplicities of affects on various bodies, spaces and media produced by popular Hindi films in Singapore through the intersection of the intensities of the Bollywood film with other intensities. Popular venues discussed include Jade cinema and Rang Fab in Shaw Towers on Beach Road, Bombay Café on Tanjong Katong Road, Bollywood Nights in Clark Quay, and Bollywood themed clubs Club Colaba, Dhoom and Krish in Boat Quay.3

Going to the movies in the diasporas “In India, audience[s] view films with a very critical eye. Outside India, they don’t look for meanings in films,” reported the owner of a popular video parlour in Bangkok echoing the Deleuzian caveat to “stop asking what a film means, as signifier and signified and not look for anything to understand in it” (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004, 4). An American academic of Indian origin who grew up in Tanzania recalled viewing Mera Naam Joker (1971) 13 times in an open air theatre and the forms of sociality filmgoing produced for the Indian community in the late 1970s: “It was so fun! We all packed our lunch in picnic baskets and spent the whole day there socializing with other Indian families” (June Paul, personal communication, 2008). Like Devadas and Veluyatham’s respondent Mala, who, while going to watch a movie at the plantations after work, went to sleep before the movie began, the pleasures of the film that was remembered in India as Raj Kapoor’s monumental flop were associated in Tanzania with eating Indian food, family togetherness and the sense of an extended community (June Paul, personal communication, 2008; Devadas & Velayutham, 2012). Viewing “media as a contested production of sensation”, Amit Rai argues against such an approach and focuses “on the body’s affects modulated across these cultural and technological thresholds” and explores “specific modes of address of Indian film genres as they articulate in feedback loop relations with active audience” (2009, 4). “How does audiovisual technology circulate regimes of signs and sounds such that they seem to ‘catch on’ to the very bodies of newly globalized consumers?” he asks (2009, 3). In the Singaporean context, the cinematic body forms a part of the assemblage of the significations of several bodies – of the indentured Tamil body in the old plantation economy, of the martial Sikh body in the imperial auxiliary army and police, of the ‘contracted’ bodies of Bangladeshi construction workers in the new global city, of the starved bodies of Nepali women in the global flesh trade, of beer-bellied young middle class professional bodies and of the toned bodies of youth circulating in the global mediascape. Beginning with “the deterritorialization of sensation, audiences and genre in contemporary Bollywood narrative” (2009, 56), Rai suggests that we attend to “the multiplicities of sensation in the process of their reterritorialization” (2009, 99).

Jadehopping on a weekend and Kambakkht Ishq (2009) Viewing the film Kambakkht Ishq (2009), which flopped in India despite its international cast, splendid locales and superb stunts performed by the action hero himself, the media, spaces, bodies that it functioned with in Singapore perfectly illustrated the idea of assemblage. My interviews 171

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with moviegoers in the cineplex Jade Cinemas in Singapore inserted the film’s multiplicities into an assemblage of spaces, bodies, images, objects and other multiplicities in connection with which it transmitted its intensities. Corroborating Dudrah’s ethnographic analysis of the moviegoing experience of South Asians in the Eagle Theatre in Queen’s that effectively emphasized the difference between cinemagoing in an exclusively South Asian space and that in a central New York neighbourhood, Kambakkht Ishq, in contrast to Chandni Chowk to China (2009) that was released with much fanfare in the mainstream Orchard Cineplex, was screened in a cineplex exclusively dedicated to exhibiting Hindi films along with other releases of the month, which reflects the positioning of the Indian community within Singaporean multiculturalism. The meanings of the film were produced in conjunction with the multiplicities of spaces, bodies and socialities through which the cinegoers negotiated their way to Shaw Towers4 on Beach Road where the cineplex is located. The Jade experience is complicated through the South Asian temporalities that transform the character of an ethnic space located in the heart of the city. These multiplicities trace lines of comportment, speech, aromas and touch that interrupt the carefully structured symmetries of public spaces in the planned city as young backslapping South Asian males, conversing noisily in Hindi, Tamil or English, cross the street to enter the cineplex in Shaw Towers. The precision of the elevator is similarly disrupted with noisy footfalls of South Asians shouting greetings or instructions before storming into the short passage running from the elevator to the queue in front of the ticket counter. Here the speed of their chatter accelerates and flows across to the friendly Chinese and Malay counter staff and to the perpendicular queues for samosas and other Indian snacks. In the press of men, women, children queueing up in front of the ticket window, saris, salwar kameezes, hijabs, skirts, different shades of brown; Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, English and Malay; different histories and geographies came together in an undifferentiated Bollywoodized space. Single men and women, young and old couples, families with small or grown up children produce forms of conviviality that disrupt the structured civility of the global city through a simple repetition of homeland acts that are visual, aural, olfactory and tactile. It is in the crush of bodies in the restricted space that several lines of migration to the Straits Settlements intersect in the reproduction of patterns of speech and behaviour that reverberate with the memories of different homes. In addition to noise that reproduces the confusion of a South Asian bazaar, Jade offers an olfactory assemblage of undeodorized bodies, greasy snacks and ‘homely’ toilets that appear strangely comforting in the mechanized anonymity of the city outside. The visual affect is produced as much by the familiarity of skin tones and body shapes, the drape of a salwar or a sari, and colours as the openly inquisitive stares that offer cinegoers an opportunity to blend in, unlike in the space of the city where dusky skin invites suspicion or recognition depending on its adornments. The simplistic binary of the Sindhi/Punjabi upper class and the Tamil working class is often constructed in Singapore through overlooking the complementary lines of class that cut across those of ethnicity. As a Hindi film, Kambakkht Ishq functioned with the Tamil films simultaneously released in Rex Theatre in the ethnic enclave Little India and with lines and speeds that crisscrossed class, ethnicity and language. However, the Bollywood assemblage functioned with the multiple histories of South Asian migration as well as with those of cinematic exhibition in Singapore through which Singapore’s diverse ethnic populations such as the Malay and the Chinese were also inserted into the Bollywood space. The cinematic assemblage was anchored to several other assemblages of older Tamil and Sikh Singapore diasporas and new professional diasporas, Nepali and Bangladeshi guestworkers, Malays and a few Chinese. The convergence of the multiplicities of the cinematic text on the multiplicities of bodies in the space of Jade Cinema emphasized the perceptible difference between various South Asian bodies and the 172

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difference in the ways they dialogued with one another and with the cinematic text. If the discursive function of the cinematic text cannot be read outside ‘a socially embedded set of practices’ attached to cinemagoing in India, the continuities and ruptures between cinegoers’ multiple memories of going to the movies in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore bear on their articulation to the cinematic diegesis. Multiplicities of memories of forms of sociality produced by viewing a Tamil film in a tent cinema in British Malaya, a Dilip Kumar starrer in Galaxy in Singapore or in a standalone theatre in Pakistan before the official ban imposed on Indian films, an Amitabh Bachchan film in a video parlour in Kathmandu, or in the Regal Theatre in Delhi converged in the queue of cinegoers waiting to enter the darkened space where these memories found release. The negotiation of older structures of film and media cultures by fans from economically, ethnically and nationally diverse communities was equally visible in the globalized space of the cineplex. The process of the reterritorialization of the multiplicities of sensation through the narrative of a Punjabi stuntman and a Punjabi American medical student turned model in Hollywood was part of an assemblage in which the regimes of sensation were implicated in the corporeal regimes of skin colour, body shape, height. The buzz about the film emerged from the dangerous stunts performed by the Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar, the new size-zero look of the female lead Kareena Kapoor and the add-on appeal of the Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone. While reiterating the spatio-temporalities of the history of labour through which Tamil, Punjabi or Bihari bodies were indentured in the plantation economies of the past, it traced their continuities with the co-option of the bodies of Bangladeshi males and Nepali females along with the brains of the new South Asian professional talent in the civic and domestic space of Singapore. At the same time, the ‘six pack abs’ of the action hero and ‘size zero’ of the Bollywood’s glamour girl were assembled to the globalized media texts of the body beautiful with Bollywood stars providing attractive corporeal images that South Asian youth could possibly identify with (see Figure 13.1). The contrast between images of Hindi cinema until the mid-1990s and the new Bollywood films emphasizes the emergence of a global body in cinema that functions with other globalized bodies in a mediascape where the bodies of Bollywood actors can pass as or consort with other mediatized bodies. While the bodies of Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan are articulated to lines of audiences in London, New York, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam, the bodies of Latino models such as Giselli Monteiro speed along lines of flight to Bollywood to pass as Punjabi beloveds. Through this deterritorialization of the body, the body is characterized by indeterminacy and might be disassembled and reassembled depending on the mood, context or occasion. The cinema hall exhibits a profusion of such corporeal transformations ranging from the performance of ethnicity through visible sartorial signifiers or a preference for a globalized identity in a similar fashion. Whether one chooses the visual excess of Aishwaya Rai in Devdas (2002) or the understated New York elegance of Kareena Kapoor’s character in Kambakth Ishq, they emerge from and are implicated in diverse spatialities and temporalities. The significations of Kapoor’s size zero spread from the lines of upper class second generation Punjabi and Sindhi Singaporean young women to those of Nepalese maids and young urban professionals and their wives.

Rang Fab The Bollywood assemblage of size zero in the Kambakkht Ishq posters in the Singapore cineplex was articulated to the visual excess of ethnic wear in an exclusive boutique named Rang Fab strategically located in the passage leading to the Jade Theatre. Such exclusive stores stocking 173

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Figure 13.1

Malay girl against the size-zero heroine of Kambakkht Ishq in the Jade Cinema

Indian ethnic wear, including heavily embellished salwar kameezes, ghagra cholis and saris, located in shopping malls spread the contagion of Bollywood fashions from Lahore to LA through Mumbai and Delhi designers’ appropriation of the unorganized labour of Muslim zardozi and other workers slaving in sweatshops in old Indian towns. The assemblage of Bollywood bling with the global fashion industry is traced back to the summer of Bollywood in 2000 that Rajadhyaksha mentioned in his essay through the lines of deterritorialization that enabled designers such as Donna Karan to outsource embroidery to Mumbai craftsmen (Livleen Bedi, personal communication, 1998) and Indian designers like Tarun Tahiliani and others to retail at stores such as Selfridges and design for clients overseas. The year Bollywood kitsch was assembled with the reinvented desi avatar of the American popular singer Madonna, mehndi, bindi and nose rings invaded the global fashion industry, turning the abbreviated Indian kurta, known as 174

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Figure 13.2

Rang Fab

kurti, into a global style statement. As Rajadhyaksha rightly points out, glitzy Bollywood images of Aishwarya Rai in six yards of vintage Benarasi silk were articulated to those of ‘India Shining’ accelerated by the euphoria generated by a booming economy (2003). Therefore, the semiotic chains that link the discursive to the material become visible in the lines that connect Bollywood stars – resplendent in ethnic wear – dancing in designer homes in the new economy of multiplexes, shopping malls, global brands in which sartorial choice becomes a means of asserting ethnic difference. Designer stores catering to the festive requirements of Indian tycoons borrow a Bollywood sartorial grammar, which connects young Indian professionals in India with Non-Resident Indian (NRI) professionals through an Amitabh Bachchan sherwani or a Madhuri Dixit ghaghra choli. Since the mid-2000s, this Bollywood grammar has been normalized through its co-option in global styles so that Indian style kurtis could be retailed in mainstream American chains at prices lower than those in India (Ishwar Bedi, personal communication, 2006). Unlike Queen’s in New York City where the cinematic assemblage is part of a larger South Asian assemblage that includes jewellery, clothing, DVD and grocery stores, Rang Fab is strategically placed within the theatre precincts to attract the affluent Singaporean shopper looking for the latest Bollywood fashions from India. On their way to the cineplex, South Asian cinegoers, particularly young women, may be seen window-shopping at the Rang Fab display window, checking out new styles and some even entering the shop to try on and perhaps buy outfits (see Figure 13.2).

Bombay Café Among the wide variety of things Bollywood film functions with today is food. Unlike Queens and shopping malls in India where visits to the multiplex are preceded or followed by a meal at 175

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Figure 13.3

On a Roll: Chandni Chowk to Chowringhee

the Food Court on the top floor or street food outside, Jade did not offer much by way of choice in South Asian cuisine other than the samosas that supplemented popcorn in the theatre complex until 2010. But the experience of watching a film in Jade was inseparable from the pungent aroma of samosas that mixed with homeland sounds and flavours such as mobile phones ringing and babies being hushed. By 2011, the opening of a new street food stall right at the foot of the side entrance to the mall that offered a range of chaats and savouries usually sold outside cinema halls in India ushered cinegoers into the lanes of old Delhi and ensconced them in a complete Indian ambience from the moment they entered the complex (see also Figure 13.3). In order to complete the Bollywood experience, cinegoers could be seen making plans for dinner afterwards, possibly in the Bombay Café in the adjoining Suntec City. This is how the Straits Times described a visit to the Bombay Café: It is like wandering onto the set of a Bollywood movie. The decor is fuchsia pink and black, the lights are dim and Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Rani Mukherji are dancing energetically and belting out songs from popular Hindi movies. Bombay Café is strategically designed to capitalize on diasporic Bollymania and nostalgia for street food in roadside restaurants with walls plastered with posters of Bollywood stars. However, Bombay Café’s carefully produced Bollywood ambience for the Bollylover through giant-sized collages of landmark Bollywood films, kitschy fuchsia seats and a glass counter speeds along spatial and temporal lines of flight to Indian street food stalls, usually located 176

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outside standalone theatres, with rough wooden benches, cheap calendars of Hindu gods pasted alongside those of new Bollywood gods. The restaurant evokes memories of tikkis [potato cutlets] being flipped on an iron tawa [griddle], bhaturas [leavened bread] being fried in a kadai [wok] and of the golgappa seller dipping the golgappa in mint syrup and handing them in banyanleaf cones to matronly Indian women dripping with gold and diamonds. However, since many of the street food vendors have been evicted with the emergence of food courts and shopping malls in India, the Café’s nostalgic return to 1970s classics like Sholay and pre-globalized Indian streets connects with divergent spatialities and temporalities. The simultaneous emergence of similar themed restaurants in Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore traces slow and viscous flows of South Asian food to global cities in opposition to the accelerated movement of American fast food chains in India. A year later, I followed these multiple continuities in another Bollywood-themed restaurant in Ahmedabad whose manufactured Bollywood ambience was connected to sepia images of films from the 1950s to 2010 and individual dishes named after Bollywood stars who ostensibly had dined in the restaurant. What are the multiplicities of the global economy of Bollywood that connect two Bollywood-themed restaurants owned by Indian entrepreneurs? Which class, region, gender multiplicities does the Bollywood ambience address and what are its specific meanings in India and Singapore respectively? Both engage in different ways with the issues of ethnic difference in a globalized economy of taste that is dictated by McDonald’s and company while transforming cheap Indian street food into a sign of glamour through postmodern play.

Song and dance Rajadhyaksha (2003), Dudrah (2006) and Rai (2009) have commented on the imbrication of the visual economy of signs in the Bollywood assemblage with the sonic economy of music, including television music channels, radio shows, ringtones, caller tunes and music clips. It is in music that the bond between affect and capital that Rai spoke of is clearly visible. Industry sources point out that approximately 15 per cent of the film’s budget comes from the film’s music rights, ensuring a minimal return even on films that bomb at the box office. While the sonic has always been factored into the visual economy of the Bollywood film since its inception, the accelerated speeds through which music travels across digital media to a global audience not only deterritorialize it but also disengage the song and dance from the narrative economy of the film. The global sonic market for Bollywood music has seen the emergence of a new generation of diasporic and non-South Asian Bollywood consumers, whose pleasures in Bollywood music are often unrelated to those of the visual regimes of the film. Many of these consumers confess to being ignorant of Bollywood films while claiming expertise in the latest developments in Bollywood music that they download, play and share with each other. Bollywood’s capacity to affect and be affected through its proximate populations, bodies, microspaces, speeds is illustrated through the uses of Bollywood music in diasporic identity production. Beginning as a movement in the UK, with British Asian youth performing ethnic difference through dancing to bhangra and Bollywood tunes in parties known as ‘daytimers’ in community centres, local halls, clubs, discos and other such spaces, Bollywood music has become an integral part of British popular culture and the UK club scene and is circulated through rhizomic movements to all parts of the world including to India. The lines of territory and deterritorialization intersecting in Bollywood musical production and consumption are epitomized in the multidirectional flows from and to all directions that are controlled by a giant global music industry that translates its affects on the bodies of diverse consumers into capital through the sales of music rights, percentage of revenues on downloads, ringtones, caller tunes, 177

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augmented through strategic branding and marketing through the invention of star personas, musical tours and so on. Considering that Singapore has formed an important node in the global distribution of bhangra and Bollywood music since the 1990s, it expectedly figures in the promotional tours of star performers from India, UK, Canada and elsewhere.

Bollywood Nights In the section that follows, I will examine one of these tours that coincided with my visit to Singapore between 2008 and 2009 to focus on the sensations produced by the Bollywood media and its affects through its proximate populations, bodies, microspaces and speeds. This was a Bollywood Night held at the Indo-Chine Club in Clark Quay featuring the British music producer Rishi Rich that was a launch pad for the new bhangra sensation H-Dhami’s debut album Sadke Javan (2008) in the weekend following the Hindu festival of Dushhera. The demarcation of distinctively Tamil and Punjabi spaces in cinemagoing noted earlier was replicated in the space of music and dance that was often crossed through class and education. Unlike working class Bollywood penetrated spaces such as the Diwali Mela in Little India, the exclusivity of the club’s clients was ensured by the high cover charge of Singapore $25 that included the cost of a drink. However, more interesting was the crossing of the lines of a global Bollywood and bhangra audience with those of ethnic Punjabi. As a Gujarati migrant from Kenya to the UK who grew up listening to Bollywood music, Rishi Rich, who made a mark on the British popular cultural scene in 2005 with a bhangra album main tere naal nachna featuring Juggy D and Jay Sean, himself embodies these lines of deterritorialization. Rishi Rich’s production of the title song of the Bollywood film Hum Tum (2004) featuring Juggy D and Veronica illustrates the deterritorialized production circuits through which the new cinematic economy functions, affects and is affected by diverse spaces and bodies through its diegetic and extra-diegetic movement from India. The capacity of a single cinematic text to affect a multiplicity of populations, and produce intensities through their assemblage with spatio-temporal intensities of rural Punjab, Gujarat and Tamilnadu with those of urban Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Singapore, Birmingham and London, was demonstrated in the sensations the film produced on the dancefloor. The clubbers I interviewed were divided between Bollywood and bhangra fans, some of whom were pulled in by the star appeal of the Hum Tum (2004) singers and others by the new British Asian sensation, whose synergies contributed to the affects produced by the performances of the stars and were spread like a contagion to the bodies of the dancers. Rishi’s opening act was the dainty Hum Tum (2004) singer Veronica whose pirouetting to the beats of the Hindi Punjabi English lyrics of her own song emphasized the functioning of the film with the intensities of Mumbai with Birmingham, Hindi with Punjabi, Bollywood actors with British Asian singers, bhangra with Bollywood through the production of a new urban genre that resonated with the multiplicities of South Asian diasporic youth in Singapore, Bangkok and all other stops on the group’s Asian tour. But it was the excess produced through H-Dhami’s bhangra that caused the eruption of the subtle sexuality of the Bollywood romance into the raw sexuality mapped on the body of the Punjabi singer-dancer that caught on like a contagion to the bodies of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual youth congregated in the club. By the time Dhami got on to his second act, the entire club was shaking to the beat of the dhol [drum] with bodies of all sizes, shapes and colours pressed against one another giving in to the sensation in a simulation of communion. What were the intensities that were communicated from the bodies of the British Asian performers to desi professionals, Sikh and Tamil university students, and Chinese schoolgirls and management students? How did Singaporean multiculturalism enfold Punjabi Muslim Pakistani nationals into the rhythms of Punjabi village and Bombay urban sounds in a 178

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diasporic or global urban space? What are the functions that the Bollywood film performs with the bodies of youth in the production of diasporic or global youth identities? In what follows, I shall demonstrate how the upper and middle class Bollywood culture spills over into marginalized spaces and marginalities that are ‘complexified’ through their meanings for their users. While the music played in the clubs at the club zones Clark Quay and Boat Quay is identical, the location of the clubs and the Bollywood space within determines the meanings and affects produced by the music. In the club zone in Clark Quay, the organization of a Bollywood Night on a particular night is located on the global musical flows targeted at a cosmopolitan audience in global cities, emphasizing the cosmopolitan pleasures of a multi-ethnic, multilingual consumer. Boat Quay, with a profusion of clubs catering to different pockets, appears to be a South Asian enclave where single desi men on a night out might cross the path of Singaporean Indian youth from upper class Sindhi and Punjabi families. Club Colaba, Krish and Dhoom are among a number of nightclubs on Boat Quay that borrow the names of popular Bollywood films to cater for diverse pleasures.

Club Colaba, Dhoom and Krish Despite their location in the same neighbourhood, Club Colaba, entangled in the global circuits of sonic commerce directed at a diasporic youth audience, differs in the pleasures it offers from those across the street. Unlike Club Colaba, which brings together the deterritorialized histories of Punjabi and Sindhi migration to Southeast Asia, East Africa and Britain, Krish and Dhoom are implicated in the urban economies of South Asian cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore where Bollywood song and dance is assembled to different intensities of class, gender, space and bodies. While Club Colaba is an upmarket club whose youth clientele include second or third generation Sindhi and Punjabi Singaporean youth similar to those who frequented the IndoChine club, the other two clubs, Krish and Dhoom, owned by the same owner, are bars catering to a predominantly desi male scopophilia through their inclusion of dancing by scantily clad young women to popular Bollywood song and dance numbers. My accidental discovery of the twin ‘dance bars’ courtesy of the innocent confusion of my zealous Chinese Singaporean intern emphasized the entanglements of Bollywood cinema in what Devadas and Velayutham (2012) call “complex and diverse modes of sociality”, its connection with “bodies, forms of lives and communities” in similar and contradictory ways. The dance bar is inscribed as an immoral space in India due to its perception as a den of prostitution that led to the closure of dance bars in Mumbai and Bangalore following legislation in 2005. According to writer and columnist Shobhaa De (The Straits Times 2008), the dance bar girls prohibited from performing in bars in Mumbai have emigrated to Singapore to clubs such as Dhoom and have become emancipated from the stigma attached to dancing in Mumbai bars. My interviews with Dhoom’s clientele confirmed the resignifications of the dance bar through its deterritorialization. The description of the bar in my intern’s amazement at “girls dancing in beautiful saris and middle aged men sitting in a row, Prof!” (Michel Yeoh, personal communication, 2008) had confirmed my suspicions about the presence of dance bars, an all-male place that I had never ventured to enter in India (see Figure 13.4). But I was surprised to hear that the young men smoking outside Dhoom were not the hardened gangsters portrayed enjoying similar pleasures in Bollywood films, but ‘respectable’ young Indian professionals gravitating towards the Bollywood space not for the titillating pleasures of watching young women dancing but for the familiarity of Bollywood (personal communication, 2008). Even so, I entered the bar expecting to encounter at least a few ‘gangsters’, but the presence of a few women supported my respondents’ description of the club as a ‘family’ place. The girls, comely by any standards, were gyrating to popular Bollywood numbers that I had 179

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Figure 13.4

Dance Club: Dhoom

heard in the adjoining club, attired in clothes that were no more revealing than those worn by young clubbers in the other clubs or even Singaporean youth on the streets, in a single line. Men of all ages, seated on stools lined along the walls, watched them perform silently while nursing their drinks. Unlike the youth clubs, the dance bars were inscribed with loneliness and contingencies through the bodies of the dancers and their clients that were entangled in the multiplicities of male and female migration, narratives of exclusion and belonging, different forms of urbanities and economies of desire and consumption. After an hour’s dancing by slim young women dressed in a mix of Western and Indian wear, the club produced its star performer, a curvaceous young woman clad in crimson who stepped on to a table to dance to a Punjabi number from Singh is Kinng (2004) and appeared to be a hot favourite among the clients. However, the Je karda ai [I wish I could] number from the film produced in this lonely space not the expected conviviality of the youth club but the yearnings of single males separated from their beloveds and the compulsions of abandoned rural and urban brides that implicated them in the global economies of ‘dancing naked’ or in the rumoured flesh trade. The dancer in the red dress appeared to be speaking exclusively to a plump, light-skinned young South Asian male who had been sitting silently all along. The attentions of the club favourite brought a trace of a smile to the young man’s lips while the entire club rose to replicate the desire of the rustic Sikh protagonist of the film for a woman he encounters on a journey. The economies of the dance bars were connected to those of Sikh migration through whispered revelations about unemployed young men and abandoned young women and fed into global circuits of capitalism through which marginalized South Asian bodies and brains service dominant centres to produce such sensations of despair and loss that are compensated by the comforting familiarity of Bollywood (Dolly Kundra, personal communication, 2008).

Conclusion Borrowing Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the assemblage, this chapter viewed Bollywood cinema as an assemblage and focused on a number of Bollywood spaces in Singapore to show 180

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the intensities of Bollywood-centred popular culture (music, dance, food and fashion), bodies and communities with which the intensities of Bollywood films function within the global city. It also demonstrated the city’s multi-ethnic, regimented spatialities and temporalities with which they transmit their intensities. The forms of sociality produced by watching a Bollywood movie, listening to or dancing to Bollywood music, sporting Bollywood styles and eating out in Bollywood-themed restaurants evoked strong kinetic, acoustic, tactile and olfactory memories of heterogeneous South Asian moviegoing experiences in Singapore that were sharply differentiated by nationality, ethnicity, language, gender, class, caste, age. The chapter focused on the intensities produced by Bollywood assemblages through their articulation to these racialized, gendered, classed bodies of both the old and new diasporas in Singapore that intersected in these Bollywood spaces. More specific, in-depth investigations into these assemblages can provide a sense of the impact the flows of Bollywood films, music, dance and fashions can have on diverse histories such as constitute a place like Singapore, with their variety of Indian ethnicities dispersed in different sectors of the economy.

Notes 1 During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, all ethnic groups including the Chinese, who had a choice between watching Japanese propaganda films and Indian films, developed a taste for Indian melodramas. 2 Rajinder Dudrah, in Sociology Goes to the Movies, suggests a “complexifying of the sensations of the Bollywood assemblages that are consumed and incorporated in the cultural geographies and urban bodies of Bollywood’s diasporic audiences in Jackson Heights in the borough of Queens, and in Times Square in the district of Manhattan” (2006). Similarly, Devadas and Velayutham (2012) propose that we shift “the view of film and cinema as something to be analysed for meanings and representations to one that approaches it as cartography or as an event; something experienced as a dynamic exchange, as activities, in motion”. Viewing Tamil cinema as assemblage, they demonstrate how it “interacts with or carries out interactions with other media-systems, popular culture, bodies, institutions, forms of lives, communities (defined by gender, caste, class, ethnicity and nationality), and urban and industrial developments” (Devadas & Velayutham, 2008, 2012). 3 Interviews were conducted for this chapter in Singapore between 13 October 2008 and 3 August 2009 with male and female audiences of all ages and nationalities in cinema halls, clubs and community events. Research was completed during my tenure at the Asia Research Institute in August 2008–July 2009 and May–July 2010. 4 “Standing on 100 Beach Road – a prestigious address that is rich in history, Shaw Tower houses a 35-storey office/retail block offering 260,000 square feet of office space and Shaw Leisure Gallery, a niche shopping podium offering 100,000 square feet of retail service space”. Beach Road, one of the earliest roads developed in Singapore that was known as kadalkarai sadakku or “seaside road” in Tamil, houses prominent landmarks such as the Raffles Hotel and Raffles City, Concourse and so on.

Bibliography Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (2004). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Translated by B. Massumi. London: Continuum. Devadas, V. and Velayutham, S. (2008). Encounters with ‘India’: (Ethno-)Nationalism in Tamil Cinema. In: S. Velayutham, ed., Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of India’s Other Film Industry. London: Routledge, pp. 154–171. Devadas, V. and Velayutham, S. (2012). Cinema in Motion: Tracking Tamil Cinema’s Assemblage. In: A. G. Roy and C. B. Huat, eds, Travels of South Asian Cinema: From Bombay to LA. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dudrah, R. (2006). Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies. New Delhi: Sage. Rai, A. S. (2009). Untimely Bollywood: Globalization and India’s New Media Assemblage. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Anjali Gera Roy Rajadhyaksha, A. (2003). The Bollywoodization of the Indian Cinema: Cultural Nationalism in a Global Arena. In: P. Kaarsholm, ed., City Flicks: Cinema, Urban Worlds and Modernities in India and Beyond. Roskilde University Occasional Paper No. 22, and Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 4(1), April 2003. Rajadhyaksha, A. (2009). Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency. New Delhi: Tulika and Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Singh, B. (2002). Complicating the City. Available from: (Accessed on 12 June 2010).

Films Chandni Chowk to China (Nikhil Advani 2009). Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali 2002). Hum Tum (Kunal Kohli 2004). Kambakkht Ishq (Sabir Khan 2009). Love aj Kal (Imtiaz Ali 2009). Singh is Kinng (Anees Bazmee 2004).

Albums H-Dhami-Rishi Rich. Sadke Javan. Jay Sean, Juggy D, Rishi Rich. Aj Tere Nal Nachna.

Personal observation “Rishi Rich Night”. Indo-Chine Club Singapore 13 October 2008. Jade Cineplex Singapore 19 July 2009–3 September 2010. “Bollywood Night”. Club Colaba Singapore 24 December 2008. Club Colaba and Dhoom 24 December 2008.



Fashion and beauty cultures have marked the convergence of the Indian nation-state and the diaspora in defining the terms of democratic citizenship since the 1990s (Grewal, 2005). Whether defined in or through the terms of middle-class Indian women’s increased spending on products to enhance their physical appearance, the increased availability of full service beauty salons, skin-lightening products and procedures, or aspirations to go into fashion design and modelling as career choices for urban girls and women, Indian fashion and beauty are connected to neoliberal practices of citizenship.1 The increased production and consumption of women’s lifestyle magazines in India since the late 1990s prompted the production of similar magazines, such as Anokhi, Nirali, Sapna, and Nirvana, for diasporic women at the beginning of the new millennium. (Nirvana was discontinued in 2004 but bore the same overall visual aesthetic of India’s best-selling women’s beauty magazine, Femina, which began publication in 1959.) The popularity of diasporic sartorial conventions such as the salwar kameez was both influenced by and influenced similar style trends on the subcontinent (see, for example, Bhachu, 2003). Indian-inspired fashions, known as Indo chic, took the global fashion industry by storm in the 1990s and became a popular design aesthetic among Indian and diasporic fashion industrialists in the first decade of the new millennium through which elite and urban consumers could cultivate a sense of cosmopolitanism. Even more recently, mainstream Indian media were quick to claim Nina Davuluri, the first woman of Indian ethnicity to win the Miss America pageant, a diasporic daughter of the Indian nation. Despite these transnational trajectories, diasporic negotiations of Indian fashion and beauty have remained virtually unexplored within feminist scholarship on beauty, fashion, and globalization. Theorizing fashion through the diasporic imagination shifts focus away from ideological critiques of the norms and shifting standards of Indian beauty and fashion (what beauty and fashion are). Because the framework of diaspora privileges the “constitutive differences” (Edwards, 2003, 11) among migrant and immigrant populations, it is poised to make visible the material histories and realities of race, gender, class, and sexuality in everyday practices of embodiment and belonging (what beauty and fashion do). The fashion and beauty cultures that I examine here bring into view subjects and bodies that have been overlooked within studies of diaspora—religious minorities, girls, and women. The diaspora’s attention to the heterogeneity of difference also raises questions about the definition and conferral of style as part of the production of difference. What counts as fashion in 183

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design and consumer markets historically has excluded non-western attire, which is often distinguished from fashion through the use of terms such as “dress,” “clothing,” “garments,” and “garb.” The very distinction between clothing and fashion is, after all, also a symptom and marker of modernity—those subjects and cultures that can be fashionable are those marked as having the capacity to enter into a national or global modern. In India, like in other colonized nations, fashion was central to the colonial modernizing project (see Tarlo, 1991). Diasporic engagements with Indian sartoriality bring into crisis the very distinction between fashion and clothing. I thus define fashion as both the creative input and economic processes that are required to translate the raw material of clothing into the symbolic meaning of style (fashionability), and the habits of dress and attire that inform everyday practices of self and identity (sartoriality). This chapter focuses on visual cultural production such as fashion blogs, photography, and film, which exhibit strong affinities with cultural industries of fashion and beauty such as pageants, cosmetics, and women’s magazines. Both rely heavily on image-based content and/or circulate within a resolutely visual field. Within diasporic visual cultures, beauty and fashion are not only forms of aesthetic labour and capital, but also “expressive capital,” a “repertoire of collective responses to [society’s] moment and place in the world” (Machida, 2009, 6–7). Through a common interest in Indian sartorial forms as a shifting inventory of dress, diasporic visual cultures animate the material histories, affective circuits, and embodied practices of diaspora. This chapter draws attention to the “soft” masculinities of Sikh fashionability, the feminine failures of young women’s marital “unsuitability,” and the generational “swag” of aunties. These affects and embodiments exceed the racialized, gendered, and sexualized orientalisms of the dominant fashion system and the gendered and sexual norms of Indian femininity and masculinity that structure everyday practices of dress and style. The first part of this chapter examines the diasporic aesthetic of “Sikh chic” in British Asian Pardip Singh Bahra’s street style fashion blog, Singh Street Style. The various media platforms of Bahra’s blog put pressure on the late capitalist orientalist fashion aesthetic of “turban chic” while also challenging transnational histories of anti-Sikh sentiment. The second half of the chapter focuses on several diasporic feminist visual artworks—Unsuitable Girls, a collaborative photography project by Indian American feminist visual artists Swati Khurana and Anjali Bhargava; Upping the Aunty, a set of street style fashion photographs by Indo-Canadian Meera Sethi; and filmmaker Geeta Malik’s short film, Aunty Gs (2004). In these artworks, feminine unsuitability and aunty swag emerge as feminist embodiments of young and aging womanhood that challenge the capitalist and hetero-patriarchal imperatives of diasporic belonging.

Sikh chic and the politics of social vanity In August 2012, a Sikh blogger with the screen name “Brooklynwala” posted a blog in the Sikh American online community forum Langar Hall titled, “Turbans on the Runway: What Does it Mean for Sikhs?” In it, he eloquently responds to French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s debut of turban chic for his menswear line at Paris Fashion Week just a few months earlier. Brooklynwala critiques Gaultier’s choice to feature non-Sikh models wearing Sikh-style turbans as accessories in his show, pointing to the tension between turbans as “the target of discrimination, profiling, and violence” after 9/11 and as “aesthetic objects of high fashion” (Turbans). He calls specific attention to the massacre of Sikh worshippers at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which left six people dead, and occurred just one month after Gaultier debuted turban chic on the runway. Referencing Gaultier’s show, Brooklynwala muses: “Now that turbans are all the rage in the fashion world, will people think I am cooler in my turban, when it also comes with a long beard and brown skin?” (Turbans). 184

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Brooklynwala points to the incommensurability of turban chic with everyday turbaned Sikhs, and, implicitly, to the representational limits of turban chic fashionability to address or redress historical and ongoing anti-Sikh sentiment and violence. This incommensurability has to do with the turban’s historical associations with a criminalized, terrorist South Asian masculinity in India and the diaspora. Turban assaults were common among early twentieth-century Sikh migrants to the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Canada, who constituted a new Yellow Peril. In India, the turban accrued the markings of a terrorist masculinity during Partition and after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh guards in 1984. Despite Sikh loyalty to the colonial British Raj and during World War I and World War II, British law banned the donning of turban and beard among British Sikh train conductors, guards, and drivers in the 1960s. (The ban was lifted in 1984 after British Sikhs successfully campaigned for turban rights in all areas of British public life.) Most recently, the turban has become a “strange attractor” of intimate bodily violence and an object violability, such as in acts of de-turbaning, grabbing of the turban, and the pulling of unshorn hair that Sikh community and human rights organizations reported in the wake of 9/11 (Puar, 2007, 181). Critiques of the turban’s cultural appropriation in the wake of the most recent spate of antiSikh violence cannot account fully for the turban’s renewed fashionability among diasporic fashion industrialists. These South Asian subjects manipulate the same cultural economy of fashion that “commodifies aspects of South Asian ethnic and racial identity” (Mannur & Sahni, 2011, 178). In the months following the debut of Gaultier’s turbans and the Oak Creek massacre, Indian, British, and U.S. Sikh fashion industrialists began to showcase the turban in their aesthetic creations. Jeetinder Sandhu designed jewelled turbans as part of his autumn/winter 2013 collection for Graduate Fashion Week in London. Model, fashion designer, and professional photographer Pardeep Singh Bahra founded his London-based fashion blog Singh Street Style, in which British Sikh men are featured donning the dastaar (Punjabi for “turban”) with mostly western attire such as suits, skinny jeans, cargo pants, and drop-crotch pants. Sikh American Jagmeet Sethi soon after launched his online apparel company,, which designs clothing and accessories featuring the turban to promote Sikh pride in the global Sikh diaspora. These Sikh fashion industrialists have cultivated a diasporic fashion aesthetic of “Sikh chic” that is distinct from the orientalist aesthetics of turban chic. For Gaultier, turban chic frames the fashionable cosmopolitan male subject as necessarily at a cultural remove from Sikh bodies and identities and from the Sikh turban as an everyday sartorial practice. Gaultier’s turbaned “globe-trotting fashionable man” (MailOnline India) is distinct from the (Sikh) diasporic subject. In contrast, Sikh chic visualizes the clothing practices, poses, and comportments of the everyday diasporic Sikh body—and in most cases, the everyday turbaned Sikh body—as fashionable. Here, I focus on the visual aesthetics of Bahra’s London-based street style fashion blog,2 Singh Street Style, which launched in 2012. Dubbing himself “the turbaned fashion blogger” and “the Sikh sartorialist” (SSS),3 Bahra has earned a great deal of recognition from global fashion and news media outlets, such as the BBC, Vogue India, and The New York Daily News, for his innovative take on Sikh chic street style. By visualizing affiliations between Sikh body and Sikh turban, Singh Street Style refashions the violable, violent, and non-national Sikh male body into a fashionable, diasporic citizen-subject.4 Please find these images at taken-by=singhstreetstyle (Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 3 September 2014); www. (Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 3 September 2014); and (Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 6 July 2015). Bahra’s outfit posts, like those of many Asian fashion bloggers who have risen to prominence in fashion’s new creative economies,5 perform what fashion studies scholar Minh-Ha T. Pham 185

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calls “taste work.” Taste work involves the labor of self-fashioning, sartorial styling, posing, self-framing, etc., that allows race and gender to be rearticulated as “aesthetic strategies of value” (2015a, 4–5) rather than merely categories of social difference. The self-promotional aspects of taste work are most apparent in posts that feature the turbaned Bahra as the fashionable “face” of media corporations like Samsung, and that include Bahra modelling his own, Sikh-inspired sweatshirts, hoodies, and t-shirts, which can be purchased on his online store. Self-promotion is also part of the blog’s visual pedagogy of taste, which consists of outfit posts and selfies featuring Bahra posing in season-specific looks tailored to work, play, sport, business, travel, or shopping. Each look teaches consumers how to combine colors, styles, and accessories. It also lists the fashion labels for each piece of clothing so that they know where to purchase them. In promoting a particular brand and style, Bahra’s outfit posts enhance the value of his identity as a fashion tastemaker and trendsetter. Yet Singh Street Style’s pedagogy of taste is more than merely self-promotional. The blog’s media content participates in what I call social vanity, the process by which the advancement of group social and political visibility is already embedded within the generic conventions of digital fashion media in ways that exceed its largely self-promotional content.6 The taste work of personal style blogs most often cleaves individual identity from group identity and rearticulates it as individual taste (Pham, 2015a, 163). By contrast, social vanity cultivates individual taste to—at least in part—promote the visibility of group identity. Social vanity in Singh Street Style certainly relies on Bahra’s individual vanity—outfit posts and selfies that feature his conventional good looks, slim build, and smooth, fair skin. It is therefore distinct from other projects of social vanity in which subjects who lack these forms of bodily capital—such those who are fat, hairy, dark, disabled, and/or gender non-conforming— have also used fashion to draw attention to social marginalization. Nonetheless, the setting, poses, and written text of Bahra’s outfit posts cultivate turban- and Sikh pride in order to promote British Sikhs’ cultural citizenship, or their full inclusion within the British nation. Whereas Gaultier’s turban chic is available primarily to the elite cosmopolitan subject, Bahra’s Sikh chic reflects everyday life in the diaspora. Bahra’s posts emphasize ordinary settings—urban streets, parks, and other public spaces—and the poses of ordinary Sikhs doing ordinary things— standing on street corners, reading books, talking on or looking at their mobile phones, walking along pavements, leaning against walls, sitting on building stoops, or crossing streets. These settings and poses are intended to mark the photographed look as achievable and not merely aspirational. Singh Street Style’s outfit posts are thus aligned with the aesthetic conventions of most street style blogs, in which an ordinary person’s everyday style is presented as an achievable “look” that signals fashion’s democratic ethos, rather than the elitist ethos of the sleek and highly mediated sets of the professional fashion photograph. Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, “looking like an ordinary citizen” is a mode of bodily comportment that, rather than being a social given, can itself be aspirational for minoritized subjects whose formal or cultural citizenship is under duress (Reddy, 2016). In aestheticizing the Sikh male body, Bahra’s outfit posts show the turbaned male subject reclaiming the public space of the street, a space in which Sikh bodies have been treated with fear, suspicion, and surveillance because of their mis-associations with terrorist masculinities. Turbaned Sikh men are photographed in iconically British spaces—flats, government buildings, museums, gardens, and near London’s signature red public telephone booths. The predominant pose—Sikh men leaning against public structures and standing with one leg crossed over the other—displays an ease and familiarity with London streets that marks them as ordinary British citizen-subjects. Bahra connects these photographs to a longer “political history of aesthetic visibility” (Pham, 2015b, 232) of street Sikh chic. Occasionally interspersed among the outfit posts are black and 186

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white photographs of Sikhs walking, shopping, and gathering on London streets in the 1940s and 1950s, with captions such as “Sikhs have always been stylish” (SSS). Please find this image at (“Singhs Have Always Been Stylish,” Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 20 November 2014). By including these historical photographs as part of the blog’s media content, Bahra establishes a tradition of Sikh fashionability during earlier periods of British anti-Sikh sentiment that is continuous with the historical present. In addition to visualizing the self-styled Sikh man as an ordinary citizen-subject, the social vanity of Singh Street Style emerges through the advancement of Sikh fashion as an identity politics of fashion-as-ethnic pride and a collective politics of fashion-as-rights. Sikh models for the blog are required to wear the turban even if they do not ordinarily wear one. They must also tie the turban in ways that complement British attire, such as “slim-fitted, sometimes even skinny-fitted clothing, which people rarely associate with Singhs” (“Hot Blog Alert!”) (Pinto, 2013). The imperative to wear the turban with British attire advances a hybrid fashion aesthetic that works in the service of cultivating an “authentic” diasporic Sikh identity. Other media content, such as Bahra’s debut video on the site, “Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh!,” a turban-tying lesson, and photographic self-portraits and selfies that raise awareness about anti-turban sentiment, educate Sikhs and non-Sikhs about the turban as central to Sikhs’ self-representation as rightsbearing, citizen-subjects. Please find these images at (Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 8 April 2015) and www.instagram. com/p/BAkdbMPjA1S/?taken-by=singhstreetstyle (“How to Tie a Turban,” Pardeep Singh Bahra, Singh Street Style, 5 January 2016). At the same time, the construction of Sikh men as ordinary British citizen-subjects relies on performances of compulsory hetero-masculinity. Their poses, more often than not, display the “soft” masculinities of European metrosexuality. Fitted shirts and fitted pants/skinny jeans emphasize the smallness, leanness, and litheness of the Sikh male body. This, coupled with their “diminished postures,” tapered stances, crossed legs, and closely paralleled feet emphasize the feminized bodily postures of many fashion blog style poses, regardless of the gender of the blogger (Pham, 2015a, 145). These soft masculine/feminized postures and body types certainly challenge historical representations of Sikhs as threateningly hyper-masculine, such as in their associations with aggression, war, militarism, and separatist violence in postcolonial India and the diaspora.7 But captions such as “a well-tailored suit is to a woman as lingerie is to a man” frame Sikh soft masculinity within a heterosexual visual economy in which Sikh women will find Sikh men more sexually attractive. As Bahra says of his outfit posts: “Hopefully, we have encouraged our Sikh women to embrace turbaned Sikh men. We have shown that Sikh men can be just as desirable in a classy manner, through our style, personality and our character” (“Hot Blog Alert!”). This insistence on heterosexual male attractiveness dispels the specter of perverse queerness that often hangs over the turbaned male body because of the turban’s incommensurability with secular modernities. Sikh male metrosexuality allows the turbaned body to appear within the bounds of proper and respectable (hetero)sexual citizenship (Puar, 2007, 169). In addition to inviting a desiring female gaze, the posts construct Sikh women as central to the successful production of soft Sikh masculinity by appealing to women to shop for, dress, and style “their men.” The social vanity of bringing pride and dignity to Sikh male bodies and subjects that are routinely subject to social and political denigration relies on the reproduction of compulsory heterosexuality and the elision of women as subjects of fashion. Bahra’s outfit posts hail diasporic women as consumers and not just producers of fashion (such as in their historical role in the global assembly line of garment work). But women and other feminine subjects are at the 187

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same time not visible within the blog’s visual economy of Sikh chic except as accessories or supplements to the male bodies that occupy the public space of the street—as when they appear with men modelling Singh Street Style’s signature logos—if they appear at all.8 They thus remain beyond the frames of vision through which the fashion blogger controls technologies of racial and gendered representation.

Unsuitable Girls and aunties with swag In this section, I turn to feminist diasporic visual artists—Swati Khurana, Anjali Bhargava, Meera Sethi, and Geeta Malik—who visualize the relationship of the diasporic female body to hetero-feminine practices of Indian beauty and fashion. Rather than calling for women’s inclusion within fashion’s heteronormative visual economies, these artists variously challenge the gendered and sexualized norms of aestheticizing racialized femininity. They take as their starting point the observation that Indian femininity involves a gendered obligation—even injunction—to normative conventions of beauty and fashionability. By deploying parody as a shared diasporic feminist visual aesthetic, these artists challenge gendered norms of feminine beauty and fashionability as conditions for Indian women’s aesthetic visibility and social belonging. Khurana’s and Bhargava’s “unsuitability” rejects an obligation to beauty and the valorized femininity of the Indian marriage market, while Sethi’s and Malik’s “aunty swag” wrenches the figure of the aunty away from a hetero-patriarchal gaze that renders the aging female body a delinquent site of fashionability. Anjali Bhargava’s and Swati Khurana’s collaborative photography collection, Unsuitable Girls (2007), highlights Indian American women’s unsuitability for marriage and domesticity. Each photograph captures a pose, action, or behavior in which the photographed subject appears un-invested in fulfilling the obligations of hetero-domestic life. These include, among others, lounging across a bed strewn with academic books and magazines; sitting on a bedroom floor surrounded by garbage bags full of clothes; a look of uncertainty while shopping for marriage necklaces; and drinking wine in bed while working on a laptop with a toddler daughter napping nearby (see Figures 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3). The captions—“Least Available Daughter,” “Least Suitable Girl,” “Most Apprehensive Fiancée,” “Most Disheveled,” “Most Reluctant Housekeeper,” “Least Dutiful Wife,” “Least Orthodox Goddess,” and “Most Defiant Mother”—are also engravings on the trophies that appear inconspicuously in each photograph. The series’ visual aesthetics are in keeping with Khurana’s larger feminist aesthetic of parody—a form of derisive humor—that pervades much of her multimedia artwork. Khurana, who was born in India and emigrated to the U.S. when she was a young child, is a New York City-based feminist visual artist whose paintings, line drawings, installations, video art, embroidery, and collage explore “the role of rituals,” in particular, “ritualized performances wherein brides become consumable artifacts” in the shaping of diasporic gender and ethnic identities (“Swati Khurana”). Unsuitable Girls extends this body of work by creating value (hence the trophies) around each young woman’s failed performance in married, domestic womanhood. In revaluing hetero-feminine failure, the photographs challenge the “heterosexist and classcentered” “value system” (Khurana interview) of desi communities, which centers on the management of young desi women’s sexualities. Marriage—in particular, desi women’s marriages to economically successful desi men—helps to ensure immigrant “upward mobility through participation in a capitalist system” (Unsuitable Girls, 2007, 161). Cultural expectations about young women’s marital suitability are also rooted in postcolonial nationalist ideals of Indian women as “chaste, modest, nurturing, obedient, and loyal” (Bhattacharjee, 1992, 31). In the diaspora, these nationalist ideals are also conspicuously class-based, rooted in the powerful Indian 188

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Figure 14.1 Unsuitable Girls: most reluctant housekeeper Source: Swati Khurana and Anjali Bhargava, Unsuitable Girls (2007).

Figure 14.2 Unsuitable Girls: most apprehensive fiancée Source: Swati Khurana and Anjali Bhargava, Unsuitable Girls (2007).

immigrant male bourgeoisie. Straying from this idealized womanhood is tantamount to community betrayal and the loss of social capital that follows from that betrayal. Diasporic embodiments of these ideals through Indian women’s “success” in marriage and domesticity function as a form of economic and social capital that reinforces a model minority narrative of Indian Americans as highly successful and upwardly mobile. 189

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Figure 14.3 Unsuitable Girls: most defiant mother Source: Swati Khurana and Anjali Bhargava, Unsuitable Girls (2007).

Khurana’s use of beauty pageant-like trophies—note the gowns, crowns, and sashes that appear across each female figure’s torso—is far from arbitrary. They ironically call attention to the beauty-based competition of the Indian American marriage market. The trophies’ references to beauty pageants (and maybe even to the popularity of ethnic beauty pageants such as Miss India USA in diasporic communities) are informed by the inspiration for the series— Khurana’s unpublished, semi-autobiographical short story “Ugly Granddaughter.” In the story, Khurana consistently fails to perform the obligations to Indian female beauty that her grandmother insists are critical to her granddaughter’s success on the marriage market. These obligations include looking less like a man, removing facial hair, staying out of the sun to ensure as fair a complexion as possible, and doing yoga. Each photograph (and corresponding trophy) in Unsuitable Girls builds upon the heteronormative logic of beauty in “Ugly Granddaughter,” capturing a look, gesture, behavior, or action that is its valued opposite on the marriage market: reluctance (vs. certainty), apprehension (vs. intention), defiance (vs. conformity), etc. Khurana and Bhargava’s photographs visualize what I have elsewhere called the “flat affects” of feminine failure (Reddy, 2016, chapter 4). Flat affects name not the exuberant and euphoric celebration of heteronormative success in one’s gender, but the much more muted and even discomfited effects of falling short or opting out of such aspirations altogether. Practices of feminine failure can operate as a form of feminist agency through their stubborn refusal to conform to capitalist and heteronormative understandings of diasporic success and achievement. In performing feminine delinquency, the young women in Unsuitable Girls thus embody a kind of feminist negativity. They perform a celebration of “not doing”—even an undoing—of idealized diasporic femininity. Here, I shift to an examination of the way that diasporic visual economies of fashion make possible the positive expression of feminist embodiment in a figure who has remained largely unexamined in scholarship on India and its diasporas: the Indian aunty. Whereas fashionable Sikh men posing on London streets allows them to claim public space in ways that allow them to appear as “non-threatening” diasporic citizens in Bahra’s street style blog, 190

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“aunty swag” challenges understandings of public space as threatening to gendered norms of aging femininity. In her collection of street style photographs, Upping the Aunty, Indo-Canadian visual artist Meera Sethi combines photographs of Indian aunties posing in Indian and Canadian streets, as well as paintings and a coloring book referencing these photographs. I focus here on the photographs, which feature aunties in Sethi’s Toronto and Mumbai Indian communities and aunties outside of her communities who Sethi encountered on these cities’ streets. Sethi’s photographs experiment with the aesthetics of street style fashion to visualize the Indian aunty’s unconventional fashion sense, or “swag.” Swag, which is short for “swagger,” means “to conduct yourself in a way that would automatically earn respect”; it also means “to dress in a very stylish and quirkily fashionable way.”9 “Aunties with swag” challenges a common perception of the aunty as someone whose middle- and old-age, gender, and generational status mark a deficiency of style. There is perhaps no greater insult to Indian femininity—or subjects who aspire to its normative conventions of beauty—than the comment “you look like an aunty.” This spurious meaning of “aunty,” though, glosses over the more respectful meaning of the term, which Sethi clarifies in her description of her street style blog: [a]n aunty may or may not be a biological relation. She may be a friend of the family or a stranger. But if she is older than you—old enough to be your mother’s friend— then she is accorded the status of aunty. Neither our mothers nor part of our peer group, aunties may be trusted confidantes or gatekeepers of social decorum. (Upping the Aunty) Sethi’s definition calls attention to the aunty’s gendered and generationally specific roles in national and diasporic communities: surrogate mother, teacher, spiritual and cultural guardian, or mentor for younger Indian women (and sometimes men), usually about their choices in career, dating, and marriage. The aunty can challenge her community’s prevailing cultural attitudes and conventions or she can discipline and punish those who stray from them. She is thus someone who performs gendered affective labour and who in turn earns communal respect for it. Most aunties in Sethi’s photos pose in saris and salwars, but there is a wide variation among these styles of dress. Some aunties wear more traditional textiles, patterns, and accessories—such as kumkum and mangalasutra (the Hindu marriage necklace), flowers in braided hair, and chappals peeking out beneath sari hems. But others sport salwars and saris in unconventional patterns, styles, and colours, such as geometric shapes (large circles, squares, and the widely popular chevron pattern), tie-dye, and gingham. Some, like Deepa Aunty, are styled more glamorously, in embroidered or embellished salwars and saris, while others, like Poonam Aunty (Figure 14.4), sport bolder, striped patterns accessorized with equally bold, red-rimmed plastic sunglasses. A few aunties dress in trouser–shirt combinations, skirts and blouses, dresses, and hijabs. Fara Aunty (Figure 14.5) poses in a self-consciously hybrid look of trousers, boots, and a blouse, with a dupatta worn like a scarf around her neck. Still others, like Lovelina Aunty (Figure 14.6) dress “down” in western clothes, such as skinny jeans, a sweater, and scarf, but add a familiar aunty accessory: chappals with socks. In some of the outfit posts, captions cue us to the aunty’s thoughtfulness around her chosen style. These (mostly) self-authored descriptions dispel assumptions that an aunty’s sartorial combinations—especially hybrid aesthetics such as saris and sneakers or chappals with socks— speak to her dullness, lack of success, datedness, and complicity with anti-modern patriarchal sartorial codes. They instead cue us to the aunty’s thoughtfulness around her chosen style and 191

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Figure 14.4 Upping the Aunty: Poonam Aunty, Mumbai Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 15 April 2014.

to adapting her style to seasonal realities. This is especially the case for Sethi’s Toronto-based aunties, such as Gowrie Aunty (see Figure 14.7), who wears western clothes while grocery shopping but who finds that “in the winter it is easier to wear thermals with a sari” (Sethi, Upping the Aunty). Many of the photographs also emphasize conventionally unfeminine postures and frames and thus implicitly challenge an idealized femininity rooted in sexual attractiveness. These include aunties who squat or sit on stoops with legs splayed, stare directly into the camera, stand with legs apart directly facing the camera, and take up much of the photographic frame (see Figure 14.8). Toronto-based Arun Aunty (Figure 14.9), photographed in capris, a loose-fitting blouse, trekking sandals, and cropped hair, describes her “sartorial philosophy” as influenced by her dislike for two quintessential features of Indian femininity—the sari and long hair. Like the poses of unsuitable girls “not doing” hetero-conjugal femininity in Bhargava and Khurana’s photographs, Sethi’s visual aesthetics exceed a strictly heteronormative gaze. An inventive practicality structures the aunty’s investment in her personal appearance, disarticulating fashionable femininity from the obligations of sexual desirability.10 Sethi’s outfit posts also isolate the aunty as a figure who claims public space, distinguishing her from her privatized role as an affective laborer in national and diasporic communities. 192

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Figure 14.5 Upping the Aunty: Fara Aunty, Toronto Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 18 September 2014.

Aunties are photographed alone on sidewalks with passersby and motor vehicles in the background, standing in alley ways, sitting on front stoops outside their homes, shopping for groceries and in malls, in carparks, in public gardens and parks, in hotel lobbies, attending gay pride events, and standing near street vendors. The public space of the street allows the aunty to be seen not as invisible laborers for national and diasporic communities but as consumers, professional workers, and political activists. These public and individual (rather than private and communal) roles are consolidated through the aunty’s sartorial self-possession. The aunty’s ability to “own it”—or to claim her highly individual style on the street—pokes fun at the highly manufactured aesthetic of authenticity that structures conventional street style blogs. Recall, for example, Singh Street Style’s strict requirements around tight-fitting clothing, turbans, and beards. The quirky, heterogeneous, and even unpolished qualities of aunty femininity allow each aunty’s look to appear as a brand all of its own. Unlike in the conventional street style blog in which a “look” is something viewers can imitate by buying the clothes featured in the post or by combining clothes from their own wardrobes, these aunties’ looks cannot easily be replicated. Indeed, they do not even aspire to replication. Each aunty’s outfit is determined by a set of criteria so individual and non-reproducible that it solicits respect for the aunty who embodies it. Sethi thus takes as her starting point an 193

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Figure 14.6 Upping the Aunty: Reader Submission: Lovelina Aunty, Toronto Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 18 September 2014.

understanding of the aunty as a subject who might be too authentic or unconventional for rehabilitation within commercial aesthetics of street style. We might even say that aunty swag “ups the ante” (or raises the stakes, as the series’ title puns) of the aunty’s social value in diasporic communities by allowing what would otherwise appear as the aunty’s “bad” fashion sense or sartorial missteps to emerge as a highly individualized sense of style. Swag thus constructs the aunty as a figure to be respected not only because of the labor she performs to enhance the life chances and well being of others in national and diasporic communities. Her respectability is also tied to the care of self that she performs in her everyday sartorial choices. Aunty swag is thus not so much an earnest performance of street style, but a parody of it (but definitively not a parody of the aunty). In parodying the aesthetics of street style fashion, aunty swag also importantly parodies the diasporic masculine gendering of “the street,” a space that is almost exclusive to male bodies in Bahra’s outfit posts. This parody borders on hilarity in Indian American Geeta Malik’s short film, Aunty Gs, which appears alongside Sethi’s photographed aunties. The film participates in Sethi’s larger project of flipping the script on street style by placing aunties within the highly public and all-male space of pick-up basketball—a sport that has a long history of associations with racialized street masculinities, particularly U.S. urban 194

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Figure 14.7 Upping the Aunty: Gowrie Aunty, Toronto Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 9 September 2014.

black masculinities. The “G” in “Aunty Gs” is a clever play on both “G,” the lexical shorthand for “gangster” in black urban slang, and also “ji,” a Hindi honorific for the person to whose name it is appended, typically an elder or someone who commands generational or cultural respect. This co-constitution of respectability and rebellion defines aunty swag in Aunty Gs. The images of aunties dribbling, passing, and shooting a basketball—and at one point, getting into a physical altercation with a young desi man who pushes an aunty for stealing the ball away from him—is clearly meant to elicit laughter. Our laughter stems from the non-correspondence of aunty attire (salwars and saris with sneakers) to the gaits, movements, and comportments that constitute aunty athleticism. Aunty athleticism emerges in the film through the performativity of clothing. Clothing, like gender, is performative in that clothing actively constitutes the subject by inviting certain bodily comportments as possible over others that through repetition become “socially realized conventions” (Keane, 2005, 194) imbued with ideological content. In the context of pick-up basketball, the aunty’s everyday clothing signals not her lack of investment in her personal appearance or her bad fashion sense. Rather, her sartorial choices are conducive to an efficiency of movement and athletic practicality—lifted sari hems that allow for shuffling of the feet and wide leg stances that permit blocking, pallus (the long, loose 195

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Figure 14.8 Upping the Aunty: Kavita Aunty, Mumbai Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 25 July 2014.

ends of the sari) tucked into the waist that allow for dribbling and passing, and sweaters worn over salwars that provide warmth in the colder diasporic climates of the U.S., Britain, and Canada. Despite appearing out of context with the hoodies and shorts of their younger South Asian male counterparts, the Aunty Gs’ clothing allows them an ease of movement on the street, which becomes hospitable rather than hostile to the aging Indian feminine body. One of Sethi’s photographs, which features an unnamed aunty in Toronto wearing a sari accessorized with a sideways baseball cap (a quintessential way of wearing racialized, masculine street athleticism), extends this efficiency of movement to an identity—however tongue-in-cheek—formed around that movement: the sporty or athletic aunty. Thangaraj (2015) has argued that desi men’s athleticism in racialized sporting cultures such as pick-up basketball allows them to assert their cultural citizenship in the U.S. through the exclusion of women, queers, and working-class masculinities. Malik’s film and Sethi’s photograph of the sporty aunty, by contrast, visualize the aunty as embodying a racialized street femininity that parodies the racialized hetero-masculinity of diasporic sporting cultures. Malik’s and Sethi’s visual aesthetics thus de-naturalize the masculine gendering of the street by asserting the aging diasporic woman’s right of access to and facility of movement within it. 196

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Figure 14.9 Upping the Aunty: Arun Aunty, Toronto Source: Meera Sethi, Upping the Aunty, 9 September 2014

Conclusion Collectively, the diasporic visual cultures of fashion and beauty that I have examined here challenge the boundaries of the Indian nation as represented in the figure of the upwardly mobile, Hindu NRI male patriarch by bringing into view subjects and bodies that are often marginalized within studies of diaspora—women, girls, and religious minorities. They also reproduce and challenge other hegemonies of gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity through a set of visual aesthetics particular to their diasporic locations and contexts. Singh Street Style challenges transnational histories of British and Indian anti-turban sentiment and the late capitalist orientalism of turban chic. At the same time, the blog’s project of social vanity relies upon the reproduction of heterosexism and ethnic purity, as in the mandatory wearing of the turban and in appeals to the heterosexual gaze of diasporic Sikh women who are at the same time elided as fashionable citizen-subjects. In contrast, Khurana, Bhargava, and Sethi’s use of parody as a feminist diasporic aesthetic allows them to challenge an appeal to fashion as a politics of inclusion. Parody allows these artists to critique the gendered and sexual norms of national and diasporic belonging, especially as they are embedded within capitalist mobility and (hetero)sexual desirability. By dwelling in the flat affects of feminine failure, Bhargava and Khurana’s visual aesthetics make young Indian American women’s bodies unavailable for recuperation within heteronormative 197

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and capitalist model minority narratives. Sethi’s and Malik’s artworks, meanwhile, visualize the sartorial choices of aunties on national and diasporic streets not as “bad fashion” but as highly individualized styles that demand communal respect. It is precisely the heterogeneity of these cultural producers’ aesthetic strategies, media forms, and political commitments that makes intelligible the varied and diffuse embodiments and affects that fashion generates as part of visualizing diasporic belonging.

Notes 1 Brown (2005) defines neoliberalism as a political rationality that reaches beyond the state and the economy so that “all dimensions of human life are cast in terms of a market rationality” (40). On the relationship of the Indian beauty industry to neoliberalism, see Oza (2006), especially chapters 2 and 4; Parameswaran (2011); and Grewal (2005), chapter 3. 2 Bahra’s site is actually a microblog; microblogs are hosted on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter, whereas blogs usually have corporate sponsors. 3 The latter nickname riffs on one of the first street style fashion blogs, The Sartorialist, which debuted in 2009. 4 In other cases, the streets in Bahra’s posts are located in Dubai, Bangkok, New York City, and Delhi, in which the diasporic Sikh man is a British citizen-subject who is also cosmopolitan. 5 The early twenty-first-century global economic restructuring of fashion as creative rather than industrial labor gave rise to a new creative class of Asian and Asian American fashion designers, fashion bloggers, and other non-industrial fashion workers (see Tu, 2010; Pham, 2015a). 6 I understand social vanity as related to but distinct from what Pham calls “networked vanity.” Whereas networked vanity cloaks digital activism in the visual guise of commercial fashion (Pham 2015b, 227), social vanity emerges from within the explicitly commercial aims of fashion, such as that of the fashion blogger’s self-branding. 7 Sikh masculinity thus falls outside dominant constructions of Indian colonial masculinity, which were linked with the “effete Bengali babu” (Sinha, 1995). 8 An exception includes several photographs of Bahra posing in his latest t-shirt creations with the Australian Sikh female fashion blogger Karan Preet Kaur (n.d.), who dons the turban in her Instagram fashion blog StylewithKaur. 9; 16 March 2016. 10 There is certainly more to be said about the aunty’s capacity to command sexual attention.

Bibliography Aunty Gs. Dir. Geeta Malik. Shetani Films (2004). Meera Sethi’s Website. n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 6 Jul. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 3 Sep. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 17 Jul. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Turbanology. Tumblr. 16 Jul. 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 21 May 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. Bahra, P. S. Web blog post. Singh Street Style. Tumblr. 27 Jul. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Bhachu, P. (2003). Dangerous Designs: Asian Women Fashion the Diaspora Economies. London: Routledge. Bhattacharjee, A. (1992). The Habit of Ex-Nomination: Nation, Woman, and the Indian Immigrant Bourgeoisie. Public Culture, 5(1), 19–44. Brown, W. (2005). Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Edwards, B. H. (2003). The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Diasporic fashion and beauty Grewal, I. (2005). Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Kaur, K. P. (n.d.) Web Blog. Style With Kaur. Instagram. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. Keane, W. (2005). Signs Are Not the Garb of Meaning: On the Social Analysis of Material Things. In: D. Miller, ed., Materiality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 182–205. Machida, M. (2009). Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Mannur, A. and Pia, S. (2011). ‘What Can Brown Do for You?’ Indo-Chic and the Fashionability of South Asian Inspired Styles. Journal of South Asian Popular Culture, 9(2), 177–190. Oza, R. (2006). The Making of Neoliberal India: Nationalism, Gender, and the Paradoxes of Globalization. New York: Routledge. Parameswaran, R. (2011). E-Raceing Colour: Gender and Transnational Visual Economies of Beauty in India. In: R. Hegde, ed., Circuits of Visibility: Gender and Transnational Media Cultures. New York: New York University Press, pp. 68–86. Pham, M.-H. T. (2015a). Asians Wear Clothes on the Internet: Race, Gender, and the Work of Personal Style Blogging. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Pham, M.-H. T. (2015b). ‘I Click and Post and Breathe Waiting for Others to See What I See’: On #FeministSelfies, Outfit Photos, and Networked Vanity. Fashion Theory, 19(2), 221–241. Pinto, R. (2013). “Hot Blog Alert!” Vogue India. 17 June 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. Puar, J. (2007). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Reddy, V. (2016). Fashioning Diaspora: Beauty, Femininity, and South Asian American Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Sethi, M. “Arun Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 9 Sep. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Deepa Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 18 Aug. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Fara Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 18 Jul. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Gowrie Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 9 Sep. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Kavita Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 25 Sep. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Lovelina Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 18 Sep. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sethi, M. “Poonam Aunty.” Web blog post. Upping the Aunty. Tumblr. 15 Apr. 2014. Web. Feb. 2016. Sinha, M. (1995). Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly’ Englishman and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. Tarlo, E. (1991). Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Thangaraj, S. I. (2015). Desi Hoop Dreams: Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity. New York: New York University Press. Tu, T. L. N. (2010). The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Unsuitable Girls. Swati Khurana’s Website. (2007). Web. 15 Dec. 2015.



Representation and identity

15 POETIC POLITICS From Ghadar to the Indian Workers Association Virinder S. Kalra

Sentiments which are typical of a half-educated Ghadar Revolutionary, in which words aspire to the Ghadar poetical compositions in which truth is subordinate to the flow of language. (British official on the pronouncements of Udham Singh, after his capture in London after shooting Michael O’Dwyer in 19401) On a bitterly cold afternoon, on a small patch of grass opposite the Indian High Commission offices located in Birmingham, the amplified, nasal tones of male Punjabi voices cut through the dull grey skyline with fiery speeches condemning the actions of the Bharatiya Janata party government. The event was organised by the Indian Workers Association (GB) (IWA) in association with the Anti-Caste Alliance (UK) and a range of other progressive, diasporic organisations. The suicide of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad in the previous week (February 2016) had motivated not only this demonstration, but one week before, a similar event outside the Indian High Commission in London.2 While the gathering was relatively small (around fifty people, mostly men, entirely Indian, predominantly Punjabi), the bright red banner boldly announced in Gurmukhi Punjabi and English: “Bharti Mazdoor Sabha (Great Britain), Est. 1938.” Almost eighty years on from its hagiographical origins and even though the mobilising power of this now multiply splintered organisation, the IWA, has diminished, the fact of its existence reflects the continuing transnational connections that the Indian diaspora maintains and sustains. By offering an insight into the ideological and organisational praxis of the IWA, the primary aim of this chapter is to draw out and highlight the ways in which continuities are drawn between that organisation and the Ghadar party. This movement began in California in 1914 and lasted as an organisation until 1917, when it was banned in India, though its influence permeated throughout the twentieth century, not least in providing inspiration to the formation of the IWA in Britain in 1938. The opening lines to this chapter provide an example of the way in which any form of anti-colonial, radical activity was almost always folded into a historiography that led to the Ghadars. Indeed, one of the continuities that this chapter will highlight is the way in which poetry was a mode of expression that links North America to Britain and the Ghadar party to the IWA. Although academic and popular writings on the Ghadars (Puri, 1983; Ramnath, 2011) and IWA (see Josephides, 1991; Gill, 2013) have covered the history of the organisations, there has been less focus on the interconnections and ideational continuities between the two. These broader overlapping agendas are best represented in the biographies of key figures such 203

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as Bhagat Singh Bilga and Udham Singh, who offer an insight into the ways in which Ghadar inspired and provided organisational context for left wing organisation through the twentieth century. The chapter also offers an appreciation of the poetry of the Ghadarites and the IWA, as this often avoids the more intricate and derivative aspects of their debates which occupy much of the official documentation and prose produced by both movements. In that sense, this chapter uses poetry and biography as vehicles to journey through diasporic experience and political organising. Poetry as a form of political articulation was confusing to the colonial authorities as the opening quote from the British officer writing about Udham Singh clearly illustrates. Poetry also offers an insight into the key issues of religion and racism which in their own different ways were prominent themes addressed by Ghadarites and Indian Workers.

Ghadar generations If anyone asks who we are Tell him our name is rebel Our duty is to end the tyranny [of colonial rule] Our profession is to launch revolution That is our namaz, this is our sandhya Our puja, our worship This is our religion Our work This is our only Khuda, our only Rama. Kartar Singh Sarabha3 The centenary of the founding of the Ghadar party in California was marked in 2014 and multiple celebrations and commemorations took place from Vancouver to Visakhapatnam. The Ghadars were predominantly Punjabi migrants from relatively impoverished rural backgrounds who travelled to California in search of economic betterment. In the wake of the 1906 Land Alienation Act, the Punjab peasantry continued to suffer loss of landholdings and thus a main source of livelihood. The pressure to migrate was therefore acute in those same years when labour was in demand in agriculture and lumbering in California and British Columbia. What is still most remarkable about the formation of the Ghadar party is the way in which migration and the experiences of hardship combined with racism developed a consciousness that transcended the particular. For some this took the shape of an anti-colonial nationalism (Puri, 1983), for others a Sikh consciousness (Tatla, 2013) and, perhaps most significantly for the present chapter, a radical politics that was rooted in a migrant and anti-colonial consciousness. It is this dual focus that is at the heart of the connections between the Ghadar movement and the IWA. The transnational material relations that underpin the diasporic consciousness of left wing activists consistently rekindle the symbolic potency of Ghadar through the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Even though the party was banned in India in 1917, with many of its members either executed, sent to exile or imprisoned, the inspiration it provided was manifest and multiple. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Ghadar party was at the root of radical politics in the Punjab (Kalra & Sharma, 2015). Kartar Singh Sarabha provided direct inspiration to Bhagat Singh, who was central to the formation of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. In this vein, the Kirti Kisan party and ultimately the Communist Party of India share personnel and certainly revolutionary zeal with the Ghadars. In the specific context of the Punjab, the Akali movement and the more militant Babbar Akalis draw their leadership and courage, if not their ideology, from the Ghadars. Indeed, even the Khilafat movement and 204

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the more left wing edges of the Ahrar stem from that radical tradition. It should not therefore be a surprise that their influence was also present in the diaspora where they had begun. A shopfront in Handsworth, Birmingham, England, (the headquarters of the IWA posing as the Shaheed Udham Singh Welfare Centre) is regularly adorned with the flag of the Ghadar party. Its imagery consists of two crossed swords against three solid rectangles of vivid colour: red (for Hindus), orange (for Sikhs) and green (for Muslims).4 Looking out on the post-industrial landscape of Birmingham, the Ghadar flag not only symbolises historical continuities but also the ongoing struggles of migrant communities to settle into a hostile society. Ghadar’s intensity does not lessen in a place like Handsworth, where irregular migrants mingle with groups of refugees, no longer dominated by Punjabis, but still confronted with the perennial issues of state harassment and settler scorn. The Shaheed Udham Singh Welfare Centre was opened in 1978 as a place to offer advice on issues of concern to migrants in the local area, but also to provide a base for the political/social activities of the IWA. The name of the centre is in honour of a figure in British-Indian history who also came to symbolise the way in which resistance to colonialism was not just about actions on Indian soil. Udham Singh (aka Muhammed Singh Azad, to indicate both freedom and communal unity) was born in British colonial Punjab around the turn of the twentieth century and raised in an Amritsar orphanage. He served in the British Army in Mesopotamia and East Africa, worked on the Uganda Railway, and then sailed to the United States via Mexico. After working for seven years in California, Detroit, Chicago and New York, he signed on as a seaman and carpenter for an American shipping line under a Puerto Rican nomen of “Frank Brazil” and travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.5 He finally disembarked in India in 1927, only to be arrested shortly thereafter. He was first fined in Karachi for alleged possession of obscene postcards, and then in Amritsar under the Arms Act for possession of unlicensed weapons, including “two revolvers, one pistol, a quantity of ammunition and copies of the prohibited paper, Ghadr-di-Gunj”. The police reported: “While in America he appears to have come under the influence of Ghadar Party and to have been affected by its teaching.” Over the years he had made the acquaintance of Lajpat Rai, Kishan Singh and the latter’s son Bhagat Singh, “whom he considered his guru and ‘his best friend’” (Singh & Jouhl, 2002, 142). In March 1940, at a meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asiatic Society taking place in Caxton Hall, London, Udham Singh shot Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab at the time of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 1913, where hundreds were killed and many more injured.6 Udham Singh was arrested and the details of his trial are documented in some detail in the book Emergence of the Image (2002), which is based on documents released by the British government under the fifty-year rule.7 The trial of Udham Singh took place in June 1940 and it was used by him as an opportunity to voice his opposition to British imperialism and to connect his own impending execution with that of Bhagat Singh (Singh & Johul, 2002, 45). He was hanged in Pentonville Jail at the end of July 1940, where his body remains buried.

Ghadar to IWA The formation of the IWA in Coventry from 1938 onwards has been very well detailed by Gill (2011) where he draws on interview material to provide the link between Ghadar and the IWA. In an interview with the poet Ajmer Bains, the formation of the group is described as follows: He [Chima] came to Coventry and he said he brought the message [from Rattan Singh, a Ghadar rebel living in Europe] . . . Anyway, the point I was making is that 205

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they didn’t start the organisation by the same name as in Canada, Ghadar Party Movement. They said this will go with you and at least try to give it a different name and they called it the Indian Workers’ Association. (Gill, 2011, 88) Workers’ associations arose as pre-party organisations throughout Europe in the late nineteenth century, often as fronts for fledgling communist parties to represent workers outside of the trade union movement. Thus it was appropriate in the context of imperial Britain, and because the Communist party in India was banned, that this group would form under the mantle of an association. In a recent analysis of intelligence reports of the pre-war period, Ahmed (2012, 75) notes that the IWA attracted interest due to its connection with workers: “The [IWA] is essentially a working-class movement which makes no serious attempt to attract the Indian intelligentsia or the English sympathiser.” The narratives in these reports of migrants’ responses chime with those about the Ghadars: [t]here are several examples in government reports of cases where Indians, from both privileged and modest backgrounds, refused conscription precisely on the grounds of “Indian nationalism,” arguing that ‘they should not be expected to join the British Armed Forces while India remain enslaved.’ (Ahmed, 2012, 78) It is the materiality of living life as a migrant that connects Ghadar to the IWA along with these ideological moorings. Historical-spatial connections to the Punjab as well as the continuing occupation of India provide further connections in this period. If there is any need for more evidence of the continuities in diasporic organising instantiated by the Ghadar party, then the long life of Bhagat Singh Bilga (1907–2009) stands as a metonym of the relationship. He is a figure of significant historic importance who provides an apt example of the way in which the Ghadar movement itself was inherently transnational, and also how this became routed through and localised in places like Birmingham. Bilga was raised in the heady political climate of early twentieth-century Punjab, where the mobilisations of the Akali movement and the Jaito Morcha provided an opportunity for village boys to engage with the outside world.8 In the heartland of Doaba village Bilga saw six Ghadarites who left for America and, upon their return, were either arrested or hanged. Bilga was politicised in this atmosphere and by the time he set off on his journey to the Americas (hoping to study in Canada or the USA), he was already politically aware (Gill, 2008). He landed up in Argentina in 1931, and it was there that, along with the other Indian migrants, he organised workers under the banner of the Ghadar party, ultimately becoming the General Secretary of the group. Though the Argentinian migrants had not gone back to India when the Ghadars made their call to return, they were also not subject to the same state surveillance as those in Canada. It was in Argentina that Bilga met with Bhagat Singh’s uncle, Ajit Singh, who further confirmed his convictions that independence from Britain would only be worthy if it resulted in a social state. It is this communist outlook that remained with Bilga throughout his life. As the party in Argentina became more established and linked into the international communist movement, its President, Bhai Rattan Singh, proposed that core members should go to the Eastern University in Moscow for training in revolutionary insurgency (Gill, 2008). The years 1932–1934 were ones of relative ease for Bilga and his comrades; having come from a peasant and then hard labour background, the opportunity to be students was a luxury. Upon his return to India, from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s Baba Bilga was a central figure in the 206

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Kirti Kisan party and the Indian Communist party in Punjab. Before decolonisation, he spent much of his time in jail and organising against British rule. After the formation of India, he remained a staunch communist and continued the struggle for a more equal society. Like so many from the Doaba region of Punjab, his sons migrated to England and thus from the 1970s onwards Baba Bilga was a frequent visitor to Birmingham and actively participated in the events and activities of the IWA there. Beyond providing a personal connection between the Ghadar and the IWA, Baba Bilga’s history provides an equally substantive and material link through his involvement in the creation of the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall (Martyrs Memorial Hall) in Jalandhar. Following the banning of the Ghadar party in India, one of its supporters, Baba Vasakha Singh, who had himself been active in the Sikh Central League in Amritsar, set up the Desh Bhagat Parwarik Sahaik Committee, which translates as the Committee for the Welfare of the Families of Those Who Were Beloved of the Nation. The aim of the organisation was to provide money and provisions for the families of the Ghadar party members who had either been killed or were in jail. In 1938 this provision was reformed as the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee (Committee for the Memory of the Beloved of the Nation). One member of that committee and a crucial link in the movement’s transnational connections and diasporic communist consciousness was Bhagat Singh Bilga. In his later years Bilga devoted himself to collecting the histories of the Ghadarites (Bilga, 1980). As a result, the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Memorial Hall is home to tens of thousands of books and documents relating to the revolutionary tradition. In his own words: I have dedicated myself to this museum which has thirty-five other freedom fighters as its members. It traces the life of each and every Ghadari along with their photographs. We have collected them from their villages, relatives, and friends in India and abroad. And all this to tell the world that Englishmen didn’t leave India because a handful of Indians threw salt into their eyes. They left because we sent them packing.9 From the 1970s onwards Bilga toured Britain raising funds for the library. In the early 1990s, the Ghadari mela, a five-day festival, was inaugurated in which the lives and the achievements of the rebels are celebrated.10 At the 100th anniversary celebrations in 2014, a large contingent of IWA activists and post-holders from Birmingham attended the event, demonstrating ongoing transnational solidarity.

Poetic consciousness and political articulation The role of a newspaper, however, is not limited solely to the dissemination of ideas, to political education, and to the enlistment of political allies. A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organiser. (V. I. Lenin, 1901)11 In line with so much left wing activity in the early part of the twentieth century, an “organ” for the party was considered essential and so the Ghadar’s weekly paper, under their eponym, was seen as integral to their praxis. As stated in its inaugural issue of 1 November 1913: “[this newspaper] conveys the message of rebellion to the nation once a week. It is brave, outspoken, unbridled, soft footed and given to the use of strong language. It is lightning, a storm and a flame of fire” (quoted in Ramnath, 2011, 38). Initially in Urdu and then in Punjabi (Gurmukhi), the lasting and most often commented upon element of the paper has been the poems. Indeed, these were the most popular aspects of the periodical, such that anthologies of the poems were 207

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collected under the title Ghadar di Goonj (Echoes of Rebellion) and published from 1914 onwards.12 Six volumes were published in total and they had a mass circulation throughout the diaspora. As Udham Singh’s previously highlighted experiences show, they were considered seditious in their own right. Even though the prose of the Ghadar weekly has been subject to some analysis, it is the poetry that has often attracted the most commentary. This is partly because this aspect was seen as the main tool that mobilised the majority of illiterate, migrant workers, but also, as is the case for this chapter, the ideas the poems presented carry resonance far into the twentieth century – true echoes of rebellion. There are two aspects of Ghadar thought, as represented in their poetry, that are of particular concern when looking at its influence on the British IWA. The first is the issue of secularism and the second is the mobilisation and articulation of the status of migrants. The overwhelming consensus in academic studies of Ghadar is that they were a secular movement (Gill, 2014). This assessment is supported in their often harsh criticism of the links between clerical and colonial authority. For example, the following poem from January 1914 states: It is better to die than live a life of serfdom, We should never forget this phrase: China has awakened from its deep slumber, drums of Hindustan’s awakening are raging We do not need Pandits or Kazis, for we do not want our ship to sink The time for prayers and contemplation is past, it is time to raise the sword The Ghadar paper is proclaiming; the time is ripe for revolt. (January, 1914 in Kesar, 1995, 100–101) Another example from the same year further elaborates: They [collaborators] have all the good people from temples and mosques, these black hearts have even sold Gurdwaras They have become Rai Bahadur, Khan Bahadurs – all monkey imitators, pretending to be our protectors while betraying the country Save yourself from these sinners somehow, O’ lions, take this opportunity to rebel together. (September, 1914 in Kesar, 1995, 149) Each of the poems makes a direct criticism of religious figures, the Pandit and the Kazi, but also of the practices of ‘prayer and contemplation’. The second poem places the corruption of religion at the hands of collaborators with the British state, reflecting a distance that could be interpreted as reflecting a secular outlook (Puri, 1983). However, Parmbir Gill (2014) has questioned both readings of these poems as evidence of a secular consciousness amongst the migrant workers or as proof that the Ghadar party had an ideological bias against religion. Referring to other poems, he argues that the language of mobilisation was replete with references to Sikhism. In itself, this argument correctly notes the empirical use of religious symbols for mobilising the Punjabi masses in Ghadar poetry and more generally in its tradition. Nevertheless, a more subtle reading is required because when symbols are evoked to this end, no formal religious appellations of identity are used. In contrast, in those cases when the identities of Sikh, Hindu or Muslim are made clear, their depiction is almost entirely negative and/or these religious differences must be overcome for the sake of unity. Alternatively, when the Gurus and the Singhs 208

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(as Khalsa warriors) are mentioned, they take the form of a call for action and an appeal outside of those formal religious identifications. For example: The Guru established the Path for selfless service, He fought a marvellous battle To remove tyranny from India, battles on many fronts For this Hind, millions sacrificed their lives, it is we who have forgotten the cause The Tenth Guru sacrificed his whole family, along with Nabbi and Ganni Shah for the cause. (January, 1914 in Kesar, 1995, 94–97) In this sense, the evocation of a martial tradition is one that overcomes the religious divisions and does not emphasise one or enforce another.13 Indeed, this idea of unity or overcoming division is a central theme in many poems: Form secret societies and cooperate with Marathas and Bengalis, be comrades with them O’ Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, show unity and cooperation, there is no time to waste Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and Bengalis, we are all sons of Hindustan Let us keep religion and doctrinaires aside, we will deal them later, first is the task of war. The world recalls and celebrates the brave, like the legend of Sham Singh Atari’s sword. (January, 1914 in Kesar, 1995, 94–97) Religious identity is in fact a hindrance to the unity which can be brought about through righteous action, in this case waging battle against the British. Further undermining the notion of a secular foundation to the Ghadar mobilisation is the distinction made between Punjabis, Bengalis and Marathis, as these are also considered separate groups that need to be brought together in the struggle. Perhaps the most persuasive point to this end is that the Ghadar consciousness arising out of early twentieth-century struggle is recognisable as diasporic; they made identity as process (Hall, 1996; Kalra et al., 2005). The ideas expressed in the poems are not about settled notions of religion or region: the already given and bequeathed ideas of the colonial knowledge-making system. Rather, there is an aspiration for a new kind of subjectivity that is ‘Hindvi,’14 which was refined by Bhagat Singh in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association to encompass a whole range of characteristics (Sharma, 2009). Limiting this process to either a secular, regional or religious identity to some extent misses the more profound aspect of the processes that the Ghadar poetry articulates. The transformational process from slavery to freedom, from colonised to independence, has been articulated throughout the twentieth century, most notably by Franz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth (1965), but here it is the experience of dislocation through migration that adds poignancy. The experience of racism in the USA makes the Ghadar aware of being enslaved in India.15 Indeed, this is expressed explicitly in their poetic offerings: The whites don’t like blacks, let’s show them what black hands are capable of, brothers Why work for the white bosses, let us work for our country, brothers Let’s join as a party and go back to throw off the chains of slavery What have we gained from these years of being pushed around in a foreign country? (March, 1915, Kesar, 1995, 199) 209

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These straightforward poetic utterings bring out two themes that will be repeated in the writings of the IWA gatherings in the UK that begin in the late 1950s. The first is being treated badly by white bosses and being called and using the epithet “black.” Anant Ram, one of the members of the pre-Second World War IWA, succinctly articulates his own experience in England, echoing the Ghadars 5,000 miles from California and more than half a century on: “A few went back permanently. They felt the kind of work they did here, was below their dignity. Also we were all called ‘Blackie, Blackie’ and some people resented that” (Ram & Tatla, 1993, 71). Although the use of the term black to represent the collective experiences of racism faced by post-Second World War immigrants from the former colonies has fallen out of use in much contemporary writing on Britain, it has a legacy that precedes mass migration and a purchase that goes beyond much recent revisionism.16 As a way of articulating the experiences of working class migrants regardless of their ethnic origins, the political signifier black brought together various colonised peoples in a range of formations and movements that stretched from Guyana to Fiji via South Africa and the Americas.17 It was the experience of a common class and racial situation that allowed for identity to be articulated in this way. As the social and economic structures in the UK changed through deindustrialisation in the 1980s and neoliberalism in the 2000s, the basis of a unified black anti-racist struggle diminished.18 Diasporic histories became replete with the voices of those who appear prominently in the archive of the dominant. Thus the excellent scholarly work on South Asians in Britain is most evocative and detailed when it addresses male figures such as Shapurji Saklatvala or Duleep Singh – those who were established enough to appear in official history. It is only through access to non-English sources and attention to literary forms, such as poetry, that alternative marginalised narratives of the past can be reclaimed. Even here attention has to be made to those voices that are absent, such as those of women migrants and activists. That the demonstration for Rohith Vemula that opens this chapter was predominantly male contrasts sharply with the actual mobilisations on Indian campuses, in relation to the same issue, where gender has begun to be addressed by the Indian left. A parallel movement took place in the 1980s in the UK, where groups such as Southall Black Sisters and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian descent emerged, asserting the necessity of gender as a central aspect of left, anti-racist struggle.

IWA poetry Overlapping personnel and hagiographies are two elements of the continuities between the Ghadar party and the IWA; but there was also a further link through the use of poetry and the affective power it had for expression and mobilisation. An interview with Anant Ram, one of the committee members of the pre-war Indian Workers’ party, brings out these elements succinctly: To help myself, I wrote down a poem in my own words while at work. The first two lines of this poem, I remember to this day: . . . . . . (How long before our appeals for mercy be accepted When would the shackles of slavery be broken?) At this meeting, we also resolved to bring out a newspaper. This involved much work. We called the newspaper, Azad Hind, much on the pattern of a paper produced by the [Ghadar] movement. My poem was also published in this paper. (Ram & Tatla, 1993, 72) 210

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Anant Ram’s experiences almost directly correspond to those of workers in California at the turn of the nineteenth century. The necessity of a journal to express political ideas and the use of poetry would link this colonial workers’ organisation to the post-war IWAs that formed as a result of mass migration from Punjab. The early IWA went into decline in the post-war period, largely due to the euphoria of independence and the sojourner nature of the committee members and resultant factionalisation (Visram, 2002). Though there was no direct contact in terms of personnel, the leaders of the new IWA that began to form in the 1960s were certainly aware of the political legacy and history of organising in the UK (as illustrated by the banner in the demonstration that opens this chapter). The new IWA was led by Jagmohan Joshi, a charismatic speaker and a poet of some repute, up to his untimely death in 1979.19 As Gill correctly notes: “The IWAs continued the tradition of revolutionary poetry and folk songs in the diasporic, post-colonial setting. Now it would be used to resist racism, exploitation by British factory owners and help maintain a sense of self in an alien environment” (Gill, 2011, 251). This poetry found its most prominent outlet in the organisation’s publishing activities. Mazdoor was a magazine launched in the early 1960s, Lok Shakti came out from 1980 to 1987, and Lalkar began in 1967 and survives to this day (though now entirely in English) (Tatla & Singh, 1989). Though there were multiple (named) poets who contributed to these publications, not all of whom were party members or necessarily even communists, the poetry selection’s overall ideology resonates with that of the Ghadars in its internationalism and focus on racism. Once formal colonialism was over, global inequality and imperialism were issues at the fore of the IWA’s poetic output along with issues that impacted immigrant workers. The following example from Ajmer Coventry (an appellation that in some senses sums up the roles that the IWA took in Britain) comes from the ad hoc literary publication Inglaind vasda Punjab (Punjab Living in England, 1985).20 In this magazine, Ajmer writes in an article titled “The difficulties and issues of a Punjabi writer” that his incumbent duty is to express social ills and problems. At first he is fairly critical of the writer community as he states: “When we enter into British society, we quickly go from being a teacher, professor, superintendent, policeman, accountant, army man, government official or inspector to ‘Johnny, Andy, blackie, Wog, Paki or bastard’” (1985, 66). Following this declassing and rejection by British society, the writer looks back to the homeland as solace: The land is strange, the people stranger Burdened foreigner, I am Friends, family, miles away Sat far from home, I am. (A Song, Ajmer Coventry, 1985, 66) However, this melancholy is not sufficient for Ajmer, who beckons writers in his critical essay to pay attention to the condition of the working class in Britain, rather than solely focusing on the pain of migration. To some extent the call for paying attention to class is not fully taken up, even by other writers from within the IWA where racism remains a prominent theme. The following poem comes from a collection edited by Niranjan Singh Noor, who was probably one of the key intellectuals of the IWA in the 1980s and certainly the most engaged with literature and poetry.21 This extract from Mohinder Gill’s poem “Colour” is from a collection edited and translated by Noor: Too much colour is suffocating the pure white of France, Crippling Germany, making Britain sick. Too much colour is threatening Europe’s 211

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pure white Christianity. (A little known fact – Jews were pure white and European!) ... I wish these neo-colourists would understand It’s not the colour of a person’s skin That really hurts them It’s the burden of imperialism that is becoming too much for them. (Gill in Noor, 1997, 13) Noor published several anthologies of poetry, with perhaps the best known being Mukti (Liberation). His own poems further echo the Ghadar themes, with a shared attitude towards religion being most notable. The following poem is an extract from a live recording on YouTube in which he makes a long critique of religion and ends here: The idols that you worship I am the mother of their souls Nanak, Jesus and in Buddha’s name give me bread, give me bread I am hungry from birth, my girlfriends Give me bread, give me bread.22 Here the female voice, traditional in Sufi, bhakti and Sikh poetry from the medieval period, is used not in supplication to the (male) prophet/God, but rather as a point of asserting a material need. Even the title of Noor’s best-known poem, “Mukti”, is derived from liberation from the cycle of birth and death, materialised in a Marxist reading as liberation: What is liberation? What is liberation? To escape from the web of the mind, Then like the free wind Breaking the bounds of the nation Living life like immortal lovers. (Noor, 1989, 21) Writers such as Noor and Ajmer exceeded the party format in terms of their literary output. Indeed, many of their writings and public appearances were under the auspices of writers’ associations, in which liberals and leftists would come together with a common interest in the Punjabi language. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the organisational strength and to some extent the poetic tradition of the IWAs declined.

Conclusion You cannot deny the truth that the migrant lives in constant turmoil and the ‘one is always divided into two’. This is split. But our conditions are made worse, because in this country where we have settled [the UK], even though we are part of the lowest class, that has not changed our way of thinking. We always look back to our past to resolve the pain of our present, which means we do not engage in dialectical thinking and literature, if not dialectical, is nothing. (Ajmer Coventry, 1985, 66) 212

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The above somewhat orthodox Marxist position on the state of Punjabi literature in Britain in the 1980s is important because it illustrates how the experience of immigration and racism does not necessarily lead to the shift in consciousness that is so central to the Ghadar experience. Arguably, by the 1980s, Indian workers had become settled into British society and it was nostalgia that was central to the writers’ articulations and experiences. Ajmer’s comments were disparaging but at the same time reflect the fact that Punjabis were actually just as much British as they were migrants by this stage. Indeed, the fundamental difference between the Ghadars and the IWA is that one left to liberate the homeland, while the other made Britain their home and fought for their rights in the new context. To some extent the Ghadars’ experiences in the USA, while crucial to the development of a new consciousness, were subsumed by the independence struggle. Perhaps it is for this reason that more has been written on the Ghadar party and more effort has gone into collecting the history of that organisation than has been the case for the IWA. This chapter offers a schema for understanding the links between these two organisations in terms of overlapping personnel, ideologies and forms of popular mobilisation and opens up the scope for further comparative scholarship.

Notes 1 From Ramnath (2011, 235) and Singh and Johul (2002), original document, India Office record, IOR/LPJ/12/500. 2 Rohith Vemula was a doctoral student at Hyderabad University, where his activities in anti-caste politics led to his suspension and withdrawal of financial support. In protest, he committed suicide on 17 January 2016, which led to widespread protests throughout India. 3 This popular eulogy is associated with Kartar Singh Sarabha, one of the first group of Ghadarites to be executed by the British colonial authorities in 1915. From Isemonger and Slattery (1919, xv). 4 This is a contested colour scheme: for some the orange represents self-sacrifice, green the earth, and red the colour of revolution, with the crossed swords being knowledge and valour. 5 See 6 Six bullets were fired in total and Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, was hit twice although he was only slightly injured, as were Lord Lamington and Sir Louis Dane. 7 This is a law in the UK which restricts access to government documents for reasons of national security. Thus the documents on Udham Singh were not available until 1990. 8 The Jaito Morcha was a social movement of Sikhs in the 1920s that aimed to take control of historic Gurdwaras from the hands of mahants (caretakers) who were de facto being supported by the colonial state (mostly in terms of property rights). 9 From an interview carried out by Teena Bhrua, available on (accessed 12 January 2016). 10 Bilga wrote for newspapers and magazines, and also wrote a number of books, such as Socialism Kya Hai? (What is Socialism?), Mera Vatan (My Country), Meree Samajh, Meree Soch (My Understanding, My Thinking) and Baba Gurmukhsingh Kee Jeevanee (Biography of Baba Gurumukh Singh). 11 V.I. Lenin ‘Where to Begin’ (1901), Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pp. 13–24. 12 These are all gathered in one volume in Punjabi, Kesar (1995). 13 Gill (2013) is aware of these limitations but is caught up in a distinction between the religious and the secular which is not tenable when looking at Punjabi cultural output in the early part of the twentieth century. (See Kalra 2015 for a more detailed exposition of this argument.) 14 Thanks to Maqsood Saqib for this insight in his presentation at the Commemorating Ghadar Conference at LUMS, Lahore, December 2014. 15 DuBois himself is aware of the Afro-Asian connection as best articulated in his novel The Dark Princess. See Elam (2015) for an insightful discussion. 16 In particular, the strain of Afrocentrism represented by Kehinde (2016). 17 See Prashad (2002).


Virinder S. Kalra 18 It can be argued that the appellation ‘Muslim’ also works in a similar manner in the contemporary UK context, where structural marginality and racism overcome the diversity of ethnic, sectarian and theological positions which are contained by the identification. 19 In an almost bizarre repetition of the nature of the Ghadar leadership, like Har Dayal, Joshi was a Hindu Punjabi who wrote his poetry in Urdu and led a group of predominantly rural Punjabis. Joshi’s most famous poem Dilli door nay (Delhi is not far), has been translated into English and formed the basis for a theatre production. 20 This magazine is in Punjabi and all the translations are by the author. 21 Noor was one of the early members of the IWA and a teacher in Wolverhampton. He parted company with them after the storming of the Harimandir (Golden Temple) in 1984 by the Indian army as he disagreed with the perspective taken by the IWA (GB). He set up the Sikh Workers’ Association but this was short lived. On the multiple splits and configurations of the various IWAs since the 1960s, see Josephides (1991) 22 (accessed 1 March 2016).

References Ahmed, R. (2012). Networks of Resistance. In: R. Ahmed and S. Mukherjee, eds., South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858–1947. London: Continuum, pp. 70–91. Bilga, B. (1980). Ghadar Lehar De Anphole Varke. Jalandhar, Punjab: Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Committee. Coventry, A. (1985). Inglaind vasda Punjab (Punjab Living in England). Coventry, UK: ALBRU. Elam, J. D. (2015). Take Your Geography and Trace It: The Cosmopolitan Aesthetics of W. E. B. DuBois and Dhan Gopal Mukerji. Interventions, 17(4), 568–584. Fanon, F. (1965). The Wretched of the Earth. London: Grove Press. Gill, J. K. (2008). Ghadar Party Da Lohpursh: Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga. Nottingham, UK: Srimati Jeet Kaur Babak Memorial Trust. Gill, P. S. (2014). A Different Kind of Dissidence: The Ghadar Party, Sikh History and the Politics of Anticolonial Mobilization. Sikh Formations, 10(1), 23–41. Gill, T. (2011). The Indian Workers’ Association Coventry: Political and Social Action, 1938–1990 (unpublished PhD thesis). Warwick, UK: University of Warwick. Gill, T. (2013). The Indian Workers’ Association Coventry 1938–1990: Political and Social Action. South Asian History and Culture, 4(4), 554–573. Hall, S. (1996). Cultural Identity and Diaspora. In: P. Mongia. (ed.), Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. London: Arnold, pp. 110–121. Isemonger, F. C. and Slattery, J. (1919). An Account of the Ghadr Conspiracy, 1913–1915. Delhi: Archana Publications. Josephides, S. (1991). Towards a History of the Indian Workers’ Association. Coventry, UK: Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick. Kalra, V. (2015). Sacred and Secular Musics: A Postcolonial Approach. London: Bloomsbury. Kalra, V. and Sharma, S. (2015). State of Subversion, Radical Politics in Twentieth Century Punjab. New Delhi: Routledge. Kalra, V., Kaur, R. and Hutnyk, J. (2005). Diaspora and Hybridity. London: Sage. Kehinde, A. (2016). The Problem of Political Blackness: Lessons from the Black Supplementary School Movement. Ethnic and Racial Studies, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2015.1131314 (Accessed on 13 March 2016). Kesar, K. S. (1995). Ghadar Lehar Di Kavita. Patiala, Punjab: Punjabi University Press. Noor, N. S. (1989). Mukti. London: Progressive Writers Association. Noor, N. S. (1997). Candles in the Storm: An Anthology of Panjabi Poems Written by Poets Living in Britain, with English Translations. Nottingham, UK: Education Now. Prashad, V. (2002). Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity. New York: Beacon Press. Puri, H. K. (1983). Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy. Delhi: South Asia Books. Ram, A. and Tatla, D. S. (1993). This Is Our Home Now: Reminiscences of a Panjabi Migrant in Coventry an Interview with Anant Ram. Oral History, 21(1), 68–74. Ramnath, M. (2011). Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.


From Ghadar to Indian Workers Association Sharma, S. (2009). Radical Politics in Colonial Punjab: Governance and Sedition. London: Routledge. Singh, N. and Johul, A. S. (2002). Emergence of the Image. Delhi: National Book Trust. Tatla, D. S. (2013). A Sikh Manifesto? A Reading of Ghadar Literature. Panjab Past and Present, 44(1), 61–81. Tatla, D. S. and Singh, G. (1989). The Punjabi Press. New Community. 15(2), 173–185. Visram, R. (2002). Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History. London: Pluto Press.



Introduction Diasporic South Asian women (which includes Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian women) are often constructed in policy documents and popular media as invisible or as an accompaniment to their husbands, fathers or sons, not as workers or community builders in their own right but more as dependent members of families, shadows of their male protectors. McDowell et al. (2012, 1) confirm this observation by saying that despite their presence in the labour market for decades, including their participation in several strikes and other industrial action in the United Kingdom, South Asian women continue to be represented in the media and in policy documents as the “exotic other and/or wives and mothers rather than workers.” In reality, the picture is much more complex. Agnew (1993, 151) points out with statistics from the late 1980s that South Asian women in Canada (including Indians) had a higher labour force participation than Canadian-born women and were proportionately better educated and placed in professional and semi-professional jobs than the latter. However, there were also more of them proportionately in the lower end, with less than grade 9 education and concentrated in factory and other similar jobs, compared with their Canadian-born counterparts. The demographics are similar in the UK where Wilson (2006) reported that 16 per cent of Indian women held professional/managerial jobs in 2000 and the figures are probably much higher today given the nature of immigration. Today, they are predominantly middle class women with post-secondary education, often at a higher level than women in the receiving society, but who are nonetheless underemployed in precarious jobs identified with working class, racialized women. A small minority of women are doing extremely well as highly skilled workers, professionals and entrepreneurs, but most are in precarious, unskilled jobs, including cleaning, service, sales, call centre work and piece work. They trailed white and several non-white Canadian groups in incomes (Block & Galabuzi 2011). Diasporic South Asian women’s experiences of work (paid and unpaid) has to be viewed within the larger intersections of migration, racism, class, gender and political economy. More concretely, scholars are increasingly emphasizing how the working lives of South Asian women are socially organized by institutional processes emanating from the receiving state and the capitalist economy as well as households and family structures. A review of this literature will be undertaken from an intersectional theoretical perspective, blending in Marxist-feminist and 216

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anti-racist frameworks. Utilizing the former perspective, the labour of social reproduction which is unpaid will be included in the discussion in addition to what is traditionally considered work, i.e. labour that is deployed for payment in the labour market, as it will be shown that these two dimensions (paid and unpaid) condition each other and are intrinsically connected. In the post-1980s period and up to the present conjuncture, the focus of this chapter, the political economy of the world has been increasingly characterized as a neoliberal capitalist economy. This has brought on such dynamics as the globalization of capital, in which large industries have relocated to cheaper labour zones, regions and countries, resulting in the restructuring of the manufacturing sector which had employed many diasporic South Asian women and other racialized immigrant women in earlier decades; the use of homeworkers; privatization (including that of the public sector); sub-contracting and outsourcing of functions to cheaper labour sources and models; de-regulation of labour sectors and the proliferation of precarious jobs, many of them based in information and communication technology which facilitate 24/7 work shifts; and just in time production, which consists of short-term, part-time, contractual and piece work hired by temporary agencies and often using migrant workers on work contracts brought in to perform specified labours. South Asian women’s work experiences in the diaspora will be discussed in this larger context. The chapter will draw on secondary literature from Canada, the USA and the UK. What is common to these receiving states are their immigration policies that have allowed South Asian women and men to settle in contemporary times, sometimes permanently and eventually becoming citizens, or to alternatively reside as highly skilled or unskilled temporary contract workers, keeping in mind that who is skilled and who is not is often a matter of politics. Diasporic South Asian (including Indian) settlement historically has occurred within a colonial context, i.e. at the cost of colonial subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, slavery, indenture or in the aftermath of colonial displacement and nationalization policies in countries of the Global South. In some cases, Indians, who were taken as indentured labour to Africa, eventually migrated to Western countries as a result of Africanization policies, sometimes as refugees in the post-1960s period (Bhachu, 1985; Wilson, 2006). These cohorts and others going to Western countries via countries of the Persian Gulf have been referred to as “twice migrants” (Bhachu, 1985) or “twice migrated” (Das Gupta, 2005/2006, 2015). This historical context has had a profound effect on the whiteness and colonial foundations of the nations that migrants and immigrants encountered and the positions that they found in the labour market. Thematic analyses will be undertaken to draw out some of the common concerns of scholars regarding South Asian women and work in diverse diasporic contexts. Before delving into the central discussion of diasporic South Asian women and work, the politics of naming oneself in the diaspora is worth considering. Diasporic South Asians have diverse ways of identifying themselves, e.g. by national origin (Indian), by religion (‘Muslims,’ ‘Sikhs’), by legal citizenship (Canadian, American, British) and in other hybrid ways (South Asian, East African Indian, Gujarati African Asians) as a result of complex lived experiences and migration routes. Naming also implicates ruling states and how they name those who are ‘new’ settlers as opposed to others who preceded them. In Canada and in the UK, Indian immigrants have been referred to as ‘South Asian’ in the post-1970s era, which by definition encompasses the experiences of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepali, Afghani and other regional ethnicities who share a similar history of racialization in diaspora. Thus, some of the scholarly literature relevant to this chapter refers to ‘South Asian’ as opposed to ‘Indian’ women immigrants. The category ‘South Asian’ obfuscates different experiences among the many sub-ethnic groups contained within. For instance, labour market experiences vary between Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in diaspora. Naming is also influenced by how other 217

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racialized groups are named in the receiving society. Purkayastha (2005) writes that the US Census refers to the category ‘Asian Indian’ to differentiate Indians from Indigenous North American Indians. Thus, diasporic identities are fluid, relational, contextual, politically and historically derived. This chapter therefore uses the term diasporic South Asian women, unless referring to secondary research which specifically pertains to Indian women.

Social construction of South Asian ‘wives and dependants’ The image of an Indian woman as ‘wife, mother and non-worker’ referred to earlier is an ideological and legal construct, emanating from the conditions under which most of them migrated out of India and landed in receiving countries. This colonial patriarchal construct emanating from colonial contexts in the subcontinent has been reinforced in the diaspora by the fact that it was South Asian males who first came to countries of the West, often living as ‘bachelors’ in racially restricted spaces, some as colonial army personnel, later as labourers and more recently as professionals. South Asian women were not welcomed in some cases as in Canada and, when they did come, they were assumed in government policy documents to be dependants of their male sponsors. One of the common realities of Indian women in the diaspora is that they are categorized by immigration systems as dependants of their male sponsors, mainly their husbands, fathers and sons. Nowhere is this more salient than in the case of ‘H4 visa wives’ in the USA (Purkayastha, 2005). Since the 1980s, the vast majority of highly skilled professionals, including information technology, medical and scientific workers (overwhelmingly male), are brought over on a temporary H1B visa for three to six years, which can be extended beyond six years if the holder has applied for employment-based permanent residency (a Green Card) which has a quota attached to it (a cap). While they can be accompanied by their spouses (overwhelmingly female), their spouses on the H4 visa are not allowed to engage in paid employment unless they are able to find full-time employment with a cap-exempt company and qualify for an occupation that is in short labour supply according to the US Government. Otherwise, despite the fact that many of these spouses are highly skilled professionals, frequently as qualified as their husbands, they are forced to become full-time homemakers and wives or remain in India to work and maintain split families (Purkayastha, 2005). Moreover, in many cases, their education is not recognized in the USA and as a result they have trouble enrolling in university programmes. In addition, Jain (2006) writes that South Asian women’s organizations dealing with battered women have received increased complaints from these ‘H4 visa wives,’ an indication of a rise in the abuse of women in such legally dependent positions. For those Indian women who are sponsored by permanent residents, such as in Canada and the UK, and as such are permitted to take up paid employment, they are still deemed by the state to be ‘not destined for the workforce,’ primarily ‘wives and mothers/grandmothers,’ basically ‘not working.’ This categorization as non-worker is gendered. It is legally constructed by im(migration) policies of receiving states in which the primary applicant for immigration is usually male, who is subsequently deemed the ‘breadwinner’ and ‘head of the household’ according to predominant gender ideology. His spouse (usually a woman), deemed a wife and mother, is primarily held by all (state, family, community) to be responsible for the unpaid work of childcare, cooking and cleaning at home. Anitha et al. (2012) writing in reference to South Asian women in the UK say that post-war immigration mainly consisted of men under the British Nationality Act of 1948. This trend was reversed under an amended British Commonwealth Act in 1968, which stopped male migration, deemed a threat to nationals in the labour market, and only allowed sponsored family members to come into the UK. This disadvantaged 218

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Indian immigrant women from the outset and put them on a path of subordination in terms of what resources they could access, whose career was deemed more important in the household and who was assumed to be the primary caregiver and homemaker. This dynamic is true almost everywhere in the diaspora (Purkayastha, 2005; Das Gupta et al., 2014; Rashid & Gregory, 2014; Maitra, 2015b). The designation of being ‘secondary’ is fixed despite contemporary immigration policies which provide access to immigrants, including sponsored ones, who come with extremely high educational and professional qualifications. Moreover, research (George & Chaze, 2009; Mirchandani et al., 2010; Anitha et al., 2012) shows that most Indian women in diaspora enter the workforce in order to financially support their families, in many cases because their husbands have not been able to find suitable employment or are re-training themselves and a second income is almost always necessary to keep the family out of poverty. Middle and upper-middle class, highly skilled migrant men from South Asian countries generally marry into the same class backgrounds in their country of origin, as a result of which most South Asian women migrating out today are also highly skilled, educated and accomplished professionals themselves. Indeed, Purkayastha found on a demographic profile from 1990 that Asian Indian women in the USA with 4+ years of college education represented 48.7 per cent of the population, whereas only 17.6 per cent of the US women had that education. However, their qualifications and work experiences may not be recognized or utilized depending on the demand for their skills and education. Purkayastha (2005) argues that the process is one of “cumulative disadvantage” in which disadvantages prior to immigration are built upon by new disadvantages encountered over time. Moreover, disadvantages encountered at one level, for example in the immigration system, are transferred to other levels, say the labour market and the household and vice versa, and thereby accumulated and hardened. She further argues that in the current period, the quest for ‘high skills’ in such areas as medicine, information technology science and finance by receiving states immediately puts a gender bias on the recruitment process in most countries, as these are male dominated areas. This is contradicted though by Adya (2008) who, on the basis of qualitative interviews with thirty information technology professionals in the USA, including fourteen women of Indian origin, illustrates that compared with sixteen American-born women in the sample, the former were more educated with MS degrees in areas such as aerospace information technology, computer science and engineering. Moreover, the Indian women considered these areas to be female-identified, which was contradictory to how their American counterparts viewed them. However, Adya comments that this finding may be true only for middle class urban Indians and thus not generalizable to all of India. Additionally, the existence of highly educated South Asian women in the information technology field does not preclude the existence of discrimination (racial and sexual) in these occupations in the USA, a reality that both Purkayastha and Adya point out. Corporations and employment agencies view men to be more appropriately assigned to international projects whereas women are seen to be more risky clients given the conditions of work, such as long hours away from family members, a finding that is replicated in Maitra’s (2015a) study of body shops placing Indian (and Indo-Canadian) information technology workers internationally. Thus, what the discussion indicates so far is that state policies and family and community expectations construct South Asian women in diaspora as wives, mothers and non-workers, and because of this predominant gender ideology, when they do find employment (which they do, among those who are legally allowed to), they are pushed into precarious and/or undesirable occupations and sectors, thus constructing their class positioning. By contrast, experience shows that when “women come first” (George, 2005), i.e. when they are deemed the main applicant and sponsor of their family members, there is likely to be a power shift, both in the labour market as well as in the household. This has been the experience 219

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of Indian women who (im)migrated out as nurses. George writes that her own mother and others like her migrated out of Kerala to study nursing and then through a step migration process went to the USA and other countries. Afterwards, she sponsored her husband and children and was the main source of financial support for the household. A white collar worker back in India, George’s father struggled to find appropriate employment in the USA while her mother supported them on the basis of her nursing profession. Since women nurses such as George’s mother entered the labour market when there was a dire need for them, they had more bargaining power vis-à-vis their employer. George describes also that her father took an active interest and was in many ways the main caregiver in the home, often taking pleasure in cooking meals, particularly when her mother first emigrated by herself to the USA. Afterwards, there was an equal sharing of housework when she sponsored the whole family over. Thus, gender relations and her class positioning appeared to have been dramatically shifted in George’s family where her mother was not only the main earner as a professional worker but also the first one to emigrate and sponsor the rest of the family. Not every family changed in this manner, however, as will be explained further later due to entrenched gendered expectations and skills. Not all South Asian women migrate in family units, neither are they all placed as middle class professionals in this age of globalization and neoliberal capitalism. Wilson (2006) presents the stories of middle-aged, married Sikh women in UK farms who migrate to work as temporary contract workers, are paid piece wages to pluck fruits and vegetables, working twelve hour days, seven days a week, and are exposed to chemicals without any protective clothing. Wilson describes how they are transported in overcrowded buses at the crack of dawn to the farms, with no assurance that there will be work for them on any given day. In between farm work, they make do with sewing and other precarious work. Wilson calls them “global workers” who have been thrown off the land in the Punjab by policies of organizations such as the World Trade Organization and whose husbands have been unable to find alternative employment. As a result they are in danger of falling into indebtedness and thus have had to resort to contract farm work in the UK to support their families. Some of them are undocumented workers who are subjected to frequent checks by immigration officials and are thus precarious not only in their jobs but also in the country. Moreover, the work is stigmatized as low status and younger women doing this work are often subjected to sexual stigma and harassment. In asking how this kind of migrant labour and the separation from their husbands and children influences their unpaid work at home, Wilson (2006, 144) observes that they are constantly under the patriarchal “gaze of the community” in diaspora. Whether she gains more power vis-à-vis her husband back home depends on the class positioning of her family, according to Wilson. If they are able to enjoy a middle class life as a result of her earning in the UK, she has more power, but not otherwise. The class positioning of these working women is contradictory since they are located within multiple social relations and also living across borders in the way transnational scholars have theorized. These are predominantly Jat women whose families (men within them, to be precise) have traditionally owned lands and are in the middle class in the Punjab. Yet these families, being predominantly unwaged there, are entering the global labour market and experiencing exploitation and arguably a downward class movement in the UK—a reality that is also faced by most middle class professional women from urban areas when they migrate with great hopes of success in the diaspora.

Devaluation, deskilling and underemployment Despite the fact that diasporic South Asian women migrating in the 1970s, and more so in the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, to the USA and to Canada have been progressively more highly educated, their qualifications and professional experiences are devalued outright in Canada and 220

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stalled or blocked in the USA. This has become one of the biggest hurdles in pursuing their professional careers upon landing in their destination country. Das Gupta et al. (2014), Maitra (2015b), and Rashid & Gregory (2014) illustrate through in-depth qualitative interviews with Indian women in Canada that, like their male counterparts, their education was not recognized by professional associations and employers, which put them far behind in their career track. In fact, many women they interviewed gave up on their professional career paths and elected to pursue some other field in which they were able to transfer their skills, usually at a lower socio-economic level. Out of ten Indian women that Das Gupta et al. (2014) interviewed in unregulated professions, such as in information and communication technology (ICT), journalism, public relations, commerce and fashion designing, only three were able to pursue their prior professions: two of them in information and communication technology and third as a programme manager in the garment sector. Two others eventually landed good positions although not in their previous professions, one as a programme manager in an employment counselling and placement centre, initially having started as an employment counsellor, and the other as an executive assistant having started as a receptionist and then becoming an office manager. The former was a human resources manager and consultant in India while the other had been a database manager there. The remaining five were underemployed in precarious jobs, such as call centre work, retail sales, contract and part-time work, despite having BA, MA, BSc, MBA and MPhil qualifications and having worked as a fashion designer, ICT managers and college teacher, to name but a few occupations. Similarly, Maitra (2015a) interviewed eleven male and four female information technology professionals in Canada. Many, according to her, were told that their qualifications were not enough and that they would need to acquire Canadian certification and Canadian work experience. It is to be noted that some did not get hired even after re-certifying themselves. Rashid & Gregory (2014), who interviewed five South Asian origin women with university degrees (one with a BA, three with MAs and one with a PhD), including women from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Tanzania and Qatar, said that only the woman with a PhD was able to gain employment in her area of expertise while another was taking training to upgrade her qualifications. The remaining three (including the Indian) ended up in precarious jobs, such as in fast food restaurants. Indian women nurses who immigrated as main applicants to the USA in the 1970s—arguably a desirable occupation with social status and relatively decent income—also experienced hurdles in becoming Registered Nurses (RNs). George (2005) writes that most started by working as nurse’s aides, a relatively lower level position, and then had to register themselves as RNs after passing an exam. This was a hurdle for many as the state tests were based on multiple choice answers, an unfamiliar format for most, and the exam and the preparation for it were expensive. Many failed these tests several times before passing them, while others could not afford them. Moreover, they often struggled with getting transcripts and other documents from Kerala as proof of having completed schooling, which were required for the licensing process. Since 1986, Indian women in the USA who joined their professionally educated husbands with a Green Card had to remain in a non-permanent residency status for two years to prove that their marriages were authentic before they gained the right to become legal residents and find paid work. Interestingly enough, a similar law was passed in Canada in 2012 (Government of Canada, 2015), apparently in response to fraudulent marriages having been performed in some cases, despite outcries from community advocates against the legal vulnerability of these women during a time in which they are forced to put their careers on hold and to be financially dependent on their husbands (and thus more vulnerable to abuse). The UK exceeded the USA and Canada in these measures. Since the 1971 Immigration Act, Indian fiancées and wives hoping to join their spouses were subjected to ‘virginity tests’ and a ‘one-year rule’ (later becoming a 221

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‘two-year rule’ in 2002). Certain recognitions and ‘concessions’ are evident today in cases of domestic violence following years of advocacy by South Asian women’s organizations such as the Southall Black Sisters (Wilson, 2006). However, what is apparent is that under the guise of tackling ‘forced arranged marriages’ and ‘fraudulent marriages,’ the receiving state ends up disadvantaging women as workers in the labour market and, in some cases endangering them physically, psychologically and socially within the spousal relationship as well as in their interactions with state officials.

Racism and sexism in the labour market After the initial two years of probationary residence in the USA, Purkayastha reveals through qualitative interviews that “high education” did not translate into “high skills” as women with BAs, MAs and PhDs often began their careers as secretaries and retail workers and only acquired acceptable positions through their own initiatives, mobilizing ethnic networks and finding mentors. Even highly regarded occupational degrees such as medicine can remain elusive if the degree is from an unrecognized Indian university or city. Internships remain limited to smaller hospitals where more minority medical staff predominate. Occupational segregation along colour and gender lines is also documented in several other cases, including academia and banks, where Indian women with professional and academic degrees were excluded from high status institutions and had to settle for the lower status ones. For example, a woman with a PhD was unable to become a professor in a university but settled for a community college position instead. Other than devalued credentials and lack of internships (such as for medical doctors), immigrant women and men in Canada experience routine obstacles, such as being dismissed due to lacking “Canadian experience.” They find themselves in a catch-22 situation in which they are unable to find a job due to a lack of Canadian experience and conversely, the latter remains beyond their reach since they are unable to find jobs in their fields. This leads them to resort to ‘survival’ jobs, ones that are identified with racialized women and that do not require ‘Canadian experience’ or specific qualifications, such as in fast food industry, coffee shops, sales, call centres, cashiers and temporary agency work, marked by low wages, short-term contracts and precariousness. In such jobs, there is insecurity of working hours, i.e. they could be sent home due to insufficient work or for not meeting a work target (Mirchandani et al., 2010), and they are often subjected to racial and sexual harassment, such as customers demanding to be served by a ‘native English speaker’ or by someone who does not have an ‘accent’ (Maitra & Das Gupta, 2013). However, Mirchandani et al. (2010) state that sometimes these jobs provide them some measure of flexibility which allows them to combine paid work, childcare and housework. According to one report (Block & Galabuzi, 2011, 14) based on the 2006 Census (the most recent available), holding education and other factors constant, the average employment income of South Asian Canadian women was $24,081 per year compared with $28,584 earned by white women and $36,904 earned by South Asian men. These differentials in annual incomes show the discriminatory effects of both race and gender in the lives of South Asian women. The average income earned by South Asians (combining men and women) was $31,102 compared with the $37,332 earnings of white families that year. Although South Asian women’s and men’s earnings were not the lowest out of all non-white groups, they were placed somewhere near the middle, with Korean, Latin American, West Asian and South East Asian Canadian women earning even less. As a result of lower wages earned by non-white groups, poverty rates were also higher. About 16.4 per cent of South Asian families experienced poverty compared with 6.4 per cent of white groups. The figure is higher for single South Asian men and women living 222

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on their own: 46.3 per cent of single South Asian women experienced poverty compared with 42.4 per cent of single South Asian men; this compares with 25.8 per cent of single white men and 26.5 per cent of single white women. It is important to note that these statistics are for the “South Asian” group and that there are inevitably differences between the different groups encompassed in this category, including newer refugee groups from Afghanistan, Tibet and Bangladesh, who are more susceptible to poverty than those who are settled and migrate as skilled permanent immigrants. Anitha et al. (2012) write that employers in the UK specifically targeted jobs to certain racialized and gendered workers, more specifically sweat-shop style manufacturing work for South Asian women, based on stereotypes of passivity and hard work. Punjabi women with relatively lower levels of education (secondary levels in Punjab) worked in farms, laundries, packing, sewing, food processing, cleaning and home-based work. While both Punjabi and Gujarati African Asian women started in such jobs upon immigration to the UK, the latter group eventually achieved middle class status, while most of the former remained locked in the same status. In contrast, Purkayastha (2005) presents the median income of Asian Indians in 1990 at $49,309 a year, higher than what whites earned (a median of $37,152 a year). Poverty rates were about the same for both groups (around 7 per cent) while nationally it was at 10 per cent. However, she argues that the rosy picture painted by these numbers hides the underemployment and lack of employment rights for the wives of temporary high skilled workers and for those permanent residents in their probationary two-year period. Similarly, one group of professional women workers in diaspora that has done relatively well socio-economically is nurses. Many Indian nurses (mostly Syrian Christians) emigrated to the USA and Canada either directly from Kerala or through step migration via OPEC countries. Even here, nursing as a profession is highly gendered and racialized (Das Gupta, 2009). It is gendered because historically it has been an extension of women’s unpaid social reproductive labour and, as such, it is not a surprise that it is made up predominantly of women. In addition, immigrant nurses were and still are relegated to certain undesirable positions (nurse’s aides or personal support workers), shifts (evenings, nights and weekends) and units that demand physical work. They have also been concentrated in inner-city public hospitals where immigrant healthcare professionals from other countries are also present. George’s (2005) ethnographic interviews with Indian nurses in the USA revealed that nurses experienced everyday and systemic racism from patients, doctors and white colleagues in the form of non-recognition as ‘real nurses,’ questioning their qualifications and also denying them promotions. Similar findings are noted by Das Gupta (2009) in Canada. In a comparative survey with 593 RNs in the province of Ontario, involving Black/African Canadian, South Asian, Asian, South/Central American, white and other nurses, nine South Asian nurses out of eighteen said that their race, ethnicity or colour had affected their hirings; eight said that who they were affected their relations with their manager and their promotions at work. Furthermore, nine of the South Asian nurses surveyed said that they had been made to feel uncomfortable due to race, colour or ethnicity. In a related question, about the same proportion of South Asian nurses replied that they had felt put down, insulted or degraded because of their race, colour or ethnicity. Asha, an Indian nurse, “reported being made fun of because of her pronunciation” and also working as a “charge nurse” but never formally so. The devaluation and racism experienced by nurses from India is most acute for migrant nurses: those who come on temporary work permits to work in care homes in the UK. In order to be eligible for registration as nurses, there is an “adaptation period” which can vary between four months in hospitals to two years in care homes (Wilson, 2006). During that period, they are 223

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exploited by being paid minimum wages and made to do menial work, such as cleaning and sweeping, all the while experiencing inferior treatment and harassment as temporary nurses of colour. Nonetheless, those nurses who settle in the diaspora as permanent residents and citizens can be financially secure and with a high degree of professional autonomy, a far cry from the stigma of “dirtiness” and “undesirability” that was associated with the profession in India. Nurses not only support their immediate family in diaspora, but also their extended family in India (George, 2005; Samuel, 2013).

Childcare and housework Diasporic South Asian women living with their families find themselves faced with a double day of work, fulfilling both paid and unpaid reproductive work of childcare, homemaking and ‘being the wife.’ In relation to theoretical discussions about how migrant families may have a more egalitarian division of childcare and household tasks—a simplistic thesis which has been critiqued in feminist migration literature (Morokvasic, 1984)—most women (with some notable exceptions) in South Asian families in diaspora continue to be the primary caregivers, cooks and housekeepers despite bringing home a pay cheque. In addition, they are expected to perform cultural reproduction by ensuring that children learn their mother tongues, practise their religion and are socialized in their ethnic cultures. In addition, bringing up children includes tasks such as negotiating with the daycare (for those who can afford it) or dealing with racism and bullying in the school yard (Purkayastha, 2005)—new features of unpaid care work in the diaspora. Bhalla (2008) indicates that middle class Indian immigrant women in the USA experience an intensification in their housework in light of their inability to hire household helpers in their new country. A tongue-in-cheek letter from one such woman, writing a letter to a popular Indian newspaper India Abroad, described herself and others like her as “superwomen” while their husbands were characterized as “couch potatoes” for their tendency to sit around and expect their wives to do everything around the house, whether they were employed or not. Another woman estimated that beyond the forty hours per week put into paid employment, ten to fifteen hours went into driving, while an additional twenty to twenty-five hours were spent on housework. Bhalla comments that these letters, featuring pros and cons by both Indian women and men, related to the topic of men in middle class families and their role in (not) sharing housework and childcare. In contrast, in George’s (2005) study of twenty-nine couples from Kerala in which the women were nurses and were the main sponsors and primary earners in the family, at least sixteen of the couples moved to a more equal sharing of childcare and financial management and, in a minority of cases, cooking. In eight of the families in which women were primary earners, there was a situation of “forced participation” given the women’s work outside the house and the underemployment of their husbands, giving rise to a tension between received gender ideologies and what actually transpired in the household. Another eight couples were described as “partnerships” where men participated fully in childcare and there was a move to a more egalitarian gender ideology. Cooking seemed to remain as the women’s task even when they were primary earners. But, as the women in Bhalla’s article reported, there were five additional couples in George’s study where the women did all the childcare, cooking and household work despite being primary earners. The men were inactive or absent despite being underemployed or precariously employed in these cases. In an additional eight families described as ‘traditional,’ young children were sent back to Kerala to live with their relatives or sent to boarding schools in India despite women being stay-at-home housewives. In these families coming from wealthier backgrounds, men were the primary or sole earners, and hence were unavailable for childcare. 224

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Faced with a much heavier burden of social reproduction work, including childcare, South Asian women and men employed in precarious jobs often find daycare costs prohibitive. In the diaspora, grandparents, especially grandmothers, often play a crucial role in helping their adult daughters or daughters-in-law with the work of mothering, cooking and housekeeping. Focusing on working class Punjabi Sikh grandmothers in Canada, authors (Walton-Roberts, 2003; Aggarwal & Das Gupta, 2013) have argued that grandmothers are often located as caregivers in a global chain, moving wherever their adult children need assistance in their caregiving roles. The labour of mothering or grandmothering is unacknowledged and of course unpaid. Moreover, in the best case scenario, receiving states admit grandparents as sponsored dependants, like they do wives, and as such maintain their vulnerability to poverty and isolation, if not abuse. They form a cheap neoliberal, privatized childcare strategy not only for their adult children but also for the receiving state. It is ‘free’ and assumed as natural—all attributes of women’s reproductive labour. Moreover, their 24/7 availability suits the shift work or flexible labour demanded of their adult children in today’s labour market. Lacking in social networks, fluency in official languages and marketable skills, and subject to devaluation processes like their adult children, elderly women are often forced into highly itinerant, precarious labour such as providing care for other neighbours (Choudhry, 2001). During the sponsorship period (usually ten years), they are not eligible for old age pensions. In more recent times, receiving states, such as Canada, have prohibited the sponsoring of grandparents as permanent residents. However, they can be brought in as ‘visitors’ under the so-called super visa for up to a maximum of two years, during which time they cannot perform paid labour and are not covered by health benefits from the state and therefore are even more dependent on their sons and daughters than before. Grandmothers providing childcare for their grandchildren is a working class phenomenon, as Lamb’s (2009) research shows that such an expectation is absent in the case of grandparents in middle class Bengali families in the USA.

Resilience, agency and resistance by Indian women Diasporic South Asian women exercise their agency in negotiating, resisting and creating alternative social networks and organizations in order to fulfil their objectives in the labour market, at home and in society at large (Purkayastha, 2005; George & Chaze, 2009; Das Gupta et al., 2014; Rashid & Gregory, 2014; Maitra, 2015a). Their resilience in the face of multiple challenges is based on having back up plans, developing short-term goals which would take them towards their final objective or at least preventing them from falling into poverty, adjusting their expectations and goals in light of new challenges, seeking out and creating networks of support for themselves, including transnational ones, and accumulating the required work experience and soft skills through volunteering and informal community building among themselves. These efforts build their comfort level, expose them to potential employers and train them for potential jobs (George & Chaze, 2009). Maitra (2013) presents her findings about South Asian women in Toronto, Canada, initiating home-based self-employment projects in sewing, catering and babysitting in enclave areas when they faced exclusion in the formal labour market. Similarly, in the context of the USA, Hewamanne (2012) discusses her ethnographic research among sixteen young brides of middle class South Asian professional men who started lucrative threading (hair removal) businesses from home in an effort to earn incomes while at the same time managing their work as wives and mothers. South Asian women immigrants in the diaspora also have a proud history of collective efforts, establishing a range of more formal community organizations to help themselves and each other in fighting for their rights as women and as workers. Sometimes this has taken place 225

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through non-governmental community organizations and at other times through community campaigns, worker centres and unionization efforts. Perhaps one of the best-known community campaigns, later supported by the labour movement in London, UK, was that by the Grunwick strikers (Wilson, 2006; Anitha et al., 2012). They were predominantly East African Indian women of middle class Gujarati backgrounds who had sought paid employment out of financial necessity, having arrived in the UK as refugees. After a few years of work in a photofinishing lab with extremely poor working conditions, such as differential wages, they found themselves being displaced without notice by lower paid contract workers. The women held an impromptu strike, later joined by many other mainstream predominantly white unions in solidarity. The strike continued for two years between 1976 and 1978, supported by the South Asian community and solidarity strikes by a number of large unions. In the end, there was a power struggle over strategy between the rank and file South Asian women strikers and that of the white union leadership, which eventually weakened the job action and ended it. There have been many other similar strikes by both working class and middle class Indian women immigrants in the UK with similar themes of fighting privatization, racism and displacement by cheaper contract workers. Similarly, in Toronto, Canada, working class, non-English speaking Punjabi women of the non-unionized night shift of the Pizza Crust company demanded a raise and took their employer to the Human Rights Commission for the violation of their rights on the basis of race. They took this fight further to the provincial Labour Relations Board for having been paid differentially lower wages than the predominantly white day shift workers and having been denied a rise. After several months of public action and media publicity supported by community groups, most notably from the Punjabi Sikh community, they won their cases. Subsequently, they engaged in a unionizing drive which was less successful as the employer was able to fragment them. In a parallel case, Punjabi Sikh women in British Columbia, Canada, who worked as farmworkers, successfully formed a union in 1980, a remarkable story that was documented in the film A Time To Rise (Patwardhan & Monro, 1981), once again with a community-based organizing drive. During the 1980s, the Canadian Farmworkers Union worked on organizing thousands of farmworkers of different ethnic backgrounds and succeeded in 1993 in covering farmworkers under health and safety standards.

Conclusion This brief review of secondary literature demonstrates that diasporic South Asian women have played a significant role as paid workers in the labour market and have been anything but ‘passive victims.’ Faced with the devaluation of previously acquired degrees and professional qualifications and encountering layers of discriminatory barriers (racial, sexual, class and age), they engage in multiple strategies to get back on their career tracks and fight for their rights as women, as workers and as racialized immigrants. Simultaneously, they have been partners/wives, mothers and grandmothers, nurturing new generations of diasporic members and reproducing home cultures.

References Adya, M. P. (2008). Women at Work: Differences in IT Career Experiences and Perceptions between South Asian and American Women. Human Resource Management, 47(3), 601–635. Aggarwal, P. and Das Gupta, T. (2013). Grandmothering at Work: Conversations with Sikh Punjabi Grandmothers in Toronto. South Asian Diaspora, 5(1), 77–90. Agnew, V. (1993). Feminism and South Asian Immigrant Women in Canada. In: M. Israel and N. K. Wagle, eds, Ethnicity, Identity, Migration: The South Asian Context. Toronto, ON: Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, pp. 142–163.


South Asian women and work in the diaspora Anitha, S., Pearson, R. and McDowell, L. (2012). Striking Lives: Multiple Narratives of South Asian Women’s Employment, Identity and Protest in the UK. Ethnicities, 12(6), 754–775. Bhachu, P. (1985). Twice Migrants: East African Sikh Settlers in Britain. London, New York: Tavistock Publications. Bhalla, V. (2008). ‘Couch Potatoes and Super-Women’: Gender, Migration, and the Emerging Discourse on Housework among Asian Indian Immigrants. Journal of American Ethnic History, 27(4), 71–99. Block, S. and Galabuzi, G. (2011). Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market: The Gap for Racialized Workers. Ottawa, QC: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Choudhry, U. K. (2001). Uprooting and Resettlement Experiences of South Asian Immigrant Women. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 23(4), 376–393. Das Gupta, T. (2005/2006). Twice Migrated: Political Economy of South Asian Immigrants from the Middle East to Canada. International Journal of the Humanities, 3(9), 263–274. Das Gupta, T. (2009). Real Nurses and Others: Racism in Nursing. Halifax, NS and Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood Publishing. Das Gupta, T. (2015). Gulf Husbands and Canadian Wives in the South Asian Community: Transnationalism from Below—A Classed, Gendered and Racialized Phenomenon. In: G. Man & R. Cohen, eds, Engendering Transnational Voices: Studies in Family, Work and Identities. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, pp. 17–32. Das Gupta, T., Man, G., Mirchandani, K. and Ng, R. (2014). Class Borders: Chinese and South Asian Canadian Professional Women Navigating the Labour Market. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 23(1), 55–84. George, S. M. (2005). When Women Come First: Gender and Class in Transnational Migration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. George, U. and Chaze, F. (2009). Social Capital and Employment. Affilia, 24(4), 394–405. Hewamanne, S. (2012). Threading Meaningful Lives: Respectability, Home Businesses and Identity Negotiations among Newly Immigrant South Asian Women. Identities, 19(3), 320–338. Jain, S. (2006). Women’s Agency in the Context of Family Networks in Indian Diaspora. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(23), 2312–2316. Lamb, S. (2009). Aging and the Indian Diaspora: Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Maitra, S. (2013). Points of Entry: South Asian Immigrant Women’s Entry into Enclave Entrepreneurship in Toronto. South Asian Diaspora, 5(1), 123–137. Maitra, S. (2015a). The Making of the ‘Precarious’: Examining Indian Immigrant IT Workers in Canada and their Transnational Networks with Body Shops in India. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 13(2), 194–209. Maitra, S. (2015b). Between Conformity and Contestation: South Asian Immigrant Women Negotiating Soft Skills Training in Canada. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 27(2), 65–78. Maitra, S. and Das Gupta, T. (2013). Journey to Find Myself Again. Documentary Film. McDowell, L., Anitha, S. and Pearson, R. (2012). Striking Similarities: Representing South Asian Women’s Industrial Action in Britain. Gender, Place and Culture, 19(2), 133–152. Mirchandani, K., Ng, R., Coloma-Moya, N., Maitra, S., Rawlings, T., Shan, H., Siddiqui, K. and Slade, B. (2010). Transitioning into Precarious Work: Immigrants’ Learning and Resistance. In: P. Sawchuk and A. Taylor, eds, Challenging Transitions in Learning and Work: Reflections on Policy and Practice. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, pp. 231–242. Morokvasic, M. (1984). Birds of Passage are also Women. International Migration Review, 18(4), 886–907. Patwardhan, A. and Monro, J. (1981). A Time to Rise. Documentary Film, Canada. tt0083206/. Purkayastha, B. (2005). Skilled Migration and Cumulative Disadvantage: The Case of Highly Qualified Asian Indian Immigrant Women in the US. Geoforum, 36(2), 181–196. Rashid, R. and Gregory, D. (2014). Not Giving Up on Life: A Holistic Exploration of Resilience among a Sample of Immigrant Canadian Women. Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, 46(1), 197–214. Samuel, L. (2013). South Asian Women in the Diaspora: Reflections on Arranged Marriage and Dowry among Syrian Orthodox Community in Canada. South Asian Diaspora, 5(1), 91–106. Walton-Roberts, M. (2003). Transnational Geographies: Indian Immigration to Canada. Canadian Geographer, 47(3), 235–250. Wilson, A. (2006). Dreams, Questions, Struggles: South Asian Women in Britain. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto.


17 OF INTERSECTING OPPRESSIONS Domestic violence and the Indian diaspora Rupaleem Bhuyan and Susan Ramsundarsingh

Since the late 1990s, members of the Indian diaspora have collectively organized to support victims of domestic violence while challenging patriarchy within their communities. Drawing on feminist and anti-racist critiques of patriarchy, we examine how immigration policies reinforce structural inequalities along lines of race, gender and class. This chapter provides an overview of the specific forms of domestic violence that occur within the Indian diaspora in the United States and Canada by highlighting issues related to honour-based crimes, transnational abandonment and sex selection in the diasporic context. While domestic violence and sexual assault occur across the spectrum of gender, we focus primarily on male violence perpetrated against female bodies, as this remains the most prevalent form of violence in the Indian diaspora. This chapter describes the contributions of activists and the ongoing challenges in raising consciousness and providing adequate support services to survivors of domestic violence in the Indian diaspora.

Prevalence of violence against women in Canada and the United States According to the World Health Organization (2013), violence against women is a worldwide epidemic that includes a spectrum of interpersonal and structural forms of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and neglect. On average 30 per cent of women around the world have experienced violence from a male intimate partner or non-partner sexual assault, with a range of 20 per cent in high income countries and up to 42 per cent in low-income countries (WHO, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Council, SAMR, 2013). Rates of violence, however, are significantly higher for racialized minorities, indigenous women, forced migrants, and women in high conflict or war zones. National population surveys consistently report that 1 in 4 women in the United States will face some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). An estimated 43.9 per cent of women in the United States have experienced some form of sexual violence; in 27.3 per cent of these cases the violence was perpetrated by an intimate partner (Breiding et al., 2014). In 1993, the last time Statistics Canada conducted the Violence against Women survey, more than half of women surveyed in Canada reported at least one incident of sexual or physical abuse from an intimate partner (Foundation, 2016). National surveys that measure intimate partner violence capture a range of controlling and injurious 228

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behaviours including (but not limited to): sexual assault, psychological abuse, financial control, neglect, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by an intimate partner, spouse, or ex-spouse. In 2013, of the 88,000 police reports for family violence across Canada, 48 per cent of individuals were victimized by a current or former spouse and in 14 per cent of police reports the perpetrator was an extended family member (Statistics Canada, 2015). While domestic violence cuts across all social groups, immigrant women are underrepresented in national surveys making it difficult to ascertain rates of prevalence and incidence. National surveys are typically conducted only in English (in the United States) or English and French (in Canada), thus systematically excluding people who are not conversant in the dominant languages of the state. National surveys also underrepresent people who are undocumented or have a temporary or precarious immigration status, thus limiting the accuracy of data on more vulnerable groups of immigrants. Community-based research with immigrants from South Asian countries reports higher rates of violence; prevalence rates for domestic violence among South Asian immigrants range from 61.7 per cent in a Canadian study (Ahmad et al., 2004) to 21.2 per cent in an American study (Raj & Silverman, 2007). Women from South Asian communities, however, are less likely to seek support from the police or community-based services (Ahmad et al., 2009; Raj & Silverman, 2007). Fear of authorities such as immigration, fear of becoming ostracized by the community, language barriers, lack of knowledge about services available, and acceptance of the behaviour as normal or acceptable are all factors that contribute to low rates of reporting in the Indian diaspora (Raj & Silverman, 2007). The model minority reputation of the Indian diasporic community also contributes to the silence about domestic violence due to the fear of bringing shame and increased discrimination upon the community (Dasgupta & Warrier, 1996; Merchant, 2000). The model minority stereotype readily constructs Indian immigrants ‘as law-abiding, hardworking, self-sufficient and enjoying happy family relationships’ (Shankar et al., 2013). This racial construction is inseparable from prevalent racist views of Blacks, Indigenous and Latino communities as inherently dangerous, lazy, or inferior to the dominant white population. Furthermore, the model minority image reinforces global hierarchies that the ‘West’ is inherently better, safer and more willing to ensure women’s rights, as opposed to the backward societies ‘back home’ (Dasgupta & Warrier, 1996).

Theorizing domestic violence and intersecting oppressions In the United States and Canada, violence against women arose as a core issue during the civil rights movements. In calling attention to ‘wife-battering’ as a social issue, the battered women’s movement linked domestic violence to patriarchal values and gender inequality in private and public spheres. Despite efforts to address inequalities experienced by all women, the first wave of the battered women’s movement often reproduced ethnocentric, heteronormative, and classist propensities – a consequence of predominantly white, middle-class leadership working from their own position within a racist, classist, and heteronormative society. By the early 1990s, activists and scholars expanded their critique of patriarchal power and the subjugation of women to include power dynamics produced through the confluence of gender, race, ethnicity, and class (Bhattacharjee, 1997). From the outset, advocates in the Indian diaspora have sought to understand and problematize the role of culture, values, and traditions in perpetuating domestic violence and fostering silence and isolation for victims of abuse. Attention to culture initially emerged as a response to the ethnocentrism within the violence against women movement in North America, which misunderstood or overlooked cultural differences in how domestic violence 229

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unfolds (Kasturirangan et al., 2004). Cultural sensitivity is promoted as a remedy to accommodate cultural ‘others’ through addressing language barriers and identifying beliefs, practices, values, norms, and behaviours that are shared by a community. Warrier (2000) critiques this approach for essentializing characteristics of a community while dismissing that cultural norms and social relations are inherently dynamic and under constant negotiation (Warrier, 2000).

Intersectionality framework Understanding the experiences of immigrants from the Indian diaspora calls for sensitivity to cultural differences while also addressing how culture is mobilized to mark the ‘stranger’ or ‘other’ within society (Ahmed, 2004; Razack, 1995). Within the United States, Black radical feminists developed theoretical perspectives to examine how gender, ethnicity, and class are intertwined with the criminal justice and immigration systems (Krane et al., 2000). The focus on these intersections shifts the gaze away from ‘culture’ towards identifying how belonging, rights, and personhood are constructed in broader social structures that create different forms of inequality (Krane et al., 2000). These intersections which play out at various levels and scales impact women’s ability to seek help through both informal and formal networks. Concurrent with the intersectionality framework, scholar and activist Abraham (1995, 1998) argues that diasporic women face the dual subordination of sexism and racism. Religion and tradition are often used to bolster patriarchal ideologies which legitimize the view of women as property to be transferred from father to husband. In this male worldview, women are valued primarily for their reproductive potential and penalized if they are unable to produce sons. Pressure to maintain ‘culture’ and resist assimilation is also used to maintain traditional gender roles that require a married woman to make sacrifices for her husband and family, maintain harmony, minimize conflict, relinquish reproductive decision-making, and hide problems that may bring on family shame (Dasgupta, 1998). The patriarchal attitudes of immigrant men have to be situated within the racial hierarchies and the binary divisions between the West and the Rest. These complex intersections that frame diasporic lives often lead to a tradition/modernity split, where the symbolic power of either traditionalism or modernism is harnessed as a vehicle for abuse (Abraham, 1998; Narayan, 1995). Many men from the Indian diaspora seek wives from the homeland because they are seen as more traditional, less independent, and better equipped to adhere to prescribed gender roles. Western feminists simultaneously approach women from the Indian diaspora, especially Muslim women in the current context, as in need of ‘saving’ from brown men or themselves (Abu-Lughod, 2002); this reproduces racial hierarchies while dismissing or denying how racism contributes to structural inequality that immigrants face in Canada and the United States. Furthermore, police responses to domestic violence in South Asian and Muslim communities worsened after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States and the subsequent rise of Islamaphobia and criminalization of South Asian and Muslim men in both Canada and the United States.

Immigration and gender inequality in the Indian diaspora The Indian diaspora in Canada and the United States includes a diverse composite of people who originated in what was formerly British India, former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, and from contemporary India. While an extensive review of migration histories from India and across the Indian diaspora is beyond the scope of this chapter, we highlight the role that immigration policies play in producing gendered and racial inequality through an 230

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overview of key trends in Canadian and U.S. immigration policy. Although they have unique histories, Canada and the United States are white settler states, established by European settlers who displaced indigenous groups to assert their sovereignty. Both nations rely heavily on immigration to fuel economic growth while using immigration controls to preserve the hegemonic whiteness of the nation (Bhuyan et al., 2017; Thobani, 2000). In both countries, the first ‘wave’ of immigrants from British India took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From the outset, immigration from India was primarily limited to Punjabi Sikh men from the Jat Sikh community of Daba, who took part in railroad constructions and logging (Bhargava et al., 2008). The rise in xenophobia in the early 1900s contributed to numerous exclusionary policies that marked Asian immigrants as undesirable or blocked their entry, with the exception of diplomats and children of Canadian and U.S. citizenship (e.g. the U.S. Immigration Act of 1917; the Canadian Exclusion Act of 1923 barring ‘immigrants of any Asiatic race’). Racialized1 women from British India and China were constructed as polluting, sexually deviant (i.e. prostitutes), and thus undesirable to the nation. Only a handful of Indian women were permitted to immigrate during this period. The confluence of racist and gendered policies also contributed to isolation for Indian/Punjabi men in Western Canada, while some Indian/Punjabi men in California formed hybrid communities through intermarriage with Mexican women (Leonard, 2010; McMahon, 2001). The second ‘wave’ of immigration from India and the Indian diaspora emerged on the heels of the civil rights movements and the removal of racial exclusion laws in the United States and Canada. According to Abraham (2005), the 1965 Immigration Act in the United States permitted professionals (e.g. physicians, engineers) to migrate to the United States and apply for permanent residence within a short time span. The majority of this ‘second wave’ included well-educated Indian men with higher education and proficiency in English; Indian women entered primarily as dependants on their spouses. This second wave of Indian immigrants was able to secure professional and middle-class status that fuelled the ‘model minority’ myth (Abraham, 2005). The demographics of the Indian diaspora in the United States diversified significantly after changes to family reunification laws in the 1980s, which enabled members of the Indian diaspora to sponsor their family (e.g. spouses, children, siblings, and parents). This coincided with upheavals for diasporic communities in former British colonies in Africa, who were expelled by nationalist movements. Following the 1980s, the Indian diaspora in the United States became more diverse with regard to social, economic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds and their socio-economic status within the United States (Abraham, 2005). Immigration from India spiked again in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the boom in software engineering. During this period, the United States dramatically increased the flow of temporary foreign workers on H-1B visas (for high-skilled workers), the majority of whom originate in India. As a result, a growing number of immigrants from India have temporary resident visas that pivot on shortterm work contracts. The migration of high-skilled temporary foreign workers from India reproduces gender inequalities; in the United States, up to 70 per cent of people working on H-1B visas (for tech workers and software engineers) are men; while 70 per cent of H4 visa holders (for dependent spouses and children) are female (Bhuyan, 2007). Transformations in Canada’s immigration policies mirror some of the changes that took place in the United States, with notable differences. In 1967, Canada replaced its national preference system with a points system that heavily recruited ‘economic immigrants’ with higher education, language proficiency and professional training from around the world (Reitz, 2001). The emphasis on human capital, rather than race and national origin, led to significant migration from India and the Indian diaspora. The historical presence of Punjabi communities in Canada initially contributed to higher flows of Punjabi immigrants who continue to make up 30 per cent 231

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of all South Asians in Canada (Bhargava et al., 2008). However, immigrants have also migrated from across the Indian diaspora from former British colonies in the Caribbean and Africa, dislocated Ismailis from Uganda, as well as economic and family migration from India. While Canada has maintained a steady and relatively high flow of immigrants (i.e. people who enter Canada with permanent residence) through economic and family reunification programmes, Canada has steadily increased its reliance on temporary foreign workers for both ‘high’ and ‘low’ skill occupations. Gendered patterns of migration, where the majority of women from the Indian diaspora enter Canada and the United States as dependent spouses, have been exacerbated by the crackdown on so-called marriage fraud. In both countries, structures of dependence and inequality are produced through immigration sponsorship policies that increase women’s vulnerability to abuse and create barriers to accessing safety. Starting in 1986 with the Immigration and Marriage Fraud Amendment, the United States introduced a two-year conditional period for all newly sponsored spouses. Sponsored spouses in the Canadian context have similarly faced hardships if they experience domestic violence during the period when their applications for permanent residence are being processed, with few legal protections if they choose to leave their sponsoring spouse or partner. This situation worsened in Canada in 2012, when the Conservative government introduced a two-year conditional permanent residence status for newly sponsored spouses and partners who had been in a relationship for two years or less at the time of their application. The Conservative Canadian government took even more overt measures to target South Asian and Muslim communities through passing the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act in 2014, which criminalizes anyone involved in forced marriage and increases the discretionary powers of overseas immigration officers to reject anyone suspected of polygamy. Despite measures to restrict the rights of immigrants from the Global South, immigrants from India and the Indian diaspora are one of the fastest growing populations in Canada and the United States. Over 3.4 million South Asians were recorded in the U.S. Census in 2000 with Indians comprising the largest share at 80 per cent of this population (SAALT, 2012). In Canada, where one of five people are born outside Canada, Indians represent the largest visible minority group, the majority of whom have arrived within the past ten years (Statistics Canada, 2007). The growing population of Indians in Canada and the United States has in part been facilitated by the global increase in precarious migration including temporary foreign workers (and their dependants), international students, sponsored spouses and asylum seekers. Within these groups the absence of citizenship and permanent resident status raises concerns for survivors of domestic violence who lack basic political and social rights when seeking safety from abuse.

Domestic violence and intersecting oppressions in the Indian diaspora Articulating feminist and anti-racist perspectives from a diasporic perspective serves as a form of resistance to hegemonic discourses of national belonging, which marginalize the interests of minoritized groups. Kang (2006, 146) describes violence-against-women activists as ‘women who recognize that women are oppressed and that this oppression is systematic and institutionalized, and who are therefore consciously and voluntarily committed to end this oppression’. This activism has most commonly taken place in women’s centres, crisis intervention centres, advocacy and support groups, lobbying, public education, transition houses, service-providing agencies, and political action groups, embodying change in their everyday lives. Although activist scholars in the Indian diaspora have contributed to scholarly work on violence against women, the issues gain most visibility in more informal venues such as Kitchen Table Presses, community reports, artistic expression, and grassroots efforts to raise consciousness. 232

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In this section, we discuss some of the major themes that characterize community responses to address domestic violence in the Indian diaspora in Canada and the United States including: a) the emergence of South Asian identity in anti-violence against women organizing, b) problematizing culture in forced marriage and honour-based violence, c) immigration policy, d) transnational abandonment, and e) sexual abuse and sex selection. We primarily use the term Indian or Indian diaspora, but also use the term South Asian or specific ethnic, cultural, or social groups to reflect their use by community organizations and in scholarly literature (e.g. Punjabi, Muslim, Asian-Pacific Islander, Queer).

Emergence of South Asian identity in anti-violence against women organizing The emergence of a South Asian identity was foundational to political organizing against family and domestic violence in Canada and the United States through the formation of communitybased agencies. These grassroots efforts emerged to fill needed gaps felt within the community, in part because many mainstream feminist organizations ignored the specific needs of women of colour or immigrant women (Bhattacharjee, 1997; Merchant, 2000). South Asian Women’s Associations formed first as grassroots groups, then more formally as charitable and social service organizations that support survivors of domestic violence. Having immigrated from recently independent nations, many immigrants in the Indian diaspora found themselves isolated by both geography and experiences of racism in Canada and the United States. Scholarly research on violence against women in South Asian communities also emerged in the 1990s through special issues in leading academic journals that sought to define the etiology of domestic violence and monographs that examined the social and cultural context of domestic violence in Asian Indian and South Asian communities. These contributions have influenced the types of services and recognition granted to immigrant women in contexts of violence. The category South Asian or Asian Indian represents a vast cultural, spiritual, class, and ethnic diversity. Bhattacharjee (1997) suggests that this aggregate is taken up out of convenience but also as a strategy to transcend national politics towards inclusion of different groups with a shared background. This inclusiveness is important for increasing numbers when advocating for immigrant rights and changes in immigrant policy. On the other hand, Bhattacharjee notes that South Asian is not a ‘true’ category and can disguise both the power relations between nations and the diversity within each nation. In the United States, South Asian immigrant communities formed organizations to provide culturally safe domestic violence programmes within their communities. Starting in larger cities in New York, Chicago, and Newark, then spreading out to over 30 cities around the United States, organizations and programmes were developed to work specifically with immigrants from South Asian countries and the Indian diaspora (e.g. Sakhi in New York; Chaya in Seattle) or as part of pan-Asian organizing (e.g. Asian-Pacific Islander communities) (Dasgupta, 2000). In the Canadian context, ethno-specific organizations were fuelled by Canada’s official multicultural policies, which designated the English and French as the dominant groups, while encouraging ethno-specific groups to develop culturally relevant programmes and services. Groups such as the India Mahila Association (IMA), SAWAN (South Asian Women Action Network), SAWC (South Asian Women Centre), and Sahara (which means ‘support’ in Punjabi) emerged to confront the issue of marital violence in the South Asian communities, especially in Vancouver and Toronto. Increasing demand to solve the problems of immigrants gave birth to multicultural organizations such as MCFSS (Multi-Cultural Family Support Services), VCASAA (Vancouver Custody and Access Support and Advocacy Association), and MOSAIC (Multilingual Orientation Services Association for Immigrant Communities). Many community-based organizations 233

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that address the needs of immigrants including South Asian women are more geared towards service delivery than advocacy or activism, in part due to the ‘advocacy chill’ that has accompanied government funding (Bonisteel & Green, 2005; Ku, 2009).

Problematizing culture in domestic violence and ‘honour-based’ crimes Scholars have shown that immigration does not always enhance women’s status and that there is a complex web of factors that impede immigrant women of South Asian descent from seeking help when experiencing intimate violence (Bhattacharjee, 2001; Dasgupta, 1998). Gender asymmetries are often reproduced in the name of preserving heritage. Though traditionalism is often a coping mechanism to thwart the negative effects of racism and discrimination, Dasgupta (1998) argues that in the context of domestic violence tradition is used to excuse violence and at times may be a tool to exercise power and control. Violence that uses tradition as a tool of control can take at least two forms: 1) accusing a woman of being a traitor to her culture and threatening to ruin her reputation, and 2) forcing a woman to ‘assimilate’ and forbidding her to look or act South Asian. In each of these cases, women devise coping strategies to deal with the violence in their lives. The role of culture is particularly problematic when ‘honour’ is considered the motivation for violence against women. Feminist scholars and international human rights organizations define honour killing as culturally distinct forms of violence, where a woman is killed ‘to recover wounded, damaged or lost patriarchal honour’ (Olwan, 2013, 536). While honour-based crimes are often associated with South Asian and Muslim communities, Brandon and Hafez (2008, 1) note that ‘honour is a fluid concept, which has been widely interpreted in different societies’. Although sexualized honour, or honour that is rooted in male control over women’s bodies, has diminished with the rise of women’s autonomy and women’s rights, it still persists within and across conservative religious communities. Public scrutiny for honour-based crimes in Canada emerged in 2001, after the killing of a Canadian citizen, Samia Imran, who was murdered in Pakistan as she sought to finalize her divorce; in 2007 with the death of Aqsa Parvez; and in 2009 in the wake of the Shafia family murders, where three sisters and their stepmother were found dead in the Kingston Canal (Olwan, 2013). In each case, the assailants characterized honour as the motivation for their crimes. While media played a pivotal role in raising public concern for victims of ‘honour-based crimes’, Mahtani (2008) argues that such media portrayals reinforce cultural stereotypes of Muslims and South Asians as culturally backward threats to the nation. The Canadian Ministry for the Status of Women fuelled this culturalized approach with specific funding to address ‘harmful cultural practices’ in 2007, to address so-called honour-based crimes, including forced marriage. Advocates challenge that the notion of ‘honour’ to justify violence against women is hardly unique among Muslim and South Asian communities, rather, finding that targeting ‘cultural practices’ can worsen the victim’s isolation and undermine broader systemic advocacy for immigrants’ and women’s rights.

Addressing the structural violence of immigration policy Considering that the majority of women in the Indian diaspora immigrate to Canada and the United States via spousal sponsorship visas, immigration policy plays a direct role in abusive relationships. Since 1986 in the United States and 2012 in Canada, newly sponsored spouses are granted conditional permanent resident status that is contingent on proving their marriages were formed in ‘good faith’. Bhattacharjee explains that for women in abusive marriages, their 234

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immigration status is regularly used as a tool to keep them silent and prevent them from seeking outside help. Although the Violence against Women Act of 1994 (renewed in 2000) made provisions for ‘battered immigrants’ in the United States, the law requires the victim of abuse to prove they are experiencing extreme incidences of violence from their spouses. Immigrants who have a temporary or precarious status, especially if their immigration status is dependent on their spouse, are excluded from many support services when seeking help or safety from abuse (Kang, 2006). Domestic violence support services in many regions of Canada and the United States include emergency shelter and transitional housing; legal support for family, criminal and immigration law; support accessing public assistance (i.e. income assistance, childcare support, public housing); and police response to physical and sexual assault. People who are not citizens or permanent residents in Canada or the United States have limited rights to access publicly funded services. For example, access to employment, or publicly funded income assistance, childcare or healthcare may force a woman to remain with an abusive partner due to her economic insecurity. The fear of losing one’s immigration status or being deported contributes to the fear of calling the police or seeking help from friends and community members. Immigration options vary significantly in the United States and Canada. Both countries have introduced a conditional period of two years for newly sponsored spouses and partners, during which time the immigrant spouse must remain in the relationship to keep their legal status. Legal remedies to apply for permanent residence for ‘battered immigrants’ in the United States (e.g. VAWA self-petition) or ‘crime victims’ (e.g. U-visa) are available to some immigrants but require the ability to document the severity of abuse (Bhuyan, 2008). In the Canadian context, there are no specific legal remedies for victims of domestic violence, though there is a process of requesting a waiver from conditional permanent residence in cases of abuse and neglect (Bhuyan et al., 2014). Previously, advocates have successfully sought support for survivors through applying for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, although this avenue has become more difficult to access. Applications for asylum based on the United Nations Convention for refugees that are victims of gender-related persecution, including domestic violence, exist in theory in both countries; however, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that their home country failed to protect them (Bhuyan et al., 2016).

Transnational abandonment An emerging form of domestic violence that transcends national boundaries is the occurrence of transnational abandonment. Transnational abandonment refers to cases when a non-resident Indian, usually male, marries a woman from India and subsequently abandons her, either in the country where the marriage took place, in transit, or after returning to the country of residence (i.e. Canada or the United States). Abandonment can occur at anytime, before or at the time of marriage, during marriage, and also after the dissolution of marriage (Bajpai, 2013, 1247). Lodhia (2007) links abandonment with multiple forms of violence including economic deprivation of resources, emotional abuse as a result of shame experienced by the abandoned individual, and sexual abuse. This practice is also closely linked to transnational child abduction where a spouse may take the child to another country (i.e. either the home country or abroad), knowing that the mother is unable to travel to that location or that the difference in legal systems would make regaining custody very difficult (Malhotra, 2014). In cases of transnational abduction, women are forced to fight expensive legal battles and in some cases face charges of illegally abducting their children (Bajpai, 2013). Considering how transnational abandonment is reinforced by gendered inequality in international mobility, it is important to consider how increasingly restrictive immigration policies 235

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contribute to this practice. When traditional pathways to migration are inaccessible, migration through marriage increases in appeal as it brings honour to the family and provides the bride with access to life in a Western country. The negative impact of transnational abandonment is extenuated by the concepts of honour and patriarchy, which deem the abandoned bride to be dishonoured and unmarriageable. Families are often left with significant debt and brides are shunned and isolated. Legal resolution is difficult because an individual’s country of residence usually has jurisdiction over marriage and child custody (Bajpai, 2013). There is only one agreement that provides for international family dispute resolution, The Hague Conference on Private International Law; however, India is not a signatory. Even if there were legal avenues for resolution, many women face significant financial constraints due to having paid high dowries or they are unable to travel due to immigration barriers that enable their spouses to file for custody of children or divorce in their absence (Bajpai, 2013; Lodhia, 2007).

Sexual abuse and sex selection Research and activism to address sexual abuse indicates a high prevalence of sexual abuse in South Asian communities, but also pressure for victims to remain silent (Abraham, 1999; Raj & Silverman, 2007). The silence around sexual assault stems, in part, from the collectivist organization of family that reinforces women’s subordination to their spouse, male family members, and in-laws (Abraham, 1999). Expressions of sexual abuse in the Indian diaspora are deeply rooted in patriarchal values, whereby women must demonstrate ‘obedience, respect, loyalty, dependency, sexual access, sexual fidelity and ownership’ to their marital spouses (Lenton, 1995). Although women in the Indian diaspora may hold many roles in and outside of the home, cultural values idealize the wife’s role in marriage to ‘sacrifice unquestioningly and yield totally to the husband’s wishes’ (Dasgupta & Warrier, 1996). Women are thus commonly considered property by the groom’s side and a burden to their own family. Within the context of the Indian diaspora, unwanted sexual acts include child sexual abuse, rape by a spouse, and control over a woman’s reproductive rights (Abraham, 2005). Sexual assault in the context of marriage may result in unwanted pregnancy (Kallivayalil, 2010). At the same time, control over reproductive health may also involve women being pressured by their spouse or extended family to undergo an abortion. Refusing to have an abortion can be met with physical abuse leading to miscarriage (Kallivayalil, 2010). Sex selection for male children is an emerging social issue within the Indian diaspora in Canada, the United States, and transnationally. The preference for sons has historical roots in many of the groups in the Indian diaspora as a key site where patriarchal values are reified. Sons are valued for their ability to contribute to the family through ‘manual labour, war, elder care, property inheritance, continuation of the family name or blood line, and/or avoidance of the expense of dowries’ (Puri et al., 2011). The preference for sons continues in the diaspora and can serve as a common rationale for aborting female-identified foetuses (Raj & Silverman, 2007). In an attempt to prevent the use of abortions to enable sex selection, the Indian government passed legislation prohibiting the use of ultrasounds and sperm sorting. South Asians in Canada and the United States, however, have ready access to technologies that enable sex selection (Puri et al., 2011). In Canada, there are regulations prohibiting ‘sex selection in embryonic procedures, except to prevent, diagnose, or treat a sex-related disorder or disease’ (Clarke, 2015). However, sex selection is not perceived to be a social issue in the United States as the use of reproductive technologies has increasingly normalized sex selection as part of the process (Bhatia, 2010). Thus, the absence of legislation to prohibit the use of technologies for sex selection in the United States has led Canadian residents to seek such services across the border (i.e. services 236

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offered in Seattle for Vancouver-based communities). Nand (2008) suggests that the very act of selection that results in the abortion of female foetuses is an act of domestic violence, which demonstrates the range of violence women can experience throughout the lifespan.

Conclusion In this chapter we highlighted how the experience of domestic violence in the Indian diaspora is inextricably shaped by the immigration process and experiences of discrimination in white settler states. We also reviewed emerging issues – honour-based crimes, transnational abandonment, and sex selection – to illustrate how intersecting oppressions in the global context create barriers for victims of abuse to seek safety, but also constrain local and regional responses to violence in the lives of racialized minorities. Although violence against women is a visible social issue, many immigrants from India and the Indian diaspora, including second and third generation immigrants who are viewed as racial minorities, face violence in silence due to systemic barriers to seeking support and safety. Domestic violence continues to be most commonly understood as a private matter between marital partners, despite evidence that abusive and controlling practices often involve extended family, the community, and the state. Pressure to maintain silence around domestic violence may stem from an individual’s sense of shame, community norms that condone abusive behaviours to preserve male authority, as well as social systems that produce gendered inequality in families and through immigration policies. Public backlash against Sikhs and Muslims since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the highly publicized 2014 Barbaric Cultural Practices Act in Canada demonstrate how quickly the model minority stereotype for Indian immigrants can be replaced by criminalizing discourses. As a systemic problem, ending violence against women requires multi-level interventions that involve individuals, families, community norms, organizational practices, and public policies. South Asian Women’s Organizations and anti-violence against women organizations that work with immigrants from India and the Indian diaspora provide needed support to victims of domestic violence through culturally responsive services, language access, and advocacy for immigrants who have a precarious immigration status. Of late, many youth-led initiatives using digital means are challenging the status quo and provide critical hope for shifting public perceptions within the Indian diaspora as well the broader community. For example, Outburst!, a movement led by young Muslim women and girls in Toronto, Canada, works to build safe communities for Muslim women and trans people through art forms such as photography, spoken word, illustrated comics, a zine, and documentary videos ( Similarly, in the United States, performance art projects like South Asian Sisters (www. and Yoni Ki Raat (or Night of the Vagina) similarly dedicate themselves to resisting all forms of oppression through multiple forms of advocacy through theatre, social media, and community events ( While domestic violence remains a vital concern in the Indian diaspora, grassroots networks with innovative activist agendas are emerging across Canada and the United States. Diasporic activism against systematic oppressions gains momentum by acting in solidarity with key civil rights concerns that address anti-black racism within South Asian communities (SAALT, 2016), indigenous struggles for sovereignty (Walia, 2003), and workers’ rights (Das Gupta, 2006). As the broader anti-violence against women movement shifts away from emphasis on the criminal justice response towards restorative justice and community healing, communities in the Indian diaspora must grapple with longstanding forms of discrimination – sexism, homophobia, classism, and racism – while recognizing the enduring harm caused by domestic violence. 237

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Note 1 We follow the lead of anti-racist scholars in Canada and the United States who use the concept of ‘racialization’ to refer to social and political processes that mark some groups or bodies as deficient or inferior in relation to the dominant group.

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18 CELEBRATING INDIAN CULTURE Festival spaces and entangled lives in Darwin, North Australia Michele Lobo

Introduction The lives of Indian-Australians have attracted a great deal of global media attention due to the spate of racist attacks on taxi-drivers and students that took place in Melbourne in 2009–2010 (AAP, 2010). These attacks were followed by a protest by taxi-drivers outside Flinders Street Station, a prominent public space in Melbourne (Roberts & AAP, 2009). Continuing strong negative reactions towards these ‘visible’ migrant newcomers often expressed in metropolitan dailies suggest that their willingness to come together in solidarity, assert their rights as urban citizens or challenge dominant cultural norms that regulate acceptable social behaviour is not always welcomed (Squires, 2015; The Age, 2009). In this context of extreme reactionary discourses in a multicultural Australia more comfortable with expressions of migrant gratitude and economic contributions that can build a socially cohesive nation, it is crucial to turn the analytic spotlight on the diversity of the Indian diaspora and their intercultural encounters in public spaces. But so far, stories of visceral racism and multisensory convivial encounters or everyday multiculturalism have focused overwhelmingly on Sydney and Melbourne, large immigrantreceiving southern cities (Fincher & Shaw, 2011; Wise, 2010). Within this literature members of the Indian diaspora have attracted little scholarly attention. The outcome is that there is little understanding of how members of the growing Indian diaspora ‘go on’, survive, thrive and belong in Australian cities when the force of whiteness ‘stresses’ and fatigues their bodies. Although approaches that explore experiences of particular religious communities or regional groups such as Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Anglo-Indians and Punjabis are emerging, there is little attention to social challenges in small northern cities that have a visible Aboriginal as well as a growing ethnic minority migrant population of diasporic Indians (Bilimoria et al., 2015; Lobo & Morgan, 2012). Strands of existing migration literature that draw on quantitative data and analyse factors that attract these temporary/permanent immigrants, though valuable, provide little understanding of these social challenges (Schech, 2014). Given the increase in both the numbers and diversity of the Indian-born migrants in Australia, particularly in small towns and cities, there is a need for more ethnographic research of this growing diasporic group and its continuously evolving, creolising cultures (ABS, 2013; Khorana, 2014). This chapter focuses on Darwin (pop. 120,586 in 2011), a small tropical northern city with a population of polyethnic heritage that is an outcome of interracial mingling between 241

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Aboriginals, ethnic minority migrants (including Filipinos, Malays and Chinese residents) and Anglo-Australians (Martinez, 2006). While the history of such mixed relations is well documented, there is little contemporary research that explores continuities, legacies and interruptions to this history in the everyday experiences and negotiations of difference by the Indian diaspora in Darwin. In addition to residents who have lived for more than 30 years in Darwin, the city has a high ‘population churn’ and attracts fly-in fly-out professionals, international students, skilled workers, humanitarian migrants and Aboriginal visitors from small towns, some of whom camp in public spaces. The growing population of migrant newcomers (including Indians) is eager to gain permanent residency status and/or Australian citizenship. Many of them work in asylum seeker detention centres (Blaydin Point and Wickham Point), private taxi agencies and restaurants where employment is precarious. In contrast, Indian professionals are employed in universities, hospitals, government/non-government organisations and large offshore natural gas projects/mining projects. Therefore, although the Indian population of Darwin is very small, they are visible in public spaces by gender, class, age and physical appearance as they work, shop or engage in leisure activities. Darwin’s history of a unique ‘multicultural culture’ (Martinez, 2006, 132) is marked by Aboriginal–white–ethnic minority contact. This chapter explores the contemporary nature of these contacts in more detail by focusing on two Indian festivals that are held in prominent public spaces of the city: ‘India@Mindil’ held in the dry season (June) on Mindil beach and the ‘Holi festival’ held at the end of the wet season at Alexander Lake, East Point Reserve. Duffy et al. (2011) argue that festival spaces provide new understandings of questions of belonging and the ways we experience and are embedded in the world. They call for experimental methodologies and creative ways of writing about belonging that is embodied and sensory. This chapter responds to their call by drawing on participant observation at these festivals as well as in-depth interviews and focus groups with members of the Indian diaspora. To try and capture the sensory experiences of engaging in these ritualised, colourful and playful performances, participants took photographs and recorded short videos. The staging of Indian festivals such as Holi and India@Mindil in public spaces celebrates the diversity of the Indian community and provides opportunities for co-presence, mingling and chance encounters as well as the opportunity to build friendships. For example, Holi is a small celebration that is particularly welcoming for new Indian migrants and is an opportunity to get to know well-established members of the Indian community. This means that the awareness of axes of difference such as gender, class, ethnicity, race and visa status that results in social inequities is more evident in this festival space – homeless Aboriginals who are racialised and ‘live rough’ in this space are more visible. In contrast, India@Mindil is a much larger commercial venture supported by the government and private entrepreneurs that showcases and perhaps also exoticises the diversity of Indian culture. This festival, which is staged at a traditional Aboriginal meeting place, enables Indians to take pride in their diverse cultural heritage. It also provides opportunities for those who are curious to learn about Indian ways of life and cultural traditions. Through the thick description of the two festivals and stories told by members of the Indian diaspora, I attempt to unsettle parallel discourses of Indigenous sovereignty explored within the realm of ‘Aboriginal Studies’ and migrant integration, understood within discourses of multiculturalism (Shaw, 2007). These parallel discourses/policies disguise the visceral nature of white power and privilege that burdens bodies of colour by framing Aboriginal–ethnic minority encounters in terms of interethnic/interracial tensions (Lobo, 2014). For Ram, a migrant newcomer who drives a taxi in Darwin, Indigenous sovereignty and the ‘unique contribution’ of the First Peoples of the land is hard to value when he is intimidated by the aggression of raw 242

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white racism or ‘redneck racism’ that unfolds when he picks up passengers from city suburbs on Friday nights. He says: Sometimes it is hard, like, when you get some really drunk people, sometimes you get abused. People sometimes do behave in a stupid way. Sometimes you do get a couple of incidents after every two weeks. Like people being aggressive and you know hitting a taxi driver. In the context of such aggressive behaviour and racism in a city with hypervisible Aboriginals and migrant newcomers from countries in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, interethnic/ intercultural relations are even more complex compared with the situation in southern cities (Cowlishaw, 2005; Ford, 2011). Festival sites are therefore places where the opportunity for intercultural encounters is facilitated in ways that extend understandings of everyday multiculturalism beyond its narrow focus on white–ethnic minority relations. This is possible because public spaces in Darwin have always played an important role as sites of convivial intercultural contact even though discriminatory policies of racial segregation created four different worlds – the white officialdom, Chinatown, pearling fleets and ‘native’ camps (Martinez, 2006). Today these worlds tend to come together when festivals are staged by the Indian diaspora in Darwin.

The Indian diaspora and Australian multiculturalism Indians in Australia are largely of a middle-class background and many of them are ‘twice migrants’ who have lived in another country such as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Canada or South Africa for several years before their arrival (Voigt-Graf, 2005). Today, the Indian population is one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia with a 12 per cent increase between 2003 and 2013 (ABS, 2015). Indian migrants, however, have been living in Australia for more than a century – 150 years ago, migrants from Punjab in northern India settled along the Australian East Coast and worked as agricultural labourers, but were less visible as they worked in rural areas (Jain, 2011). The ‘newer’ phase of migration dates from the 1950s and 1960s when, following Indian independence, a small number of Anglo-Indians or Indians of mixed British/Indian heritage (including members of my extended family) who felt marginalised in the subcontinent, immigrated and settled in Australian cities (Blunt & Dowling, 2006; Jayaram, 2008; Lobo & Morgan, 2012). The introduction of the racially discriminatory White Australia policy in 1901, however, regulated which Anglo-Indians could settle in Australia; they had to provide official proof of their British heritage. Because of these immigrants’ desire to assimilate into the dominant white/Anglo majority culture, the lightness of their skin colour and their ways of life, the Indians who settled in large southern cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide experienced belonging by ‘accumulating whiteness’ (Hage, 1998, 58; Lobo & Morgan, 2012). Hage (1998, 53) points out that whiteness in the Australian context is a kind of cultural capital that can be accumulated by acquiring a particular ‘linguistic, physical and cultural disposition’ through look, accent, taste, attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle preferences. The accumulation of such privilege that characterises Angloness suggests that these Indian migrants were complicit in Indigenous dispossession; they failed to acknowledge Aboriginals, nationally recognised as the traditional custodians of the land, who had been living in Australia for more than 40,000 years. With the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, the arrival of Indian migrants of more diverse ethnic backgrounds began to increase. This was further facilitated with the introduction of Australia’s multicultural policy framework in the early 1970s that aimed to value the 243

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benefits of ethnic diversity. While this framework acknowledges that government services and programmes must be responsive to the needs of culturally diverse communities, it seeks to tailor these services with the goal of producing a ‘socially cohesive nation’ (Australian Government, 2010). The Australian Government’s Diversity and Social Cohesion Program’s funding for multicultural arts and festivals values difference by supporting community groups to express their cultural traditions. However, western anxieties about Islam and hyphenated loyalties as well as the European immigration crisis stimulate media debates that question whether Australian multiculturalism is a ‘failed experiment’, a ‘bad 1970s fashion’ that is divisive, or a policy that unites Australians through citizenship so they become a part of the family of the nation (ABC, 2014; Albrechtsen, 2016). In the context of such public debates about official multiculturalism, this chapter argues that the everyday multiculturalism that unfolds through encounters in festival spaces provides opportunities for belonging that in many ways attempt to decentre the power and privilege of whiteness and Angloness that burdens and fatigues members of the Indian diaspora.

Spaces of celebration The Indian diaspora in Darwin is a transnational socio-cultural formation and an imagined community with blurred boundaries and collective memories that are sustained by real and/or symbolic ties to their original homeland (Bhat, 2009). For many, one of the ways that such memories stay alive and provide a sense of cultural belonging in Darwin is through religious practices such as collective prayer in Hindu temples by women, Friday prayer at mosques during Ramadan and prayer/novenas in local churches. In contrast to practices in places of worship that bring together specific religious groups such as Hindus, Muslims and Christians, celebrations staged in public spaces like Holi and Diwali (religious festivals that involve play) provide the opportunity for the Indian diaspora to shelve any inter-religious/interethnic differences or conflicts and celebrate their diverse cultural heritage. The celebratory gloss of such diversity might seem apolitical, but it epitomises an experience of everyday multiculturalism that has the potential to contribute to a progressive politics of co-inhabitation and belonging if ethnic minority migrants, Aboriginals and Anglo-Australians learn to share space with curiosity, joy, respect and care. Such joy and care is visible at the festival of Holi. In India, Holi, or the Festival of Colours, is a popular Hindu festival that is held at the end of winter and celebrates the arrival of spring. While this festival has a religious significance for Hindus and prayers are offered, it is also a playful event that many Indians celebrate and enjoy. The festival of Holi involves spraying brightly coloured liquid or smearing a dry powder on one another. In Darwin, Holi falls at the end of the wet season when it is very hot and humid and the celebrations are usually on the shady shores of Alexander Lake. It brings together people of diverse ages, including senior citizens, young single women/men, parents and children. It is a sunny morning and I arrive early at the Lake Alexander barbecue area. In a short while Darwin’s diverse ‘Indian’ population appear and soon there are approximately sixty of us. We greet each other with ‘Happy Holi’ and then embrace and smear our faces with a dry red powder. Washable acrylic paint in bright colours such as purple, red, green and orange is mixed in buckets with ice and children begin to fill their water pistols – the cool water feels good on the body on a hot day. Children run around and spray colour on one another. Some of us, adults, duck, chase the children and participate fully in the festivities and soon our clothes are stained in multi-coloured hues. As we relax on the picnic chairs or the mats laid on the grass, barbecue ovens in the park are fired and savoury snacks and cold drinks are served. Indian delicacies include curries, sweets (ladoos) and a variety of snacks (pao bhaji, dhoklas). After some time, an older woman, Kavita, who often caters food for such events, arrives with steaming hot rice, chicken curry and 244

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vegetables. While Kavita, who spent her childhood in Fiji, takes pride in her Indian heritage by cooking food and wearing a salwar kameez, she is one of the few women in Darwin who also takes pride in describing herself as the daughter-in-law of an Aboriginal family. She said: My husband likes Indian food, my kids eat Indian food, and my [Aboriginal] communities will eat my Indian food. They love my curries. Among the circle of men and women conversations are in English, but also Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. We engage in conversation about the availability of jobs, the latest product at Indian grocery stores, new recipes, forthcoming social activities or something that happened at the shopping mall. This small talk, food and the smearing/spraying of colour enables members of the Indian diaspora, including migrant newcomers and long-term residents, to celebrate and take pride in their heritage. For Jayani, who has been living in Darwin for more than 30 years and assumes leadership in the Indian diasporic community, it provides the opportunity to welcome ‘new faces’. She reminisces about a time when she had arrived from the UAE but soon knew every ‘Indian looking face’: At the time the [Indian] Association was set up we would get these few Indian families together for Indian Festivals at someone’s house and share a meal or do a few simple things. Since then it has grown and now we have a lot of Indians now in Darwin.There was a time when I used to know . . . maybe 15 years ago I used to know every Indian looking face. In contrast to Jayani, an active and older member of the ‘Indian’ community, Maya and Priya are young women and practising Christians who are Australian-born and don’t always attend Indian diasporic social gatherings. However, they never miss Holi celebrations in Darwin and use my video camera to explain why: Maya: Holi is always a lot of fun because of all the colour that gets thrown about everywhere and water. You get to completely destroy with colour somebody else’s face and clothing. So we make sure we wear the worst clothing possible as Priya is obviously wearing today. I mean it’s put together with pins and what not. Priya: We throw people into it [the lake] but we don’t go swimming in it. Maya and Priya were wearing their ‘worst’ clothes in public. Perhaps it is only the homeless in Darwin, ‘long grassers’ who ‘live rough’, who otherwise wear old, tattered clothes in public. Darwin has the highest rate of homelessness (Lea, 2014) in urban Australia, and some of these homeless people or ‘long grassers’ are visible camping under shady trees on the shores of Alexander Lake. Everyone is aware of their presence. They watch us while we spray colour but never approach us. Soon they will be ‘moved on’ by the police (Lea et al., 2012). Lea et al. (2012) argue that such spatial policing of public space is reinforced by discourses of antisocial behaviour that racialise ‘long grassers’ and aim to render them invisible. In contrast, Maya and Priya will never be ‘moved on’ by police and can laugh and joke about their tattered clothing. Perhaps Aboriginal people seem invisible when Maya and Priya speak further about their life in Darwin and their friendships with people of multi-ethnic and multi-racial backgrounds. As university students and young professionals, however, they regret that they do not have many Aboriginal friends. Today there are several opportunities to mix with members of the Indian diaspora as well as Anglo-Australian guests, elected members and officials from 245

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government/non-government organisations who are welcomed by our attention and served hot Indian food. Aboriginal people, however, are on the edges of this space and perhaps our attention. It seems then that the Holi festival is a ‘playful’ coming together that brings together members of the Darwin community in a selective manner; ‘long grassers’ are curious onlookers. Perhaps for a short while they escape the discriminatory gaze that racialises them in public space. As the sun rises higher in the sky everyone starts bidding farewell. Before going, the ‘Indian’ women place some cakes and savouries on the park tables for the Aboriginal onlookers. I stay behind. Soon one of these woman who has been watching us approaches me and collects a purse from the table – it is her purse and she shows me her identity card to prove this. Perhaps this is because those who ‘live rough’ are so accustomed to being criminalised, particularly since the military-led Federal Government Northern Territory Emergency Response (2007) popularly known as the ‘Intervention’, was implemented (Lobo, 2014). Three men and the woman come and sit on the bench near me, they eat the food and we exchange stories. I tell them that I am a Melbournian who grew up in Kolkata and talk about my life in India. Perhaps they joke with me when they say they eat pythons and carpet snakes – I don’t believe them. I discover that they have arrived from Croker Island to the north of Darwin, and the woman, Joan, has come to visit her son in prison. This is a common reason for visiting Darwin as the rate of Indigenous incarceration here is one of the highest in the country (Lea, 2014). The structural and symbolic violence that is an ongoing outcome of white occupation (Lea et al., 2012) and expressed in the materiality of Joan’s existence contrasts with the romanticising of Indigenous creativity and knowledge that takes tourists and researchers to places like Croker Island that are ‘off the beaten track’ beyond the city. It seems then that this Holi festival with curious Aboriginal onlookers is a unique multicultural experience quite different from any Indian memories of Holi played in courtyards and streets. The festival on the shores of Alexander Lake entangles Darwinites, including long-term residents (with roots to Goa, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Fiji and Aboriginal Australia), the Australian-born, migrant newcomers, Anglo-Australians, ‘long grassers’ and me, a visitor from Melbourne. Through our gestures of spraying/smearing colour, small talk, food and awareness of Aboriginal dispossession/disadvantage members of a diverse Indian community learn to belong without accumulating whiteness. Such learning occurs through serendipitous meetings that contribute to the creation of an accidental and temporary sense of community – rawness rather than just the gloss of multicultural festivities. I now turn my attention to a much larger public event that is well known in Darwin – India@Mindil. Large cultural festivals are increasingly becoming part of the Indian diasporic experience in white majority nations like the USA, UK and Australia. These commercial attractions showcase the diversity of Indian culture as well as the entrepreneurial skills of the Indian diaspora. Cultural difference is valued but also marketed with the support of grants from national as well local government multicultural organisations and private entrepreneurs. For example, I have seen India@Mindil emblazoned on aircraft that fly to tropical Darwin in the dry season, operated by Qantas Airlines, Australia’s largest domestic carrier that markets itself as embracing the spirit of Australia. India@Mindil attracts about 12,000 people, which include Darwinites but also tourists from different parts of Australia and increasingly even overseas. The festival is held on Mindil beach on the last Saturday of June, which is the cool dry season. This is a season of enjoyment that provides welcome relief after the heat and humidity that drives locals ‘troppo’ (crazy, irritable and aggressive). Planning for this ‘multicultural bonanza’ organised by the Indian Cultural Society starts six months in advance, and informal as well as virtual networks such as Facebook 246

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are used to invite participation from a diverse Indian diaspora. Jayani, a resident of Darwin, has been organising this festival over the past 18 years. She says: So it’s basically a dance and music festival. We have stalls, Indian stalls, the whole community in Darwin, including the tourists can come in, you know, they can savour an Indian meal, they see a little bit of Indian music and dance and culture, and just enjoy the evening. Every year we treat the audience to something different, because India has so much to offer, so much to offer in so many different ways, that no two India@Mindil performances are the same. Jayani tries her best to be inclusive and takes a lot of care to make sure that every year has a theme and offers something different to festival goers – residents, short-term visitors, tourists as well as youth of diverse backgrounds. The theme of the 2016 festival is josh, a Hindi word for vibrancy, exuberance and vigour. The Indian flavour of the festival contrasts with the smaller bi-weekly open-air market with Asian stalls at Mindil beach which celebrates Darwin’s polyethnic history and cosmopolitan feel. For example, at India@Mindil, many festival goers are men who dress in Nehru suits and kurta pajamas (long shirt with tight trousers). Women wear bright silk saris, chiffon saris with zari (designs with gold/silver thread), embroidered salwar kameez, large jhumkas (earrings), colourful bangles and stone-studded chokers (Indian necklaces). Their foreheads are further adorned with glittering bindis. Men and women speak in languages such as Hindi, Tamil and Bengali and move to the thumping beat of Bollywood music – there is excitement in the air. There are stalls selling culinary delicacies from all over India including dosas, idlis, biriyani, kebabs and chaat. Young women stand in front of their home-made posters advertising regional specialities: ‘It is hot and on the roll – Dosa’, ‘Never say never to Mumbai Bhel puri’, ‘Veg wonder 7’ and ‘Gujju @ Mindil’ or Gujarati food. Passers-by unfamiliar with these savoury snacks stop to ask questions about the food and buy some. The festival also celebrates Indian crafts and arts practices. At the cultural pavilion decorated with colourful orange, pink and red diaphanous fabric, pressure cookers, portable stoves and recipes are displayed, Three women wearing aprons teach festival goers how to cook simple Indian dishes. At another stall festival goers are taught how to dye saris and use henna paste (mehndi) to etch intricate paisley designs on palms and hands. There are stalls selling Indian jewellery, hijabs, embroidered blouses, Indian music CDs. The stall where young women tattoo hands and palms with henna has the longest queue. As evening falls and it becomes cooler, the cultural programme commences. A young man wearing a kurta pajama outfit welcomes everyone in Hindi and English. Everyone stands up and sings the Indian and Australian national anthems. Speeches are given by ministers, elected local council members and members of Indian community associations. The large illuminated stage facing the beach comes alive when performing artistes showcase the diversity of Indian dance styles; there are performances from classical/folk dance troupes who have travelled all the way from India as well as members of regional Indian community associations, some of whom have their roots in Singapore as well as Fiji. Bollywood dance styles, Bihu (folk dance from Assam), bhangra (folk dance from Punjab) and classical dances such as Kathakali and Odissi are performed. South Asian community associations such as the Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Nepali associations, also actively participate in the festival. Festival organisers regret that so far they have not been able to involve the Pakistani association but are confident this will happen in the following year. Festival goers who sit on their camp chairs or mats or cross legged on the grass applaud, pose for group photographs or take ‘selfies’ with their phones. There is a lot of laughter. 247

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India@Mindil enables diasporic children to take pride in their Indian heritage. They get the opportunity to learn songs and dances from Indian teachers who are especially brought to Darwin a few months before the festival to train them. The girls dress in colourful ghaghras/ cholis (flowing long skirt and blouse) and the boys wear kurtas pajamas – the bells on their bare feet produce a clinking sound as they move to the sound of the music. Mindil is a place where an Indian welcome is staged. For Aboriginals, traditional custodians of the land, Mindil-Ang-Gwa or Mindil beach is a sacred ancestral burial ground, meeting place and a place of welcome too (Bauman, 2006; Luckman, 2011). Today this welcome resonates through the rhythmic beat of the drums and the deep melodic sound of the didgeridoo that is always played at the bi-weekly Mindil market. This music in the background echoes ambient environmental sounds – the call of bush animals, chirping birds, breaking waves and rustling of leaves. These ‘natural’ sounds of Aboriginal land and sea country blend with Indian folk and Bollywood music that has a rhythmic and thumping beat. Residents and visitors who come to celebrate the diversity of Indian culture, however, are not always aware of the history of Mindil beach. This is because the monument of Tiwi Islander Pukamani Burial poles that mark Aboriginal presence in this public space is often invisible in the midst of the glitz, glamour and fun that is part of India@Mindil. Chetan, a long-time resident of Darwin of Indian origin who works in an Aboriginal NGO, however, celebrates this presence by involving children of Aboriginal heritage in a performance at India@Mindil. Months before the festival, Chetan and two Australian-born young women (including his daughter) who are classical Indian dancers train these children to sing Tamil songs and perform dances from Tamil Nadu. It is a small scale, family effort that is done in makeshift community spaces including their home in suburban Darwin. Chetan said: At the superficial level there seems to be a big disconnect between Indian Tamils and Aboriginals. At a spiritual level, they are not very different. Spiritually they are very similar. Last few years I used to do singing [and dancing] at India@Mindil with Aboriginal kids. Did I tell you? I met Jane and Andrew, parents of the Aboriginal dancers who participated in the festival. They felt that the inclusion of their daughters in the programme provided the opportunity to participate as well as creolise the performance of Indian culture. Jane and Andrew underlined that the commodification of culture at India@Mindil that attracted a growing diasporic Indian community, however, alienated older members of the Aboriginal community. It was hard for them to brave the crowds and identify with the culture on show at this large commercial attraction. Chetan regretted that the festival had a strong Bollywood theme as well as a North Indian focus; he wanted a better reflection of the Tamil and Aboriginal presence in Darwin. He also felt that Indian and Aboriginal cultures had a shared spirituality; land and water are sacred in both sets of cultural beliefs and celebrated through rituals and ceremonies. Jayani, one of the organisers of the festival, however, is less aware of these tensions within the Indian community and recalls the event by valuing Chetan’s efforts. She says: Well Chetan actually put his hand up and said he will do a Tamil dance and a Tamil song – because he works with Aboriginal children. He said that he will get the Aboriginal children to [dance] – he will train [them] – his daughter dances really well. She has learnt [classical] dancing. Imagine Aboriginal people actually participating at an India@Mindil festival! 248

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Since the festival is held at the weekend, many Indians who work as taxi-drivers or do part-time/shift work at take-away restaurants and the hospital find it hard to participate. For example, Ram, a young single man, a migrant newcomer of Indian heritage who arrived in Darwin six months ago, finds it hard to settle in a new country because of his inability to get a job that recognises his skills. He drives a taxi at night and has little time or money to participate in large festivals organised by the Indian diaspora such as India@Mindil. His inability to participate problematises the state policy of multiculturalism that celebrates the glamour of cultural difference and promotes its value to a wider Australian population in an attempt to strengthen social cohesion. Ram’s precarious employment conditions mean that he is unable to participate in all the conventional social fare or protocols of conviviality associated with immigrants/ diasporic communities. Migrant newcomers with children, however, try to come for the fireworks display that illuminates the dark night sky at Mindil beach. It brings joy and reminds them (and me) of Diwali in India when family and friends light fireworks in public spaces such as streets, parks and courtyards – our memories are of festivals unfolding in banal city spaces.

Conclusion This chapter has shown that Indian festivals staged in public spaces create opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds in Darwin to come together and celebrate Indian culture in a white settler society. The stories of multicultural co-presence reveal and value the voices of members of the Indian diaspora who differ by ethnicity, religion, age, generation and gender. Such co-presence or the sharing of festival spaces captures the complexity of the multicultural dynamics in north Australian cities like Darwin with its polyethnic history of Aboriginal–South East Asian contact, a visible Aboriginal presence and a growing population of migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees) who are commonly grouped under the generic term of ‘Indians’. Through celebration and community rituals, members of the Indian diaspora develop a sense of belonging in Australia even though they have lived in India, Fiji, Singapore, the UAE and UK. Dress, food, music, dance and fireworks play an important role to this end. The Holi festival at Alexander Lake and the much larger India@Mindil festival at the beach provides the opportunity for migrant newcomers, long-term residents and the Australian-born of the Indian diaspora to experience both Darwin and Australia as a ‘beautiful country’ and a ‘highly multicultural’ city, in spite of the racism encountered. Such moments of welcome are often easier at small events such as the Holi festival where informal interactions about the everyday unfold. The festival offers a space for migrant newcomers to forget the pressures of everyday life for a few hours as they smear colour and welcome each other. These small gatherings also provide the opportunity for young diasporic women like Priya and Maya who are Australian-born to reconnect performatively with their Indian roots. India@Mindil with its focus on music, dance and food showcases a version of the Indian homeland through performative practices that engage a diverse and imagined community of Indians. Indian community organisations are supported through initiatives and grants provided by government organisations within a multicultural policy framework that recognises that cultural diversity provides Australia with a competitive edge. In response to such mainstream recognition, gratitude is always expressed by providing a special welcome to guests/dignitaries at these festivals who often belong to a white majority culture. While such rituals of welcome epitomise an essentialised notion of ‘Indian’ hospitality, they satisfy white desire to value cultural difference (even through commodification). The unintended effect, however, is the reproduction of the power and privilege of whiteness and the white/ethnic minority binary that is central to official and multicultural discourses in Australia. Such a binary creates a social 249

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distance between Aboriginal peoples, including Larrakia people, who are traditional custodians of the land on which Darwin is built. It then poses a challenge to official multicultural policy that seeks to be ‘about all Australians and for all Australians’ (Australian Government, 2010). Celebrations such as Holi and India@Mindil described here show how the white/ethnic binary is unsettled when the lives of the members of the Indian diaspora in Darwin are entangled with Aboriginal peoples who are visible in public space. Since Holi is ‘played’ at Alexander Lake, a space that is frequented by ‘long grassers’, Indian-Australian lives get entangled with Aboriginal lives through a quiet co-presence that involves the sharing of space and gentle gestures of leaving food on the table after the celebrations are over. Perhaps a popular discourse that circulates about hierarchical Indian–Aboriginal class relations familiar in Darwin is both reproduced and unsettled (Lobo, 2014). Such hierarchical relations are less evident at India@ Mindil when histories of Aboriginal presence resonate through music and the materiality of Pukamani poles. Such performances and symbols of Aboriginal culture serve as reminders that Darwin (both land and sea) is Aboriginal country. However, the risk is the freezing of culture in ways that locate Aboriginality in the past rather than the present. Yet in spite of these risks, celebrations offer opportunities for diasporic communities to respect Aboriginal values and ways of life through serendipitous encounters in festival spaces.

Acknowledgements This research was possible through an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher award (DE 130100250). I would like to thank the residents of Darwin, ethnic minority community organisations, Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory, and the Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University for their support.

References AAP. (2010). We’ve Known for Two Years about Indian Attacks: Overland. The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January. ABC. (2014). Mongrel Nation, Multiculturalism: The Australian Way. Available from: radionational/programs/mongrelnation/multiculturalism---the-australian-way/5140986 (Accessed on 3 May 2016). ABS. (2013). Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012–2013, Cat num 2071.0. Australian Bureau of Statistics.[email protected]/mf/2071.0 (Accessed 25 May 2017). ABS. (2015). Migration, Australia, 2011–12 and 2012–13, Cat num 3412.0. Australian Bureau of Statistics.[email protected]/DetailsPage/3412.02011-12%20and%202012-13 (Accessed 25 May 2017). Albrechtsen, J. (2016). Multiculturalism Has Proven Divisive, Not Coalescent, So Let’s Ditch It. Available from: (Accessed on 3 May 2016). Australian Government. (2010). The People of Australia: Australia’s Multicultural Policy, Dept of Social Services, Settlement and Multicultural Affairs. Available from: documents/12_2013/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf (Accessed on 3 May 2016). Bauman, T. (2006). Aboriginal Darwin. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. Bhat, C. (2009). Transnational Networks among the Indian Diaspora Communities: The Regional Dimension. Diaspora Studies, 2(1), 1–29. Bilimoria P., Bhalchandra, J., Hughes B. and Hughes P. (2015). Indian Diaspora: Hindus and Sikhs in Australia. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld. Blunt, A. and Dowling R. (2006). Home. New York: Routledge. Cowlishaw, G. (2005). Who’s Upsetting Who? Strangeness, Morality, Nostalgia, Pleasure. In: T. Lea and B. Wilson, eds, The State of the North 2003: A Selection of Papers from the 2003 Charles Darwin Symposia. Darwin, Australia: Charles Darwin University Press, pp. 203–223.


Celebrating Indian culture in Darwin Duffy, M., Waitt, G., Gorman-Murray, A. and Gibson, C. (2011). Bodily Rhythms: Corporeal Capacities to Engage with Festival Spaces. Emotion, Space and Society, 4, 17–24. Fincher, R. and Shaw K. (2011). Enacting Separate Social Worlds: ‘International’ and ‘Local’ Students in Public Space in Central Melbourne. Geoforum, 42, 539–549. Ford, R. (2011). Acceptable and Unacceptable Immigrants: How Opposition to Immigration in Britain is Affected by Migrants’ Region of Origin. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(7), 1017–1037. Hage, G. (1998). White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society. Annandale, Victoria, Australia: Pluto Press. Jain, R. K. (2011). Anthropology and Diaspora Studies: An Indian Perspective. Asian Anthropology, 10(1), 45–60. Jayaram, N. (2008). Heterogeneous Diaspora and Asymmetrical Orientations: India, Indians and the Indian Diaspora. Diaspora Studies, 1(2), 1–21. Khorana, S. (2014). From ‘De-Wogged’ Migrants to ‘Rabble Rousers’: Mapping the Indian Diaspora in Australia. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 35, 250–264. Lea, T. (2014). Darwin. Sydney: Newsouth. Lea, T., Young, M., Markham, F., Holmes, C. and Doran, B. (2012). Being Moved (On): The Biopolitics of Walking in Australia’s Frontier Towns. Radical History Review, 114(Fall), 139–163. Lobo, M. (2014). Affective Energies: Sensory Bodies on the Beach in Darwin, Australia. Emotion, Space and Society, 12, 101–109. Lobo, M. and Morgan, L. (2012). Whiteness and the City: Australians of Anglo-Indian Heritage in Suburban Melbourne. South Asian Diaspora, 4(2), 123–137. Luckman, S. (2011). Tropical Cosmopolitanism and Outdoor Food Markets in (post) Colonial Australia. Continuum, 25(5), 653–667. Martinez, J. (2006). Ethnic Policy and Practice in Darwin. In: R. Ganter, ed., Mixed Relations Asian–Aboriginal Contact in North Australia. Crawley, Australia: University of West Australia Press, pp. 122–139. Roberts, B. and AAP. (2009). 18 Arrests amid Indian Protest over Melbourne Race Violence. Herald Sun, 1 June. Schech, S. (2014). Silent Bargain or Rural Cosmopolitanism? Refugee Settlement in Regional Australia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40, 601–618. Shaw, W. S. (2007). Cities of Whiteness. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Squires, W. (2015). Why I Hail Uber and Damn Taxis. The Age, 30 May. The Age. (2009). Rogue Taxi Drivers. The Age, 3 July 2009. Available from: yoursay/archives/2009/07/rogue_taxi_driv.html (Accessed on 10 June 2016). Voigt-Graf, C. (2005). The Construction of Transnational Spaces by Indian Migrants in Australia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31, 365–384. Wise, A. (2010). Sensuous Multiculturalism: Emotional Landscapes of Interethnic Living in Australian Suburbia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(6), 917–937.


19 SOFTENING INDIA ABROAD Representations of India and its diaspora in the Canadian press Huzan Dordi and Margaret Walton-Roberts

Introduction The aim of this chapter is to understand how India and its diaspora have been represented in two Canadian newspapers over the past thirteen years (1999–2012), and how the style of representation has changed during that time period. We use the categories of soft power, hard power, and deficient state as three conceptual lenses to examine how India and its diaspora were represented in the Canadian print media. We focus on two major Canadian newspapers, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, and assess relevant Indo-centric articles in terms of how they align with the three categories of soft power, hard power, and deficient state. Building on Pritchett’s concept of ‘flailing state’ (2009), we propose the notion of the deficient state not only to incorporate how the flaws of the government are communicated in the press, but also to signal how this might be extended to the representation of that nation’s diasporic communities in their sites of global settlement, in our case Canada. Since the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, India’s position and role at both the regional and the global level have been transformed (Tharoor, 2007). These recent successes could be attributed to its vibrant economy, a population dividend that few countries possess, and a booming middle class with immense consumer power. As the entire world was suffering from the debilitating effects of the global financial crisis, India (alongside China) emerged relatively unscathed, registering a 6.9 per cent growth in GDP, effectively supporting global economic stability during this period (Dossani, 2009). The media and cultural profile of India are also ascending through the global circulation of Indian cultural products (Dossani, 2009). For example, Bollywood has gone global; the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) holds its annual awards ceremony in global cities where large Indian diasporas reside; India’s fashion models are visible on the runways of Milan and Paris. Clothes, architecture, sculpture, and paintings designed and created by Indians are gaining exposure to a wider global audience (T.E.D., 2009). It is almost impossible not to find an Indian restaurant in a decent sized city anywhere in the world (Lee, 2010). As India comes to the forefront, everything from yoga and Ayurveda to Indian food and the arts is finding a niche in western markets. How does this interest in India relate to media coverage of the country and its diaspora, and what does it reveal about how globalization is shifting the nature of social and spatial representations of India and Indians in the media? We are interested in the process of 252

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how “cultures and practices developed around media forms provide an analytical space from which to examine how the global is performed, reproduced, and contested within the material specificities of everyday life” (Hegde, 2011, 6). In this chapter, we examine this issue by analysing media coverage of India and the Indian diaspora in Canada, a nation with a large (1 million plus) Indian diaspora. We use the tropes of hard power, soft power, and deficient state, with a specific focus on the last two, in order to chart changes in how India and its diaspora have been represented in Canada during a period of intense transformation.

Soft power and deficient state Soft power defines the influence and attractiveness that a nation acquires when others are drawn to its culture and ideas (Nye, 2004); it enables a nation “to achieve desired outcomes in international affairs through attraction rather than coercion” (Aiyar, 2004). Soft power uses the currency of persuasive ability, cultural attractiveness, and strategic credibility to achieve its ends (Nye, 2011). Soft power has its fair share of critics (see Nye, 1990, 2004, 2011; Kapur, 2010; Lee, 2010). Lloyd Axworthy, Canada’s former Foreign Minister, considered soft power as “foreign policy for wimps” (Smith-Windsor, 2000, 54). Nevertheless, soft power is an effective lens for exploring how national discourses are projected and received overseas. For example, the Hindi movie industry, also known as Bollywood, is not necessarily soft power; simply possessing the industry does not equate to soft power. Soft power through Bollywood would be functional only when the publicity and marketing of Bollywood movies as representative of India or “Indian-ness” is communicated to a wider audience that is receptive to this messaging. In this regard, soft power is not dependent on immense military, economic, or political power. As Shashi Tharoor states, “it’s not the country with the larger army, but the country with the better story that will prevail” (Tharoor, 2007). India effectively projects soft power through its cultural resources even while other dominant discourses, such as India being a ‘deficient state’ in terms of poverty, pollution, and corruption, also circulate.

Soft power, India and the diaspora Many scholars and policy-makers consider India a “cultural superpower” and a rising hegemony in the global order (Tharoor, 2009, 2012; Lee, 2010; Purushothaman, 2010; Nye, 2011). India’s culture, customs, costumes, arts, and prominent personalities have allowed the country to project soft power. Scholars have argued that India’s rise in the international arena simply mimics its rise a few centuries ago, when India and China were the centres of world power and Indian thought and beliefs circulated widely (Frank, 1998; Tharoor, 2009). China – a stronger political, economic, and military force – has received considerable academic interest in its soft power (Thussu, 2014). For example, Joseph Nye warned that the “‘Beijing consensus’ on authoritarian government plus a market economy has become more popular than the previously dominant ‘Washington consensus’”, and as a consequence, “It is time for the U.S. to pay more attention to the balance of soft power in Asia” (Nye, 2005). Meanwhile, India tends to be considered more of a regional hegemon that warily monitors China’s rise. Even though India has become more confident in its international status, this has not yet been reciprocated by foreign audiences and investors alike, who are unconvinced that India is irrevocably on the path to innovation and growth (Hall, 2012). Bhasin (2008) has explored how India actively invests resources to promote its public diplomacy. The advertising rhetoric of ‘Incredible India’, for example, was a remarkable tool in promoting 253

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India globally (Bhasin, 2008). It was lauded in public relations circles as “one of the most easily recognizable efforts at nation-branding” (Hall, 2012). The MEA and the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) have developed methods to influence not only foreign audiences, but also their own diaspora communities, including business people, cultural leaders, scholars and academics, and young people (Hall, 2012). With programmes like “Tracing Your Roots” and “Know India Program”, the MEA and MOIA make an effort to reach out to diasporic communities who emigrated long ago, were uncertain of their roots in India, or had never visited India (Hall, 2012).

The Indo-Canadian diaspora India boasts the world’s second-largest diaspora next to China with a “substantive presence” in many countries (Roy & Banerjee, 2007). According to Straubhaar (2010), the vibrancy of India’s globally dispersed diaspora enables India to play a powerful role in global affairs. Covering a range of roles from farmers to entrepreneurs, the Indo-Canadian diaspora has undoubtedly made its mark in Canadian society. As Touhey (2007, 748) argues, the diaspora “help[s] solidify economic and cultural linkages” emphasizing the economic and social success of Indo-Canadians in the Canadian mainstream. Despite the large presence of Indo-Canadians, the attitude of the Indian government towards its Canadian diaspora has in the past been indifferent. The relations between Canada and India were bittersweet at best (Rubinoff, 1992). Nuclear sanctions by Canada against India in the 1970s and the tension created by the Khalistani terrorist links with Canada in the 1990s strained the relationship between the two countries (Walton-Roberts, 2011). Despite Canada being home to a large Indian immigrant population, such aggravations undermined the social, economic, and political relations between the two countries. Affairs between India and Canada improved during the early 2000s when Canadian corporations took notice of a booming Indian economy, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Manley, stated that India was an important market that Canada could not afford to distance itself from, effectively reversing earlier nuclear sanctions (Walton-Roberts, 2010). Unlike the Chinese diaspora, which has for years been involved in strengthening bilateral relations between China and Canada, the track record of the Indian diaspora in the same arena has been rather poor. Rubinoff (1992), a prominent scholar of Canada–India relations, has argued that in comparison with their American counterparts, the Indo-Canadian expatriates have not been as politically active in the promotion of enhanced bilateral ties. Likewise, until recently, the Canadian government has not exerted efforts in this arena either. The Canadian Commerce Chamber, touted as “Canada’s largest and most influential business association” (Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 2012), criticized the Canadian government for its meagre attempts to improve economic relationships with India (Bhargava et al., 2008). Recent addresses to the American and the British diaspora by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggest that the Indian government is not only trying to strengthen ties with its diaspora for financial reasons, but is also seeking to communicate soft power using the diaspora as a medium (Stanzel, 2015).

Methods In order to examine the representation of India and its diaspora in the Canadian print media, we conducted a quantitative content analysis of newspaper articles, followed by a qualitative discourse analysis of selected articles related to the Indo-Canadian diaspora. The results gained by the two methodologies allowed us to examine the portrayal of the Indian state and its 254

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diaspora in mainstream Canadian newsprint media in the period 1999–2012. In this chapter, we report specifically on how the Indo-Canadian diaspora was invoked in such representational practices. Content analysis was used to identify news items that mentioned India. Discourse analysis was then employed to review articles that related to stories specifically about the Indian diaspora in Canada. We selected three themes by which to categorize the main thrust of each article: hard power, soft power, and deficient state; in this chapter we focus on the last two. The first stage of conducting content analysis was to find the two newspapers to be used for the analysis. The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were chosen for three reasons. First, with 1.93 million and 1.90 million readers respectively, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail had the highest weekly circulation numbers between 1999 and 2012 (Newspapers Canada, 2012). With the two largest readerships, it could be assumed that they represent the dominant viewpoints of the majority of newsprint media consumers. Second, the two newspapers covered different geographical scales: the Toronto Star is distributed in the nation’s larger urban area, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), whereas The Globe and Mail is a nationally distributed newspaper printed in six cities across the country. Third, the newspapers were also chosen to reflect the political spectrum. The Toronto Star is considered to be one of the more left-wing newspapers in the country. The Globe and Mail, on the other hand, assumes a more elitist view.1

Results Using Factiva, we located 35,604 articles that employed the word ‘India’ in The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star during 1999–2012, of which 20,300 were relevant to our study (they related to the country of India or Indo-Canadians rather than a derivation such as Indiana). The majority of the resultant articles, 12,286 or 60.5 per cent, were determined to fit under the category of soft power (representing India and its diaspora in a positive light). References to a booming economy, a burgeoning middle class, the increasing power of the Indian business elite, and growth of India’s cultural influence were the type of issues examined in these articles that were placed in the category of soft power. The ‘deficient state’ category was next, which references failures in governance and social policy, and amounted to 6,489 (32 per cent) of the total relevant articles. These included reports of corruption, poverty, pollution, population, superstition, communal hatred, prejudice against women, etc. Following this, 7.5 per cent of articles represented India through the lens of hard power (1,525): India’s growing economic and military power, international tensions with China and Pakistan, internal conflict, and arms purchases were reflected in these articles.

Soft power The soft power category contained 12,286 articles and included positive representations of India. India’s booming economy, its culture (which includes movies, music, arts, sculptures, fashion, etc.), the growing influence in international affairs, secularism and democracy, new innovations and improved infrastructure, the ability of the government to address poverty, and positive mentions of the diaspora were some of the examples of issues that earned these articles a place under soft power. Figure 19.1 shows the annual breakdown of articles that were deemed to represent soft power. With 3,994 articles, and 32.57 per cent of the total tally, the economy assumes the largest sub-category in the soft power category. The years 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 marked the 255

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Figure 19.1 Annual breakdown of articles categorized as ‘soft power’ (1999–2012) (n = 12,286)

peak of reporting on the economy. The majority of Indian-led business acquisitions, Indian investment in Canadian companies, and double-digit rates of growth happened in these years. After 2008, as the Indian economic growth slowed, and the Indian government was unable to steer India away from double-digit inflation, articles about India’s economy were more aligned with the deficient state category. Media interest stories on individuals also featured prominently in the soft power category. These articles were devoted to historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, politicians, actors, musicians, artists, architects, sculptors, and prominent business people. This category also included members of the Indian diaspora in Canada, including artists Neeru Bajwa, Lisa Ray, Jazzy B, Russell Peters, and politicians Ujjal Dosanjh, Ruby Dhalla, and Toronto’s public health director Sheila Basrur and her role in the SARs outbreak in Toronto. There were 504 articles in this category, increasing over the period as an interest in India became expressed as interest in Indian and Indo-Canadian personalities.

Deficient state During the period of study, 6,938 articles were categorized under the category of deficient state. These articles offered negative portrayals of India and its diaspora. Unlike soft or hard power, deficient state is not an objective statement, but an acknowledgement of one of the ways media constructs the idea of India. India’s poverty, pollution, population, corruption, diseases, etc. were mentioned in a manner that tended to locate the problems within a national context of failure; these articles were classified as deficient state. Figure 19.2 demonstrates the breakdown of articles classified as deficient state. Unlike the trend noted in soft power, deficient state does not have certain years where the bulk of the articles appeared; rather the category was uniformly distributed across the study period. The deficient state category contained sub-categories such as crime, diaspora, disasters, diseases, economy, inequalities, infrastructure, orthodox behaviour/ superstition, politics, sports, state-inflicted violence, terrorism, and women’s issues. We explore the diaspora sub-category contained under the deficient state theme in particular in the next sub-section. 256

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600 503 500

459 404




439 393




302 300 200 100 0 1999







Deficient state








Linear (Deficient state)

Figure 19.2 Annual breakdown of articles categorized as ‘deficient state’ (1999–2012)

Figure 19.3 Annual breakdown of ‘deficient state’ articles related to diaspora (n=1,893)

Deficient state and diaspora This sub-category focused on negative articles about the Indo-Canadian diaspora. With 1,893 articles, comprising about 29.6 per cent of the deficient tally, the ‘diaspora’ sub-category was the largest in the deficient state category. The ‘diaspora’ sub-category included articles about the ongoing court case of the Air India 182 bombing by Khalistani supporters in 1985, gender violence and ‘honour killings’ taking place in India but sanctioned by Indo-Canadian families, cases of dowry, forced marriages, fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes, travelling to India for sex selective abortions, open loyalty towards the Khalistani cause, and immigration and integration problems. Figure 19.3 provides an annual breakdown of this category. As more stories about India appeared in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, negative articles about diaspora also started to appear. The years of 2004 and 2007 had a higher number of articles, which can be attributed to the Air India court case, and police investigations into Indo-Canadian women who were murdered and/or harmed by their husbands and families. 257

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While India uses the diaspora to broadcast its soft power overseas, domestic media can also connect negative news about the diaspora back to India. For example, issues of patriarchal and gendered violence, marriage, and claims of fraudulent immigration events reported in the Indo-Canadian diaspora in Canada are often connected back to conditions in India. Rather than examine these social issues in light of restrictive immigration policy and settlement experiences in Canada, the problem was still sometimes located to the context in India, be it gender norms, regional separatist tensions, or weak policy enforcement. This suggests that the Canadian print media framed complex socio-cultural processes occurring in Canada with an Indian-origin explanatory framework, akin to Grewal’s (2013) notion of ‘outsourcing’ patriarchy from the site of context to other sites such as India, which has the effect of closing off historically and spatially sophisticated and productive forms of analysis.

Case study Soft power: the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, 2011 In this section, we explore one case study from the category of soft power. We use discourse analysis to present a more detailed and nuanced reading of the representational processes at work in the communication of soft power. We use the case of the IIFA awards held in Toronto in 2011. The IIFA awards are presented annually by the International Indian Film Academy to honour both artistic and technical excellence of professionals in Hindi cinema. Instituted in 2000, each year the ceremony is held in a different country. Most cities that are chosen to host IIFA contain a significant Indian diaspora population, and to host the IIFA is becoming an important tourist and publicity coup. Since the first function held in London’s Millennium Dome, the awards have been celebrated in Sun City (Johannesburg), Singapore, Genting Highlands (Kuala Lumpur), Dubai (UAE), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Yorkshire (UK), Bangkok (Thailand), and Macau (China) (IIFA, 2014). Dubbed the “Bollywood Oscars”, not only do the IIFA awards serve as the ambassador for Hindi cinema, they are also accompanied by Indian business delegations and various other cultural exchanges. For instance, after Singapore hosted the IIFA awards in 2004 Indian tourism to the country grew by 30 per cent (Baluja, 2011a). Cities with major Indian diasporic populations often use IIFA awards as a catalyst to increase tourism, culture, and business relations with India. In 2011, the IIFA awards were held in Toronto (Canada). Given the significant population of South Asians in the GTA, Toronto was a worthy choice for IIFA selectors. Dalton McGuinty, then premier of Ontario, spent $12 million to secure the rights to host the 12th IIFA awards, which lasted from 22 to 24 June 2011 (Baluja, 2011b). This move was presented as an investment in the city of Toronto to garner business and cultural connections with a booming India, while increasing publicity for the city and the province (Dixon, 2011). Tied with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the IIFA awards capped off four days of events, which included world premieres of Hindi movies, gala receptions, business forums, workshops, networking parties, exhibitions, fashion shows, and industry events (Mudhar, 2009; Menon, 2011). According to Barnard (2011), the awards were called a “part controlled circus, part big-budget caravan, and part calculated marketing gambit”. Given the craze of Hindi cinema in Canada, 16,000 tickets were sold in a matter of minutes, the event drew 40,000 tourists (CBC, 2011), and generated approximately $40 million in tourist revenue (Chopra, 2011). Throngs of fanatic fans crowded the streets of downtown Toronto trying to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars and personalities. The IIFA awards commenced without a hitch. Held at Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto in front of a 21,000-strong crowd, the awards ceremony was attended by industry 258

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heavyweights including Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, and Kareena Kapoor, and featured performances by Bipasha Basu, Kangana Ranaut, and the Deols, Sunny and Bobby, with their father, Dharmendra (Singh, 2011). Seven hundred million people watched the IIFA awards, making it the most watched Indian awards ceremony at that time. The majority of the news articles about the IIFA awards in Toronto carried a fairly positive tone. Most of the articles written in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were representative of a form of soft power. Many articles reported on India expanding its influence and reach in Canada through Bollywood. Others talked about the awards as an investment for Toronto and Ontario. The presence of Bollywood celebrities in Toronto led to significant reporting on the Indo-Canadian diaspora’s relations with Bollywood culture and India. The articles were mostly balanced in their perspective. Most of the articles reported positively on India’s Hindi cinema, the actors and filmmakers, and the diaspora who waited in long lines trying to catch a glimpse of the stars. The IIFA awards also elicited huge publicity in India, with the Indian media rife with gossip and sensational reporting on the awards in Toronto. After conducting a thorough analysis of the fifteen articles categorized in this sub-theme, three issues clearly emerged: the increasing global reach of Bollywood, Bollywood’s soft power, and diasporic politics and celebrity diplomacy. We review each in turn in the following sub-sections.

The increasing global reach of Bollywood India’s cinema industry, Bollywood, commands more than a billion patrons throughout the world. Its larger-than-life stories, abundant colours, vibrant music, and exotic locales have been adored for generations (Tharoor, 2007). While many cinema industries have been relegated to a national or a regional following, Bollywood, or the Hindi film industry, has truly gone global, spurred on by India’s national film industry policy, the growth and deregulation of media industries, transnational economic deregulation, and a large non-resident Indian population (Kavoori & Punathambekar, 2008). Movies produced in Hollywood can be found in many markets throughout the world, but Bollywood rules in the box office in India and its neighbouring regions. The grip of Bollywood in these regions is understood as the reason why Hollywood has failed to penetrate these markets, despite Hollywood’s larger budget (Siddiqui, 2011). Six of the fifteen articles reported on the global reach of Bollywood, and the ways in which IIFA was expanding this reach. IIFA considers itself to be the brand ambassador of Bollywood with the awards established as a way of promoting Indian films to an even wider global audience and to encourage partnerships with filmmakers abroad (Gill, 2003; Mudhar, 2009). These events are considered by many to be the “grandest celebration of Indian cinema abroad” (Infantry, 2011). By hosting awards every year in a different city throughout the world, IIFA attempts to expand the influence of Hindi cinema, not only to those who speak the language or are familiar with Bollywood, but to people who are unfamiliar with the language or the cinematic culture. The academy awarded the 12th IIFA awards to Toronto, the first ever to be held in North America, with the aim of broadcasting Bollywood to the diasporic population and beyond. Reinhart called it “a clear nod to the increasing pop-culture clout wielded by the region’s [GTA’s] large and growing South Asian community” (Reinhart, 2012). A few articles written in the two newspapers illustrated the power of Bollywood. The Finance Minister of India, P. Chidambaram, claimed Bollywood to be a major instrument of India’s soft power abroad (Agencies, 2009). There are several reasons for Bollywood’s global allure. In the 1950s during the Cold War when Hollywood movies were banned in the USSR and other Eastern European countries, Bollywood made its mark as “India’s first 259

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post-colonial export” (Siddiqui, 2011). When India’s acting legends Raj Kapoor and Nargis travelled to Moscow, they were greeted by throngs of Soviet fans, who, without understanding a word of Hindi, shouted dialogue and songs from their movies (Siddiqui, 2011). The soft power that Bollywood exuded was visible when Toronto’s premier multicultural television channel, Omni-TV, began to broadcast Bollywood movies every Sunday. Apart from South Asian-Canadian households tuning in every Sunday afternoon, they were surprised to find “audiences in the Canadian Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Czech, and Central Asian communities” (Siddiqui, 2011).

Domestic diasporic politics and celebrity diplomacy Canadian politicians have always found ways to appeal to various diaspora communities. As a leaked Conservative strategy document put it, “There are lots of ethnic voters. There will be quite a few more soon . . . They live where we need to win” (Wooley, 2011). Politicians of all major Canadian parties have indulged in tactics that would attract the ‘ethnic’ vote. From the former PM, Paul Martin, speaking at Sikh religious parades, to the late Jack Layton learning and conversing in Cantonese with Chinese-Canadian populations, diasporic community interests are politically too important to ignore. The South Asian-Canadian diaspora is a growing population with increased political and economic clout in Canadian society. Therefore, when the ex-Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, wanted to appeal to the South Asian community during his campaign, he scheduled an appearance with the Bollywood star Akshay Kumar at a Cineplex theatre in Brampton (Krashinsky, 2011). Stephen Harper’s first visit to India in 2009 was spent less with Indian dignitaries than with Bollywood personalities. He not only met Akshay Kumar, but also headed to the dance floor of the popular reality show Dance Premier League (Chopra, 2011). According to Srinivas Krishna, an Indo-Canadian filmmaker, the trade mission to India led by Canada in 2011 was made possible by the “impact of Indians in Canada that . . . brought Canada to India” (Chopra, 2011). According to Cooper (2008), India maintains an advantage in using its Bollywood stars to present India to the world. Symbiotically, Canadian politicians can use these stars’ cachet to further their own domestic political goals. The former Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, played a major role in bringing the IIFA awards to Toronto. McGuinty started to pursue Bollywood when he led a trade mission to India in 2009. During the awards, the organizers made sure everyone knew who to thank for making the IIFAs in Toronto a possibility. Many South Asians watching the awards on the television saw Dalton McGuinty being introduced by Anil Kapoor as “the star of stars”, and being repeatedly thanked (Hague, 2011). The former Premier’s speech also got a rousing reception from a warm crowd (Radawanski, 2011), not that this helped his political fortunes much post-2012. Once the awards were over, many commentators critiqued McGuinty’s actions. They claimed that McGuinty brought the awards to Toronto to attract South Asian votes and align them with Ontario’s Liberal Party (Radawanski, 2011). McGuinty was also questioned regarding the necessity of spending taxpayers’ money on hosting a show catering mainly to South Asians. The spending was justified since it promoted the city and the province to Indian businesses, encouraged cultural exchanges, and improved Indo-Canadian relations. Moreover, the reduction in the number of Hollywood movies being shot in Toronto would be offset by more Hindi movies being filmed and produced in Canada. As Radawanski (2011) stated, “the event drew more than 40,000 visitors to Toronto, promoted the city to an estimated 800 million television viewers and opened all kinds of doors for the province’s film industry”. Toronto has not lived up to its moniker of “Hollywood North”, but hosting the IIFA awards certainly gave Canada 260

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a new moniker of “Bollywood West” (Baluja, 2011d). Therefore, the $12 million investment made by the Ontario Liberal government to host the IIFA awards was generally seen as a worthy investment (Jha & Vlessing, 2011). While these investments were justified, it would be foolish to assume that the hosting of the IIFA awards was not a political stunt. McGuinty’s vociferous lobbying for the IIFA awards to be held in Toronto, and his domination of the limelight during the awards, suggests he used Bollywood to build his political capital, especially with the South Asian-Canadian communities. Radawanski (2011) argued that the re-election prospects of several Liberal incumbents in the GTA improved in the aftermath of the Toronto IIFAs. Just like Dalton McGuinty, British Columbia (BC) Premier Christy Clark also indulged in what Cooper (2008) coined “celebrity diplomacy” to further her objectives. Clark, to appease and attract the burgeoning South Asian vote in BC, bid on Vancouver hosting the 2013 IIFA awards (Lett, 2013). When IIFA did not accept Vancouver’s bid, she struck a deal to host the newly developed Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA) (Lett, 2013). Similar to the case with McGuinty’s spending, Clark too was critiqued for spending $9.5 million to host what seemed like an event geared only for one section of the community (Hoffman, 2013). The IIFA awards in Toronto acted as a catalyst which allowed social, cultural, and financial transactions between India and Canada. As 800 workers were flown in from India to set up the infrastructure for the awards night, a Global Business Forum designed to boost Ontario’s trade with India occurred behind the scenes (Infantry, 2011). A three-day round of conventions, trade meetings, and speaker sessions was hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade for up to 100 industry delegates from India and 250 business people from Toronto (Dixon, 2011). One of the major topics for debate was about Toronto’s film industry connecting with Indian directors and producers, resulting in a federal co-production treaty that would bring more Bollywood production to Canada (Baluja, 2011a). The awards were used as a platform for Ontario to conduct trade and strengthen ties with India’s burgeoning economy, and encourage Indian tourism, now the second-largest contingent to visit Canada after the Chinese (Dixon, 2011). Baluja (2011c) claimed that IIFA was responsible for facilitating a series of talks and discussions between Indian and Canadian politicians who, after years of difficult diplomatic relations, were refocusing their attention on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Shashi Tharoor, a prominent Indian Member of Parliament (MP), acknowledged that the IIFA awards held in Toronto allowed an ease in facilitations between the two parties (Tharoor, 2014). India’s cinema was used by India and Canada as a springboard to launch business deals. Recognizing the potential of IIFA awards in regard to improved business, travel, and cultural relations, Canadian delegates began to hold regular trips to India, networking and landing deals for Canada and Canadian resources to be used in Hindi movies (Chopra, 2011). The IIFA awards are a perfect example of how Indian soft power can act as a catalyst to improve trade and cultural relations with other countries, which are receptive to these overtures in light of the potential economic rewards they offer.

Conclusion From our media analysis, our primary conclusion is that India and the Indian diaspora are subjects that are increasingly represented in two of Canada’s key daily newspapers. Soft power was the dominant frame through which these subjects were represented during the 1999–2012 period, which was followed by what we have termed deficient state, then lastly through a media lens more reflective of hard power. 261

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Our second conclusion is that the peak of news reporting on India and the Indian diaspora in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail was evident from 2005 to 2008, with a decrease in the total number of articles evident from 2009 to 2012 (and a further decrease in 2013). We note that the increased media interest in India and the Indian diaspora correlated with increased economic growth in India, reflecting Canadian interest in emerging markets. Greater confidence in India’s economic growth led to more interest in the Indo-Canadian diaspora. India’s ascendancy in the global economy encouraged Canadians to consider the country as an emerging power, but more importantly to reflect on the home-grown links, so to speak, in the form of the Indo-Canadian population. Facets of Indian culture such as Bollywood, which once occupied the fringes of Canadian society, were mainstreamed due to increased interest in India, which we maintain reflected Canada’s interest in the growing Indian economy (Straubhaar, 2010). Our third conclusion concerns the category of the deficient state. While India’s soft power was accentuated due to its emerging economy, it was interesting to note that the level of reporting on the country’s ‘deficient state’ issues remained fairly consistent throughout the period. Even when deficient state reporting was related to Indo-Canadian diasporic stories, causes or explanations for events were nearly always explicitly or implicitly located within some kind of explanatory Indian cultural norm or process, rather than located with the Canadian policy or settlement context. Our final conclusion is regarding hard power, the category with the smallest number of news articles. While we have not highlighted the hard power category in this chapter, it is worth noting how little it appeared in the news stories we assessed. Clearly the realities of ongoing political turmoil and conflict within India and the South Asian region have been overshadowed by the presentation of India through the lens of soft power or deficient state. India’s representation as a nation relying on its hard power barely found resonance in the two Canadian newspapers. We suggest that there are two reasons for the dearth of hard power reporting on India in the Canadian newsprint media. First, in the patchy international relations between India and Canada, it might be possible that the Canadian government has often turned a blind eye towards civil unrest within India and the related exercise of hard power. Despite Canada’s role in the de-escalation of conflict between India and Pakistan in Kargil, India’s hard power action, upon either its neighbours or its own population, was often overlooked by the Canadian media. Aligning with a growing economy tended to attract the interest of the Canadian state, and by extension, the Canadian media. Second, relatively few Canadians directly oppose hard power actions taken by the Indian state. Politicians such as former MP Andrew Kania and MP Jagmeet Singh have asked the Canadian government to recognize the brutal human rights violations towards the Sikhs committed by the Indian state in 1984. However, much of the Indo-Canadian diaspora has tended to remain silent on human rights atrocities committed by India, though the second generation is engaging more deeply in these issues (Nijhawan, 2014). Apart from a few human rights activists and certain citizens from regions or ethnicities affected by the violence, issues of communalism and caste-based violence are often overlooked in the Canadian media. This may be in part due to the complexity of the issues involved and the lack of media space devoted to generating public interest in and comprehension of this context of state violence. Our research on the period of 1999–2012 indicates soft power diplomacy, celebrity spectacle, and upbeat economic news were the main lenses through which media representations of India and the Indian diaspora were communicated in Canada. In this regard, though the transnational reality of immigrant communities and global trade frameworks might suggest some kind of post-national media landscape is emerging, it appears that national concerns of trade still 262

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inform the magnitude and scale of reporting on India and its diaspora in Canadian print media, and the intensity of media interest in India and its diaspora during the period of study was positively correlated with the growth of India’s economy. The representational practices of the media were, however, increasingly framed by the global cultural influences of Bollywood as the IIFA awards arrived in Toronto. Despite the ascendancy of India as a global cultural and economic force during the period of the study, the trope of deficient state remained surprisingly persistent, and this trope was evident with regard to stories focused on social and political deficiencies within India, as well as within the Indo-Canadian diaspora. This suggests the territorial boundaries of identity and belonging are highly flexible and transnational in the politics of cultural representation as communicated in the Canadian news print media during the time of this study.

Note 1 The reader must exercise some caution when interpreting the results derived in this chapter. Despite its quantitative leanings in content analysis, the results of this research are subjective, as they are open to different interpretations by different sources. In addition, the overall count of accessed newspaper articles was hampered by an absence of articles published by the Toronto Star in 2003. Due to an error on Factiva, articles published by the Star were absent between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2003. This resulted in the skewing of the quantity of articles.

References Agencies. (2009). Slumdog an Example of India’s Soft Power: Chidambaram. Mid-Day, February 25. Retrieved from Aiyar, P. (2004). Soft Power Diplomacy. The Economic Times, March 20. Retrieved from http://articles. Baluja, T. (2011a). Bollywood’s Hot – and Getting Hotter; Movers and Shakers it’s a $2-Billion Behemoth, Complete with Boilerplate Storylines, Powerhouse Productions Companies, Oddball Auteurs, Family Dynasties and Scandal-Plagued Stars. Our Guide to a Glittering Industry. The Globe and Mail, June 18. Retrieved from 1&fcpil=en&napc=S&sa_from=. Baluja, T. (2011b). Toronto Poised for Bollywood Boom. The Globe and Mail, June 22. Retrieved from en&napc=S&sa_from=. Baluja, T. (2011c). Bravo, Bollywood! The IIFA Awards Honour the Best of Indian Cinema and Join in a Tribute to One of its Best-Loved Pioneers. The Globe and Mail, June 27. Retrieved from http:// S&sa_from=. Baluja, T. (2011d). Bollywood Event Puts Focus Back on Canada–India Trade; Business Forum at Indian International Film Academy Gathering is Adding Some Much-Needed Spice to International Relations. The Globe and Mail, June 30. Retrieved from aa/?ref=GLOB000020110630e76u00005&pp=1&fcpil=en&napc=S&sa_from=. Barnard, L. (2011). The Boys of Bollywood; Forget Slumdog: Superstar Anil Kapoor is Ready for a Romcom or Broadway Role. Toronto Star, June 25. Retrieved from Bhargava, K., Sharma, J. C. and Salehi, S. (2008). Building Bridges: A Case Study on the Role of the Indian Diaspora in Canada. Centre for the Study of Democracy in the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University. Retrieved from pdf. Bhasin, M. (2008). Public Diplomacy: Lessons for the Conduct of Indian Foreign Policy. Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), March 26. Retrieved from articleNo=2522.


Huzan Dordi and Margaret Walton-Roberts Canadian Chamber of Commerce. (2012). The Canadian Chamber of Commerce: About Us. Retrieved from CBC. (2011). Ontario IIFA Expenditures Revealed. CBC News, November 7. Retrieved from www.cbc. ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-iifa-expenditures-revealed-1.1086282. Chopra, A. (2011). Bollywood, May We Have This Dance? A 10-Day Mission of Canadian Delegates is Only the Latest Overture in a Stepped-Up Wooing of the Indian Film Industry. The Globe and Mail, December 3. Retrieved from 1&fcpil=en&napc=S&sa_from=. Cooper, A. F. (2008). Celebrity Diplomacy. New York: Paradigm Publishers. Dixon, G. (2011). Buckle Up, Toronto, Bollywood is Coming; the IIFA Awards Make Their North American Debut, and We’re at the Centre of the Spectacle. The Globe and Mail, June 18. Retrieved from en&napc=S&sa_from=. Dossani, R. (2009). Indian Soft Power and Associations of the American Diaspora. Retrieved from http:// Frank, A. G. (1998). ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Gill, A. (2003). Vancouver Hopes to Win Bollywood Oscars. The Globe and Mail, November 7. Retrieved from en&napc=S&sa_from=. Grewal, I. (2013). Outsourcing Patriarchy. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 15(1), 1–19. Hague, M. (2011). At the 2011 International Indian Film Academy Awards, Sparks Flew, Dalton McGuinty was a Star, and We Saw Cross-Dressing. Retrieved from toronto-culture/2011/06/28/2011-iifa-award-ceremony/. Hall, I. (2012). India’s New Public Diplomacy. Asian Survey, 52(6), 1089–1110. Hegde, R. S. (2011). Circuits of Visibility: Gender and Transnational Media Cultures. New York: New York University Press. Hoffman, A. (2013). Bollywood Show Apologizes for Remarks about Not Hiring South Asian Workers. The Globe and Mail, March 24. Retrieved from bollywood-awards-show-apologizes-for-remarks-about-not-hiring-south-asian-workers/article10274904/. IIFA. (2014). IIFA Timeline. Retrieved from Infantry, A. (2011).Bollywood Promises Toronto ‘Glamour, Glitz and Splendour’; Awards Show Will Bring 40,000 Visitors to GTA, 600 Million TV Viewers. Toronto Star, January 20. Retrieved from Jha, A. and Vlessing, E. (2011). IIFA Toronto: Much Ado about Nothing or . . . The Huffington Post, July 25. Retrieved from Kapur, D. (2010). Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Kavoori, A. P. and Punathambekar, A. (2008). Global Bollywood. New York: New York University Press. Krashinsky, S. (2011). Cineplex at Centre of Canada’s Bollywood Boom. The Globe and Mail, June 21. Retrieved from Lee, J. (2010). Unrealised Potential: India’s ‘Soft Power’ Ambition in Asia. Foreign Policy Analysis, 4, 1–18. Lett, D. (2013). The Ethnic Vote: The Dirtiest Little Secret in Politics? Winnipeg Free Press, March 5. Retrieved from Menon, V. (2011). Two Hosts, One Hyperventilating Mob; Duo Promise Irreverent Take at Tonight’s Glitzy Bollywood Awards Show. Toronto Star, June 22. Retrieved from Mudhar, R. (2009). GTA to Host Indian Awards; Ceremony Here in 2011 Will be the First North American Venue for Mumbai Academy Show. Toronto Star, December 10. Retrieved from http://global. from=. Newspapers Canada. (2012). Newspapers Canada: Circulation. Retrieved from about-newspapers/circulation. Nijhawan, M. (2014). 1984 and the Diasporic Politics of Aesthetics. Reconfirgurations and New Constellations among Toronto’s Sikh Youth. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Affairs, 17(2), 196–219.


Softening India abroad Nye, J. S. (1990). Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. New York: Basic Books. Nye, J. S. (2004). Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. (1st edition). New York: Perseus Books Group. Nye, J. S. (2005). The Rise of China’s Soft Power. Wall Street Journal Asia, 29, 6–8. Nye, J. S. (2011). The Future of Power. New York: Perseus Books Group. Pritchett, L. (2009). Is India a Flailing State? Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization. Briefing Paper, John F. Kennedy School of Environment. Retrieved from handle/1/4449106/Pritchett%20India%20Flailing%20State.pdf?sequence=1. Purushothaman, U. (2010). Shifting Perceptions of Power: Soft Power and India’s Foreign Policy. Journal of Peace Studies, 17(2/3), 1–16. Radawanski, A. (2011). IIFA Success May Help McGuinty Woo Immigrant Vote. The Globe and Mail, June 28. Retrieved from 76s0000l&pp=1&fcpil=en&napc=S&sa_from=. Reinhart, A. (2012). Toronto to Host Bollywood Oscars. The Globe and Mail, August 23. Retrieved from Roy, J. and Banerjee, P. (2007). Attracting FDI from the Indian Diaspora: The Way Forward. Confederation of Indian Industry, September 1. Retrieved from AttractingFDIFromIndianDiaspora.pdf. Rubinoff, A. (1992). Canada and South Asia: Political and Strategic Relations. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Siddiqui, H. (2011). How Bollywood Conquered the World. Toronto Star, June 18. Retrieved from en&napc=S&sa_from=. Singh, S. (2011). IIFAs Dazzle in Toronto. Huffington Post, June 28. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost. ca/sam-singh/iifa_b_885770.html. Smith-Windsor, B. A. (2000). Hard Power, Soft Power Reconsidered. Canadian Military Journal, 1(3), 51–56. Stanzel, A. (2015). Indians as a Source of Soft Power. European Council on Foreign Relations, October 1. Retrieved from Straubhaar, J. (2010). Chindia in the Context of Emerging Cultural and Media Powers. Global Media and Communication, 6(3), 253–262. T.E.D. [Shashi Tharoor]. (2009). Shashi Tharoor: Why Nations Should Pursue ‘Soft’ Power, December 2. (Video File). Retrieved from Tharoor, S. (2007). The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone: Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-Century Power. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Tharoor, S. (2009). Indian Strategic Power: Soft. The World Post, May 26. Retrieved from Tharoor, S. (2012). Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Tharoor, S. (2014). IIFA Opening Remarks by Dr Tharoor. Shashi Tharoor: MP for Trivandrum. Retrieved from Thussu, D. (2014). De-Americanizing Soft Power Discourse? Los Angeles, CA: Figueroa Press. Touhey, R. (2007). Canada’s Foreign Relations with India at Sixty: Moving Beyond History? International Journal, 62(4), 733–752. Walton-Roberts, M. (2010). The Trade and Immigration Nexus in the India–Canada Context. In: B. Honig, I. Drori & B. Carmichael, eds, Transnational and Immigrant Entrepreneurship in a Globalized World. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, pp. 145–180. Walton-Roberts, M. (2011). Immigration, Trade and ‘Ethnic Surplus Value’: A Critique of Indo-Canadian Transnational Networks. Global Networks, 11(2), 203–221. Wooley, F. (2011). Why Politicians are Targeting the Ethnic Vote. The Globe and Mail, April 7. Retrieved from



Politics of belonging


In an effort to redesign its global image, India has been stepping up its initiatives to be recognized as a serious economic player and technological powerhouse. To accomplish this goal, the Indian state has begun to revise and institutionalize its relationship with its influential diaspora spread across the world. Since the economic liberalization of the nineties, a variety of initiatives undertaken by the Indian state have tapped the diaspora as potential investors. More recently, as the nation brands itself to secure a place in the global economy, its connections with the diaspora have assumed new inflections and publicity campaigns for the nation are strategically leveraging the diaspora’s cosmopolitan status. In this branding project, which is at the same time political, economic and cultural, globally positioned diasporic communities are recruited not only to be agents of national change but also to serve as conduits to circulate India’s image globally. This is a provocative commercial twist to conventional understandings of diasporas as collectivities oriented to the past, who have for the most part severed connections with the home country.1 Today through the affordances of digital media, the Indian diaspora participates with greater intensity and immediacy across various domains of life in India. With their economic power and technological access, diasporic communities are claiming new forms of involvement with the nation that go beyond territorially defined norms of citizenship. The expatriate cosmopolitanism of these diasporas has come to play a very influential symbolic and economic role on the national scene. The non-resident Indian subject, identified primarily as elite investor, falls in line with the globally prevalent economic logic of the privileged consumer citizen (see Canclini, 2001; Ong, 2006). To the Indian state, the affective yearnings of the diaspora for the homeland provide a strategic opportunity to rekindle long distance patriotism through the mobilization of essentialized notions of home and the imagined purity of India steeped in the past. Diasporic sentiments and civilizational elements are yoked together and incorporated into the preferred scripts of publicity and national branding. This chapter examines a newly defined moment in the relationship between the Indian state and its diaspora as the nation reinvents itself as a global brand. Urging members of the diaspora to renew their bonds with the homeland and serve as representatives of brand India has been central to recent national image-making efforts. After assuming office in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a record number of international trips, met with world leaders and most importantly reached out to the Indian diaspora with much fanfare. The outreach to the diaspora has been orchestrated mainly through mega-media events to showcase 269

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India’s soft power and pave the way for diplomatic moves. The national campaign clearly rests on the belief that India’s image has to be crafted in transnational terms and its brand must be circulated globally and in dramatic terms. Hence, members of the diaspora become the natural global extensions of the nation as well as ambassadors for the branding exercise. Prime Minister Modi’s speeches delivered in New York, Sydney, Toronto and London in the years 2014 and 2015 will be examined closely in terms of the rhetoric, dialogical appeals and the manner in which Modi reinvents the nation in extra-territorial terms. While this could be read as a successful flourish of a savvy politician and his public relations team, the publicity is enabled by the conjuncture of skilled economic migration, the neoliberal economy and a global media ecosystem which values the appeal of soft power and image-making. This chapter engages with how India is currently recruiting the diaspora into its own global agendas and how this national image is produced as a media spectacle.

Publicity and the national brand Historically, nations have been attached to different forms of visual, textual and even sonic representations. Nationalism itself, as Volˇciˇc and Andrejevic (2016, 2) remind us, is “perhaps the ur-form of the brand – a means of channeling affective sentiment around a floating signifier”. The cultivation of national identity has historically rested on scripting and communicating a country’s exceptionalism. For instance, the very sight of the flag or the sound and words of the national anthem were meant to evoke patriotic responses from citizens. Nations today rely on image-making as an important means to gain political visibility and influence, thereby transforming “the meaning and experiential reality of national belonging and national governance” (Kaneva, 2012, 4). Responding to the demands of the global economy, nations adopt aggressive modes of marketing and strive to reach constituencies beyond their territorial boundaries. Nation branding, according to Jansen (2008), not only explains nations to the world but also reinterprets national identity in marketable terms. National identities are being imagined by communication consultants and marketing strategists in terms of trendy globally coded messages which characterize nations as being cool, hip and incredible.2 This has become a professional transnational practice involving elite intermediaries involved in communicating the vision of the nation and what nationalism means (Aronczyk, 2013a, 2013b). A wide variety of actors and institutions are involved in these exercises to promote the nation and communicate its message globally. Nation branding initiatives rest on the notion of consumer citizens who are enlisted to participate in the reproduction of a commercial nationalism as a form of allegiance (Volˇciˇc & Andrejevic, 2011). These developments, as Ham (2001) argues, indicate a paradigm shift from traditional geopolitics of diplomacy to cultivating a national image through securing a brand niche. To gain ground in this mediatized competition for attention, nations are allocating a great deal of resources to major publicity efforts in order to ensure the global circulation of the nation’s image. According to Kaneva (2016), while nation branding is touted today as the superior way to think about nations and international relations in a globalized world, the approach builds on and in fact reproduces existing hierarchies among nations. In order to be taken seriously as world-class locations, cities engage in what Ong (2011) describes as worlding exercises – practices that are aspirational, experimental and even speculative. Cities engage in these exercises in order to establish themselves as highly desirable political, economic and cultural centres and attract the attention of global publics and investors. Likewise, nations on a more expansive scale are caught up in the same race to refashion their identities in global terms and similarly utilize a variety of innovative worlding projects. In the 270

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race to remodel themselves as cosmopolitan spaces and to ensure the visibility of the nation as a recognizable brand, governments are resorting to publicity techniques that are choreographed as media spectacles. Diplomacy itself has assumed new variations with developments such as the reformulation of citizenship in deterritorialized and entrepreneurial terms, as well as the pervasive influence of social media and the instrumental use of soft power in establishing global presence (Hall, 2012; Thussu, 2013). In the case of India, the project of image-building rests primarily on an economic imperative and the desire to construct a strong image of a nation bristling with drive and economic energy. There is intense anxiety to promote a vision of a technological India as separate and distinct, yet gaining sustenance from the traditional India. In the area of tourism, this binary distinction has been played very effectively in recent years. For example, the Incredible India campaign launched in 2002 by the Ministry of Tourism used creative techniques to promote India as a unique destination by showcasing what the campaign termed “the incredible energy and extraordinary diversity of India” (India@60, New York, 2007). In an analysis of the marketing of Incredible India, Geary (2013, 2) notes that these campaigns were not only economic tools to boost tourism but also provided “a privileged platform for framing geopolitical positions and relandscaping an image of the country as a rising world power”. Similarly, in the year 2006 at the prestigious World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, India was hyper-visible in a campaign aptly called India Everywhere. The Davos campaign was mainly intended to showcase the country to potential investors as a powerful economic and democratic alternative to China (Landler, 2006). These publicity efforts, which aim to flag the country’s arrival into the global economic arena, face a major hurdle in overcoming deeply entrenched stereotypes held by the West about India. A long history of Orientalist representations has rendered the nation as either primitive and chaotic or exotic and inexplicable in the Western imaginary. In order to change this perception, branding campaigns strategically place an image of India as an ancient civilization alongside images of a hyper-modern digital India. In addition, as Rajagopal (2016) argues, non-Western nation building at large has usually been projected as a story of failure unless redeemed by private enterprise. In these recent nation branding exercises, the aim of branding is precisely to remake the national image in corporate terms and weave together a social, political and economic narrative which emphasizes a different nationalism, one coded in global terms. Branding involves building affective connections with audiences in order to normalize the logic and authenticity of the brand (Banet-Weiser, 2012). The Indian state deliberately uses a combination of affective appeals and corporate branding strategies in order to enlist elite sections of the diaspora and advance an authentic and cosmopolitan storyline about the nation.

Diaspora as global conduits Over the past fifty years, a variety of global factors including economic trends, the liberalization of the Indian economy, the demand for skilled labour and changes in immigration law in the West have significantly impacted the pathways of emigration from India. This has resulted in the movement of skilled Indian labour around the world, especially in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, accelerated most recently by the growth of the information technology and service industry related job sectors. In the past few decades, this stream of professional migrants from India has accumulated its share of success stories and gained high profile visibility across multiple domains. The presence of Indians in global corporate environments, and in Silicon Valley in particular, is a source of pride among the diaspora and in India. Although the Indian diasporic experience is highly stratified in terms of socioeconomic class, as expected, it is only 271

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the achievements of the upwardly mobile that make headlines and are noticed within India. Recognizing the vital importance of the diaspora to the country’s economic growth, the government of India has been systematically institutionalizing the relationship between the diaspora and the nation (Varadarajan, 2010). The state has created categories of citizenship such as the ‘non-resident Indian’ that will provide various types of financial incentives and privileges including visa free travel. These categories and incentives have been progressively reworked or refined over the years. Since 2003, the government of India has also been organizing an annual conference, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), to showcase the achievements of Indians abroad and actively forge connections with the diaspora.3 The first PBD event is considered to be a turning point in the relationship between the Indian government and the diaspora (Mani & Varadajran, 2005). The chairman of the first organizing committee declared at the meeting: “I hold the view that the strength of the diaspora is a part of the strength of India, and the strength of India will be the greatest source of strength and safety for the global Indian family” (Singhvi, 2003). The Indian state reconfigures the connection between the diaspora and the nation by deploying what Ong (1999) calls flexible strategies of governing. Declaring the diaspora to be connected to the Indian polity disrupts traditional and territorially bound definitions of citizenship. The revised relationship with the diaspora rests on certain assumptions and expectations which are incorporated into the publicity campaigns. First there is the expectation of enduring loyalty from the diaspora to their land of birth. Next is the promotion of a monolithic romanticized vision of India intact with a particular civilizational history. This discourse of an essentialized nationalism embedded within stylized forms of nostalgia was most forcefully articulated at the first PBD and continues to resonate in newer iterations, as will be discussed in this chapter. Finally, there is a continuous reference to the belief that the success and achievements of the diaspora are linked to an innate quality of immutable Indianness. By yoking together the diasporic imaginary and market calculations, the state successfully advances a transnationally scripted nationalism. The influential diaspora is recruited to play an ambassadorial role for the nation in terms of soft power, and serve as both resource and infrastructure for the circulation of brand India. The ability of Indian immigrants to adapt and perform as economic actors on the global stage is regarded as an opportunity for the branding efforts of the state. Koshy (2008, 14) argues that “the identity forms of the South Asian diaspora show an infinite capacity to morph, to reinvent, and reproduce themselves in the face of exclusion, partition, and expulsion, as well as the processes of selective incorporation, assimilation, and dual citizenship”. This adaptive capacity, while applauded, is also delinked from all historical particularities of mobility and the contested politics of migration in the countries of relocation. Only the successes of skilled migrants are singled out for recognition due to the belief that they have the economic power to enable and also hasten the global visibility of the home country. Even at the first PBD meeting, the deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani declared that it is the confluence of two developments, the coming of age of India and the coming of age of Indians working abroad, that has sparked a global dialogue closely connecting the diaspora with citizens living in the homeland (Advani, 2003). In the context of economic liberalization, as Varadarajan (2010, 17) argues persuasively, “a subject was needed who could plausibly embody the potential for India to succeed in the global economy, and this was where the newly valorized subject, ‘the global Indian’, came in”. As Kapoor (2010) notes, a human-capital-rich diaspora can be an international business asset, and diasporic networks serve as important intermediaries in brokering connections between the countries that define their identity. Hailed as possessing both economic power and cosmopolitan cachet, the elite diasporic subject is held up as a model of global excellence by the Indian state. 272

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In the publicity events, the lives of the diaspora are recast as aspirational parables of globalization. The story of the diaspora is rewritten as a neoliberal narrative of individual success with a familiar plot line about perseverance and the power of an entrepreneurial spirit. The narrative features the consumer citizen as protagonist along with the fiction of a pure national origin. Eschewing all reference to structural problems, politics or histories, diasporic success is equated solely to personal drive, initiative and above all, a commitment to an intangible and ever-present quality of Indianness. The logic of the branding exercise is to use the diaspora and capitalize on what Kapoor (2010, 91) calls the “reputational spillover effects” of their success in the technology sector. As Ong (1999, 6) writes, “if mobile subjects plot and maneuver in relation to capital flows, governments also articulate with global capital and entities in complex ways”. By interweaving cultural and economic logics, the Indian state forges fluid constructions of belonging and naturalizes the connection between the diaspora and the nation. In the process, the goal is to boost the national brand and give it a cosmopolitan flourish. Media and technology play a significant role in the reconfiguration of the links between the diaspora and the nation. First, diasporic communities are seamlessly connected via digital technologies into the everyday of the home country (Hegde, 2014). Next, the diaspora constitutes an important audience segment for the Indian media industries (Punathambekar, 2013). Hence, predictably, Bollywood showbiz, media celebrities and the diaspora are all summoned, scripted with the drama of the digital and inserted into the global production of the national brand.

Production of spectacular nationalism In a major media blitz, Prime Minister Modi travelled extensively to global cities including New York, Sydney, Toronto, Dubai, San Jose and London in the months soon after his landslide victory in May 2014. In each city the strategy was well-rehearsed – enlist the diaspora, applaud them in a particular stylized strategy and leverage their success to brand India as a vibrant nation bristling with economic and cultural vitality. The choice of location, rhetorical flourishes and the flexing of geographies were all part of the strategic publicity campaign to brand both the persona of the Prime Minister and the nation as energetic symbols of the 21st century. The nation as a desirable global location and ideologies of nationalism are woven together, fusing the domains of the public and private along with the national and transnational. In the registers of commerce laced carefully with nostalgic appeals directed to the diaspora, India emerged as a homeland and an investor’s paradise. According to Turner (2016, 21), in the market of competing nationalisms, nation branding is about “the deliberate development of a national identity that is constructed through the popular media and which connects the nation to a specific set of values, histories, and regimes of affect”. In the case described here, the diaspora and the mediated global moment provide the mis-en-scène to enact the nation in its reframed modality. The venues, the stagecraft, rhetorical style and dialogical appeals were strategically chosen in order to brand India in a show of spectacular nationalism.

Locational glitz In the process of branding the nation outside its geographical territory, India is recreated in grand and large proscenium spaces. The glitzy political encounters with the diaspora were produced in massive venues that are either historic or imposing in terms of their size or location. For example, in Sydney, the site for the Modi event was the iconic Super Dome, one of the top ten arenas in the world; in Toronto, the celebrated Ricoh Coliseum; in Dubai, the famous International Cricket Stadium; in London, Wembley Stadium, touted as the second largest 273

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stadium in all of Europe. The choice of these global venues for the political galas was clearly an important part of the statement that was being made about the transnational coming together of the nation and its diaspora – the cutting edge duo of the global moment. In New York City, the venue was the massive Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan. Here in September 2014, a large crowd of close to 19,000 people, mostly Indian Americans, gathered and chanted Modi! Modi! Modi! in a rising crescendo. On stage, Nina Davaluri, the Indian American recipient of the title Miss America, and Hari Srinivasan, a news anchor from the Public Broadcasting Service, tried to hold the crowd’s attention. Attempting to calm the crowd, Srinivasan reminded the audience that Modi has already been elected. Also on the stage, an artist holding two brushes, furiously and in rhythm to the music, painted a portrait of the Prime Minister very much in the style of the campaign posters created for Obama. In particular, the performances in all these spaces incorporated the distinct style and sounds of Bollywood in order to showcase India’s signature contribution to the global mediascape. In New York City, dancers in traditional Indian clothes danced to folk songs and Bollywood rhythms. Musical celebrities Kavita Krishnamurthy and L. Subramaniam regaled the audience with spruced up renditions of patriotic songs and the popular tune “I love my India”. Bollywood songs with a sporty nationalistic touch like “Chakde India” were programmed right next to Bruce Springsteen’s famous “Born in the USA”. The genre of the performances was entirely fusion with a smooth blending of artistic styles – the traditional with the popular, the domestic with the global. In each venue, the musical mash-up was matched by the decorations which featured the colours of two nations with flags and balloons flying high. In this nationalistic display, the diaspora serves as a prop to bridge geographies and to connect a great civilizational past and a cutting-edge global future. A short video created for the Madison Square Garden event, “Anthem of us”, romanticized the nostalgic connections of the diaspora to the homeland and celebrated notable Indian Americans from several fields. Filling the auditorium loudly, the narrator’s voice reached out to the diaspora: “We are champions, we create and cure. We are visionaries” (Bhargava, 2014). The main goal of the night at Madison Square Garden, as also in the other major cities that Prime Minister Modi visited around the world, was to perform the bridging of cultures, communities and nations. The entire event was planned on a massive scale in terms of both numbers and the nature of the gala festivities and celebrities assembled. The goal of the publicity was primarily to reach beyond the live audience gathered in New York and to make a splash on screens in India and around the world. The laser shows, the digital displays and the fanfare were all there to present the Prime Minister and the nation in spectacular terms and on a colossal scale. The adulation of the diaspora for Modi and the magnitude of the mediated production are captured in terms of US popular culture by Yee (2014) in a New York Times report: “And when the man himself emerged, the capacity crowd on Sunday in New York’s most storied arena roared as one, as if all the Knicks, all the Rangers, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen had suddenly materialized.”

Dialogical appeals The visits to global cities have been, for the most part, regarded as a diplomatic coup for Prime Minister Modi. The persona of the politician, the message delivered, the mediated fanfare and the audience were all seamlessly connected. The dovetailing of all these various elements both replayed and reinforced the message about a nation fast-tracking its way to the future and its promise as borne out by its diaspora. In each of the venues described here, the diasporic audiences were extolled as citizens of the homeland who have already arrived into that aspirational space. Modi, the newly elected Prime Minister of the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), won on a 274

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ticket that promised hope and change from the status quo offered by the Congress, the long-standing party in power. One party leader of the BJP described the shift as “tectonic”: “The politics of dynasty, entitlement and inheritance has been rejected in favour of the politics of initiative and accomplishment based on hard work” (Burke, 2014). This narrative of hard work used by the BJP and Modi connects smoothly with both a familiar immigrant story and the neoliberal narrative about individual success. Using his celebrity status, Modi threads these stories together, wins over the diaspora and scores a branding victory for the nation. Four key themes which emerge most prominently in the rhetorical appeals used by Modi in his speeches in the global cities are discussed next: entrepreneurial success, authenticity of the homeland, the promise of technology and citizenship. The reiteration of these discursive threads reinforces the message about the new face of India and seeks to win the undivided loyalty of the diaspora.

Saga of success The ideal subject of the global economy is increasingly represented as the entrepreneurial individual, fully self-sufficient and driven to succeed. To both state regimes and markets today, individuals have to be identifiable and locatable within particular sets of social networks and matrices of desire.4 The ability to reproduce individual locations seems necessary to gain strong public allegiance to brand India. The classic rags to riches ascent, celebrated in the American imaginary, is now the neoliberal aspirational storyline where individuals are responsible and accountable for their successes and wellbeing.5 This storyline is one that immigrants identify with in the context of their own transnational relocations and is also a biographical story that the Prime Minister uses strategically in his public addresses. Sometimes people ask me, Modiji, tell us about your big vision. I tell them, look brother; I’ve come here by selling tea. I am a very small person, a very ordinary person. My childhood was an average one. And since, I am a small person, that’s why I enjoy doing small things for small people. (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Historic Speech in New York, 2014) The chai wala story of the young boy who helped his father sell tea in a train station in his native state of Gujarat has gained considerable traction for Prime Minister Modi around the world. This narrative, embellished with the famous remark that he has not taken a vacation for even 15 minutes since taking office, is used to connect with the Indian diaspora. Modi claims to personally understand the hard work which has earned Indians goodwill in their new locations. This is a point he made first in the Madison Square Garden speech but has repeated often since then. In a June 2016 address to the US Congress, for example, Modi took the opportunity to praise the Indian diaspora and assert that they are part of the greater Indian polity: Connecting our two nations is also a unique and dynamic bridge of three million Indian Americans. Today, they are among your best CEOs, academics, astronauts, scientists, economists, doctors, even spelling bee champions. They are your strength. They are also the pride of India. They symbolize the best of both our societies. (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Speech in US Congress, 2016) In his other speeches, Modi lists the names of individuals in the diaspora who have made it across diverse fields. In Sydney, he named specific people who have excelled in sports, physics, mathematics and journalism. He added that they have dedicated their lives to Australia and brought glory to the country in various fields. This public acknowledgement of the diaspora’s 275

Radha S. Hegde

arrival and exceptional success interrupts the older narrative of the diaspora as having turned its back on the home country. However, once again, it is only the contribution of skilled and corporate labour that is valorized in the process of globalizing brand India.

Purity of the motherland Diasporic communities labour to preserve the purity of the homeland and its civilizational signature with regard to language, religion and tradition. The connection to religion is strong and the construction of a diasporic Indian identity is tied, for the most part, to a Hindu identity. Places of worship in the new relocated spaces become the centre of diasporic activity and social networking. In these practices, the invocation of the word ‘culture’ rests on assumptions about authenticity of traditions and maintaining fidelity to original versions. Prashad (2000, 142) makes an interesting point that the word ‘culture’ is increasingly being used by the diaspora “to index the customs of spirituality and domesticity and not the actual life experiences of the people”. He notes that in recent years, “the most significant element of ‘national culture’ among Indian Americans has been the turn to religion, especially a syndicated form of Hinduism” (2000, 134). This commodified version of religion translates easily into the language of national branding and the religious leitmotif is tightly woven into Prime Minister Modi’s presentations to the diaspora. For example, the Prime Minister began his Madison Square Garden speech with the words “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or “Hail to Mother India”. He then proceeded to wish everyone a Happy Navaratri, as the speech was scheduled on the day of an important Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil. In so doing, Hindu religious hegemony is established right from the start of Modi’s address and a sense of a Hindu public is reiterated through the examples and affective appeals used in the speech. Solicitations to the diaspora to help with major causes such as environment and pollution are also routed through the religious. Consider his plea to get the diaspora involved in the cleaning of the River Ganga, one of the rivers considered most holy to Hindus in India: Now look at the state of the River Ganga. There are some of you who would like to take your parents one day to the Ganga for the holy bath. It’s in everyone’s mind. But then when you read how polluted the Ganga is, you might think otherwise. Tell me all of you here, shouldn’t our Ganga be pure and clean? [The crowd cheers, ‘Yes!’] Shouldn’t every Indian participate in cleaning up the Ganga? [‘Yes!’]. Won’t you people here help me clean the Ganga? [‘Yes!’] Is that a firm promise? [‘Yes’!]. (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Historic Speech in New York, 2014) This rhetoric carefully articulates a sense of Hindu solidarity and loyalty in order to make the diaspora commit to investment and action for the homeland. The Prime Minister also strategically includes the diaspora in the transformation of the country. Vivekananda, the 19th-century Indian mystic who was one of the first to bring the tenets of Hinduism to the West is also a recurrent figure in Prime Minister Modi’s addresses to the diaspora. Modi describes Vivekananda as a visionary and showers praise on his extraordinary strength and belief in India’s spiritual leadership of the world. By referring to Vivekananda who was the face of Hinduism to the West, Modi draws a comparison with the diaspora as the current day counterparts engaged fully in India’s transformations in the realm of the spiritual and beyond. Finally, Gandhi is evoked as the supreme model for the diaspora – a man who emigrated to South Africa, excelled as an attorney outside the country and then chose to return to the homeland in order to effect change. But since the diasporic audience, like Modi himself, belong to a 276

Global branding of India

post-independent India, the Prime Minister’s message is tailored to reach contemporary sensibilities and yet draw on an older model of loyalty and service to the motherland. Like me, many of you were born in Independent India. We didn’t have the fortune of fighting for our country’s independence. We didn’t have the opportunity to be hanged in the process of freeing Mother India from the shackles of slavery. We couldn’t go to jail for the freedom of Indians. And we should feel the pain that we weren’t a part of the freedom struggle. We might not have been able to die for our country, but can we not live for the country? It’s not in our hands to die for our country, but it is in our hands to live for our country. Therefore, it should be our resolve that if we live, it will be for our country; if we fight, it will be for our country.6 (NDTV, 2014) Modi’s dramatic message is replete with affective appeals and rallies the diaspora to be fully involved in the nation and its transformations. Through the evocation of iconic figures like Gandhi and Vivekananda, Modi marshals Indian history and Hinduism to evoke nationalist fervour and a sense of purpose in the diaspora. He reminds the audience about the foundation of Indian values. In short, the message communicated is simple – Indian values and the Indian brand are at the root of all diasporic achievement.

The promise of technology and the diaspora The presence of Indians in the information technology sector worldwide is regarded as a major asset to the nation and a sign of its global visibility. They are held up not only as a source of immense national pride but also as a sign of the potential of Indians to succeed globally. For example, in New York, the Prime Minister asserted that India now has the capacity and the opportunity to remake the 21st century as India’s own century. Overlaying the diaspora with technology stories is a publicity strategy to capture world attention and emplace brand India within a digital future. Modi opened his speech in New York by referring to an incident where a Taiwanese translator asked him if India was still a land of snakes and snake charmers and if people in India play with snakes. “No, not anymore. Our nation has developed a lot since then. Our ancestors used to play with the snake, but today we play with the mouse. Our youth today move the world with their mouse” (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Historic Speech in New York, 2014). The query posed to Modi is the classic Orientalist question that many in the Indian diaspora have confronted and so this was an opportune narrative for Modi to mine and connect with his audience. With this anecdote, Modi deflates the stereotype of India and confirms his appreciation of the diaspora’s contribution to the world of information technology. Modi declares that due to their work and technical skills, Indian professionals have earned respect not only in America but also the world over. It is also clear that information technology is the area of contribution that he seems to value and emphasize the most. He frequently references the potential of the diaspora to deliver the country into the promised digital future. According to Modi, India occupies a fine place today because it is the world’s largest democracy with the added advantage of a young population. He assures his Madison Square Garden audience that with resources and a technological headstart, India will move ahead at top