“Born in the Village, Roaming the World”: Diasporic Essentialism in the work of Canadian Sikh Rapper Fateh Doe

Key information

5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Virtual Event

About this event

Speaker: Sara Grewal (University of Edmonton AB, Canada)


CCLPS / Multilingual Locals & Significant Geographies: For a New Approach to World Literature (MULOSIGE) event

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Despite the rhetoric of Canadian multiculturalism, Sikhs in Canada experience their subjectivity through the lens of exclusion and difference vis-à-vis mainstream Canadian society. Canadian Sikh hip hop artists “translate” the anti-majority racial politics expressed in Blackamerican hip hop into an appropriation of the genre that captures the unique context of the Canadian Sikh diaspora. Canadian Sikhs use Panjabi Hip Hop to perform a distinctly diasporic subjectivity that aligns itself with the Afrodiaspora while also defining itself both through and against mainstream Canadian culture.

This talk explores these dynamics via a close analysis of songs by the Toronto-based Panjabi hip hop artist Fateh. I will show how Fateh variously uses hip hop to perform intersecting modes of diasporic subjectivity: 1) a distinctly Sikh cultural identity that valorizes difference and mobilizes strategic essentialism; 2) internal cultural critique of the Sikh community; and 3) anti-essentialist identity that moves between performative modes to insist on the simultaneity of Sikh-ness and Canadian-ness. Ultimately, Fateh uses the translocal cultural flows of the Hip Hop Nation to capture Canadian Sikh youths’ experiences of racism and exclusion while also navigating the politics of identity and community amongst Sikhs.


Sara Grewal is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature in the Department of English at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her research interests include South Asian literature (with particular focus on Urdu), historical poetics, race and ethnicity studies, and global hip hop. In her spare time, she also teaches Panjabi to elementary-school kids.

Contact email: mulosige@soas.ac.uk