SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Tethering Diasporas: Nation-States and the Transnational Practices of South Asian Diasporas

Ishan Ashutosh (Northumbria University)

Date: 20 November 2013Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 20 November 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51

Type of Event: Seminar

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Dr Ishan Ashutosh - Tethering Diasporas: Nation States and the Transnational Practices of South Asian Diasporas

This essay examines the changing relationship between South Asian diasporas and the nation-state.  While the concept of diaspora is often simply framed in contrast to the nation-state, I provide a more nuanced account of this shifting dynamic through a focus on the transnational practices of the Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in North America.  In the case of the former, the Indian state has largely viewed its diaspora through a marked ambivalence since independence and partition in 1947, a connection that undermined Indian state projects of nationalism.  In the past twenty years, however, the Indian state has increasingly attempted to transform the dispersed Indian diaspora as a central feature of neoliberal India through a range of practices that include diaspora philanthropy and various citizenship schemes. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, by contrast, has long challenged the exclusions of the Sri Lankan state through political transnational practices centered on Tamil Eelam, a sought after independent state in the north and northeast of Sri Lanka.  These practices, while using the language of national self determination and the demand for territory, produced forms of diasporic belonging that lie beyond the rights and obligations of national membership.  By placing these two South Asian diasporas in relation to the nation-state, this essay illuminates the contours of post-colonial nationalism, diasporic belonging, and the practices that characterize the transnational activity of South Asian diasporas.

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