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The diasporic imaginary and the Indian diaspora

Mishra, V. (2005) The diasporic imaginary and the Indian diaspora. Asian Studies Institute Occasional Lecture, 2 . pp. 1-30.

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“All diasporas are unhappy, but every diaspora is unhappy in its own way” (Mishra 1996: 189). Diasporas refer to people who do not feel comfortable with their non-hyphenated identities as indicated on their passports. Diasporas are people who would want to explore the meaning of the hyphen, but perhaps not press the hyphen too far for fear that this would lead to massive communal schizophrenia. They are precariously lodged within an episteme of real or imagined displacements, self-imposed sense of exile; they are haunted by spectres, by ghosts arising from within that encourage irredentist or separatist movements. Diasporas are both celebrated (by late/post modernity) and maligned (by early modernity). But we need to be a little cautious, a little wary of either position. Celebrating diasporas as the exemplary condition of late modernity – diasporas as highly democratic communities for whom domination and territoriality are not the preconditions of “nationhood” – is a not uncommon refrain. In the late modern celebratory argument on behalf of diasporas, diasporic communities are said to occupy a border zone where the most vibrant kinds of interactions take place and where ethnicity and nation are kept separate. In this argument, diasporas are fluid, ideal, social formations happy to live wherever there is an international airport and stand for a longer, much admired, historical process.

Publication Type: Others
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Victoria University of Wellington. Asian Studies Institute
Notes: This Lecture was given at Victoria University of Wellington on 29 August 2005
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