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A Complex Phenomenon

Edited by N. Jayaram
New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp.268, Rs. 695.00


The growth of academic literature on Indian diaspora in the last two decades shows that it is one of the largest and highly successful diasporas in the world. The phenomenal growth of the Indian diaspora and their successes in economy and politics in the host societies not only facilitated in retaining the 'Indian identity' in the diaspora but also strengthening the transnational linkages with the homeland and other diasporics located in different parts of the world. Diversities in the Indian Diaspora edited by N. Jayaram is the culmination of a seminar held in Bangalore jointly organized by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla and the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore in May 2008. The volume consisting of 14 chapters is divided into five sections: 'Diaspora from an Indian State: Punjab', 'Diversity in the Diaspora Locale', 'Case Studies of Diasporic Communities', 'Gender and Identity in the Diaspora', and 'India and the Indian Diaspora'. N. Jayaram's introduction provides useful background knowledge on the diversities in the Indian diaspora from the historical to the contemporary period. According to Jayaram, there are many diasporas of Indian communi-ties abroad based on region, language, religion, and caste/sub-caste identities. However, des-pite these diversities, 'there are different levels of unity, and at a broadest level, one could speak of the Indian diaspora' (p. 9). The first section starts with an interesting paper by Paramjit S. Judge on the Punjabi diaspora. He argues that in order to under-stand the diversity and heterogeneity of the Punjabi diaspora one has to understand their 'historical heterogeneity' and 'geographical heterogeneity' that shaped under two different periods of emigration i.e., the colonial and the postcolonial period (p. 29). The argument is further elaborated through the examination of nationhood, nation building and separatism-the three most important elements for the development of the Punjabi diaspora. Another interesting paper included in this section is by Ravindra K. Jain on the Sikhs in South East Asia. He argues that due to lack of ethnogra-phic studies it is difficult to understand the sociological homogeneity and heterogeneity of the Sikh population in South East Asia. Hence, he calls for a detailed ethnographic study on Sikhs in each of the South East Asian countries which should be studied separately from the Indian communities in general. The second section of the volume consists of five chapters on diversities in the old Indian diaspora such as Malaysia, Mauritius, Re-union, Guadeloupe and Martinique. ...

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