Towards a Diasporic Imagination of the Present: an eternal sense of Homelessness.

full name / name of organization: 
Tapati Bharadwaj
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Towards a diasporic imagination of the present: an eternal sense of Homelessness.

This is a call for papers for a collection of essays that examines and theorizes the notion of diaspora, imagined communities and cultures, and trans-national/ ethnic identities. The collection will be published by Lies and Big Feet, an independent publishing house in India.

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Tapati Bharadwaj:

In our modern world, where there is a constant to and fro movement of culture, people and technology, discrete cultural identities are giving way. Scholars like Arjun Appadurai and Anthony Giddens comment on how national narratives "think" and "feel" beyond the nation to create a "pluralized world-political" community. Such narratives operate in global public spaces, made possible not only through print, but new technologies of the internet, and constant mobility (See Appadurai's Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, 1996). The larger conundrum-like question, then becomes, what is national identity?

In Bangalore, India, where I live, there is a generation of Indian children that is American. My son was born in Chicago, and we returned back to India when he was 4 years old. Every few years, we go and diligently visit the US consulate to renew his passport. My parents moved from Bangladesh to India, post-Partition in 1947. Before settling in Kolkata in the early 1980s, they had lived in the United States in the 1950s-60s, Worli Seaface in Bombay, and Venezuela. I grew up in an uber-brahmanical environment, reading books which my father had bought from public libraries in the US, and imaginatively participating in all the cultures which had been their homes – Bangladesh, the Americas and India. When I studied in Presidency College (erstwhile Hindoo College) in Calcutta, all my professors were Ox-Bridge educated, and terribly snobbish. I learnt more in the hallowed canteen of the college, where Cuba and the Naxal movements were discussed with equal ease.

Where, and when exactly did Indian culture begin? Is the present the beginning of the disappearance of discrete cultural identities, and the acceptance of the fact that we are in a state of eternal movement? An implication of modernity is the fact that we are incredibly self-reflexive of our situated-ness and aware of global affairs, and our neighbours, who might live thousands of miles away. Has the world, therefore, become our family?