Book Launch & Discussion on "Innovative Departures: Anthropology and the Indian Diaspora"

             Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism(GRFDT)

                           In collaboration with  Routledge cordially invites to the launch of the book



                                         PROF. RAVINDRA K JAIN

Prof. Deepak Nayyar, Former VC, Delhi University released the book

                This was followed by a discussion

Panelists:  Prof.A.C.Sinha, Former Professor, NEHU, Shillong; Prof.Vivek Kumar, Professor at CSSS, JNU, New Delhi

Date: 22th January (Monday), 2018

Time: 6PM

Venue: Lecture Hall-II (Basement), India International Centre Annexe

40, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi-110003


Speech by Prof. Deepak Nayyar

Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I consider it a privilege to be in your midst this evening. And I would like to thank the publisher for their invitation to release Professor Ravindra Jain’s new book, Innovative Departures: Anthropology and the Indian Diaspora. It is, indeed, an honour to do so. I have known Ravi for more than 45 years. I moved to JNU perhaps a decade after he did, which was to become the intellectual home for both of us.

Professor Jain is one of the India’s most distinguished sociologists and anthropologists. This book builds on his deep understanding of social and cultural anthropology, and a lifetime of research on the Indian diaspora, fo focus on globalization in our times, through the lens of what he characterizes as diasporic migrations. The word ‘diaspora’ was first used to describe “Jews in Exile”. Its metaphorical use now extends far beyond its original meaning. Ravindra Jain’s narrative and analysis sketches a picture with bold strokes on a wide canvas. There are comparisons across the world. There is a multidisciplinary method. There are detailed case studies of multicultural societies. Complex issues of ethnicity and identity, or modernity and tradition, are situated in the wider transnational and geopolitical context.

I am an economist with an interest across social science disciplines. Yet, I do not have the knowledge and understanding to provide you with an introduction to, let alone an evaluation of, the rich texture and multiple layers of the discussion in this book. I leave that task to the panelists.

There are, however, three propositions that emerge which I would like to highlight. First, it is simply not possible to separate theory from methodology or from empirical work in the social sciences. This book weaves theory, ethnography and field work together in a seamless manner. Second, international comparisons always require description and analysis as successive logical steps that need integration in the social sciences, just as diagnosis and prescription are part of the same process in medicine Third; it is meaningless to distinguish between anthropology as the study of other societies or cultures and sociology as the study of one’s own society or culture. The distinction is essentially a colonial construct that began life in the West to understand the Rest (much like Indology as a subject). In my view, sociology and anthropology, even if different, are one discipline. So are economics and political economy. It is not possible to study one without the other.

There are two points related to the book that I would like to mention briefly to this audience, Both arise from my own work, as an economist, on international migration and on globalization.

For understanding the link between countries of origin and destination in international labour migration, it is necessary to think across social science disciplines rather than just economics, history, geography or even sociology There are links between countries in the migration process in each of these spheres Post-colonial ties, a common language, or cultural similarities have often shaped the direction of cross-border movements of people: from the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean islands to the UK, from Algeria to France, or from Indonesia to the Netherlands. Existing diasporas are often embedded in history: the origins of the Indian and Chinese diasporas across the world can be traced to their movement as indentured labour following the abolition of slavery in the British empire. Geographical proximity is often another determinant: from Mexico to the United States, from Eeatern Europe to Western Europe, or from Indonesia to Singapore. There is, of course, a sociological dimension. Migrants follow trails charted by pioneers. The existence of an immigrant community, with which the migrant shares a language, nationality or culture, in the country-of-destination, becomes a source of cumulative causation that continues to shape the direction of labour movements: from Turkey to Germany, from India to the United States, or from China to Canada. The same sociological nexus of migrant networks explains why such migrants come from a particular region (rather than anywhere else or everywhere) in the country-of-origin and move to a particular region, sometimes even specific cities in specific activities (instead of a more uniform geographical distribution) in the country-of-destination. It is worthy citing one example of this phenomenon at a macro-level. A significant proportion of taxi drivers in New Yorks are migrants from a few district in the state of Punjab in India. Different disciplines in the social sciences- economics, sociology, history or geography- also ask different analytical questions, which makes them complements rather than substitute in any understanding of international labour migration in any understanding of international labour migration or diasporas.

In thinking about the globalization during twenty-first century, it is interesting to juxtapose the past and the present to understand the temporal dimensions, or the age, of diasporas attributable to migration at different points of time. There is a connection that is attributable to the diaspora from the past and to globalization in the present. The diaspora from India and China, beyond its traditional meaning of jews in exile, has its historical origin in indentured labour, There is a significant presence of this diaspora from the two Asian giants across the world not only in industrialized countries but also in developing countries. This s associated with entrepreneurial capitalism, Indian and Chinese, across the world. Migrants from other developing countries are entrepreneurs too but, for historical reasons, the number of people whose origin lie in India or China is so much larger. The advent of globalization has also made it easier to move people across borders, whether guest workers or illegal immigrants, most of who come from developing countries and many of them stay on in industrialized countries often in an incarnation of small entrepreneurs On a smaller scale, there is a movement of professionals from developing countries who can migrate permanently, live abroad temporarily, or stay at home and travel frequently for business. Those people are almost as mobile as capital. This phenomenon is associated with their rise as managers to the top echelons of the corporate world in the age of shareholder capitalism. The most striking example is the substantial presence of professionals from India in the United States and the United Kingdom. Of course, these are similar professionals from other developing countries, such as Brazil, Mexico or South Korea, in the industrialized world. The juxtaposition of different vintages of diaspoas from the same home-country and in the same host-country, also raises an interesting set of questions about the ageing of migration streams shapes social and cultural aspects of diasporas.

The book by Ravindra Jain is an engaging read. It would interest not only those interested in social and cultural anthropology, or diaspora and migration studies, but also those with an interest in multicultural societies with large immigrant communities, that are a reality in the contemporary world. I commend it to all of you.


Panel Discussion to be added soon.



Time and Place:

Date:   Monday, Jan 22, 2018
Venue:   India International Centre Annexe
Address:   Lecture Hall-II (Basement), India International Centre Annexe, 40, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi-110003
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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