Trajectory of Indian Diaspora, Culture and Ethnicity

Published Date:   Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

A Report on National Interdisciplinary Seminar on “Trajectory of Indian Diaspora, Culture and Ethnicity”

20-21 March 2015

A two-day National Interdisciplinary Seminar on “Trajectory of Indian Diaspora, Culture and Ethnicity”, was organized by the Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Lucknow. The two day programme had plenary sessions and ten parallel paper presentation sessions held respectively on each day. The National Seminar opened with the auspicious ceremonial lighting of the lamp followed by a melodious rendition of Sarasvasti Vandana by students of the Department of English and Modern European Languages.

The inaugural session was presided over by Prof. Nishi Pandey, Convener of the National Seminar and Head of the Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Lucknow. Along with her, present on the dias were, Dr. Meena T Pillai, University of Kerela as the Chief Guest and Prof. Dipika Mukherjee, Northwestern University, United States of America, as the Guest of Honour of the function and Dr.Onkar Nath Upadhyay, Organizing Secretary of the seminar.

Prof. Nishi Pandey, as the Chairperson of the session, extended her heartiest welcome to the delegates gathered from all across the country. Speaking on the issues of Diaspora, she highlighted the role of Cultural Texts in English Studies today. She also notified the gathering about her initiative to set up a Centre for Cultural Texts, Records and Translation of Indian Literatures under the State Government’s Centre of Excellence Scheme. Dr. Onkar Nath Upadhyay, Organizing Secretary of the Seminar in his introductory remarks, emphasized on the need understand the widening domain of the term ‘diaspora’ as he called Indian diaspora as the oldest and the richest. He pointed out Indian Diaspora should not only be taken as a bane but also as a boon because it engages the diasporas with their root nations and establishes a mode of glorifying it.

The inaugural was followed by the first Plenary Session with Dr. Meena T Pillai and Prof. Dipika Mukherjee as its keynote speakers.  In the plenary session, Dr. Meena T Pillai, University of Kerala, presented a roadmap of Indian Bollywood Cinema with special reference to the diasporic impact on it. She delivered an insightful presentation on her paper entitled “My Desi Girl, My Desi Boy: The Nation,Diaspora and the National Popular” Citing the cases from the movies like- dilwale dulhaniya le jaengey, Swades, Dostana she reflected upon the tendencies of hybridity and rehybridity in Indian Cinema; and informed that consumerism has defined the subject. The national identity is giving way to transnational identity in contemporary times and in this chain the substantial ethnic is replaced by the commodified ethnic. Further, towards shaping its trajectory she focused on the terms like- metrosexuality, desi, videsi and pardesi and a new wave in regional cinemas; re-traditionalization. She mentioned contemporary issues that gave rise to a nostalgia for home within home in the modern youth; Time, space and identity mutilation ; Cyber culture encouraging camouflaging of identities; Slum tourism in India becoming a new trend.Modernization of “Desi”, misinterpretation of culture, eg. Priyanka chopra's saree becoming skimpy in the song Desi Girl.

Prof. Dipika Mukkerjee, Northwestern University, USA, spoke on “Containing Multitudes: Language Maintenance in Two Diasporic Indian Communities In Malaysia and The Netherlands”. She spoke on the creativity in Language, migration, exile and language of power. She also pointed out the co-relation of language and religion is stronger in Malaysia than in any other country of the world where Malay, Indians, Bhoomiputra make the population of Malaysia and how Indians in Malaysia use English as their first language.

The next session involved ten parallel paper reading sessions where deliberations on the following sub-themes were fostered: Indian Diaspora in US, Indian Diaspora in UK, Reflections on Bharati Mukherjee, Indian Diaspora in New Literatures, Girmitia Diaspora, Concept of Nation State, Multiculturalism, Glocalization, Culture, Race, Ethnicity and Women Writing.

The Second day of the National Interdisciplinary Seminar on “Trajectory of Indian Diaspora, Culture and Ethnicity”, began with the second Plenary Session with three scholarly presentations respectively from Prof. Sadanand Shahi speaking on “Bhojpuri Diaspora in Mauritius”, Dr. Neerja A Gupta discussing "Literature as Tool of Emotional Synergy for Diaspora" and Dr. Ved Mitra Shukla’s deliberations on “Philosophical Aspects of Diaspora”.

Prof. Sadanand Shahi branded the nineteenth century as the century of diasporic movements, and established a co-relation between industrialization and imperialism. He further referred ‘the indentured labourers’ as the “neo form of slavery”. He highlighted how population from Eastern U.P migrated to Mauritius in large numbers in form of labourers.Folk songs were made by the diasporic community which reflected their conditions in the adopted nation and the use of myths by the plantation owners to draw Indian crowd for the labourers’ job in Mauritius- myth of Mareech from Ramayana.With a keen analysis of Bhojpuri folk songs, Prof. Shahi manifested the travails of trauma of the early diaspora-writers, and inferred the Macaulay’s minutes as a tool of cultural colonization.

Dr. Neerja A Gupta stated that market driven writers are not giving the true picture of diaspora. Most of the diasporic writers are not writing the society they live in but they write out of “market compulsion”. She further chalked out the importance of the cultural texts in making a diasporic sensibility in different phases.

Dr. Ved Mitra Shukla outlined the philosophical bonds in diasporic literature, culture and ethnicity.

The plenary session was followed by the second round of ten parallel paper reading sessions for the day. The themes on which presenters generated prolific discussions were : Post-Coloniality, Comparative/ Transnational Studies, Dalit Studies, Cinema and Theatre Studies, Culture, Race and Ethnicity, New Literatures, Children Literature, Transnational, Glocalization and multiculturalism. Over 60 papers were read by academicians and scholars.

The Second Day of the seminar came to an end with the Valedictory Session,  Dr. Surya .Pratap Dixit, University of Lucknow was Chief Guest.  It was presided over by Dr. S B Nimse, Vice Chancellor, University of Lucknow, along with the presence of Prof.Nishi Pandey,Convener of the Seminar  and Dr. Onkar Nath Upadhyay, Organizing Secretary of the seminar on the dias. Delivering his presidential address, Dr.Nimse solemnly pointed out the role of English in Technology and in the enrichment of dissemination of Indian diaspora. In a lighter mode, he gave a term “Lucknow University Diaspora”.

Dr. Onkar Nath Upadhyay, the Organizing Secretary delivered the vote of thanks. Underlining the successful completion of the two day national seminar, he offered brief summary of the proceedings that had taken place so far. The conference had about 120 papers covering over two days successfully deliberated on several critical issues on diaspora. The Seminar concluded on a positive note with pleasant memories of productive brainstorming sessions and reflections on newer areas of interdisciplinary research and development.

The Report provided by Dr.Onkar Nath Upadhyay, Organizing Secretary of the seminar, He can be reached at: onupadhyay21@yahoo.com

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