Special Lecture

(delivered during National Conference on Tribes, State Policies and NGOs which was held from 26th – 27th March 2004, at India International Centre, New Delhi)

Through the first J.S. Bhandari memorial lecture the IAA sought to honour the memory of Prof. Bhandari to whom many of the people present had an emotional attachment- as a teacher, a friend, an academician and a wonderful person. Dr. T. N. Madan chaired the session. He had taught Prof. Bhandari which made the event even more memorable for him. Prof. Jain was a contemporary and a good friend of Prof. Bhandari. Before beginning his lecture Prof. Jain reminisced the intense passion of Prof. Bhandari for the subject of anthropology that still inspires many people. He stated that Prof. Bhandari had mastered the art of easy, untrampled transition from theoretical to the practical. His communication and interactions with others were always a source of inspiration and strength.

The lecture INDIAN DIASPORA, OLD AND NEW: CULTURE, CLASS AND MOBILITY given by Prof. R. K. Jain aimed at exploring the connections between old and new Indian diaspora, viz., the labour diaspora of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the ‘knowledge worker’ diaspora to industrially developed countries from the mid-twentieth century onwards and continuing to this day. The connection is sought in three dimensions, namely, culture, class and mobility in the diaspora space. The continuities and discontinuities are delineated with specific reference to the diaspora experiences of South Indians in Malaysia (a population gaining mobility most recently through a partial dismantling of the plantation system), the East Indians in Trinidad (a population beginning to gain mobility from the status of plantation labour to a class of cane-farmers in the early twentieth century) and Information Technology workers from India into Australia from the 1980s onwards. The relationship between the variables of culture, on the one hand, and class and mobility, on the other, is analysed in the dual framework of ‘networks’ and ‘the diasporic imaginary’. The hiatus between the longing and belonging in this group as well as the affilial ties with the parent country have been investigated. The paper looks at the conflicts resultant from the intermingling of cultures in the three settings and how ‘Indian’ culture is used for maintenance of separate identities. The paper ends by pinpointing the substantive and conceptual problematic in this area of studies. In pursuance of this last concluding observation, illustrations have been drawn from the entire globalized Indian diasporic field in addition to the three locations selected for detailed examination. Time- space specific instances are what the paper has and it shows a concern for the contemporary spatial-temporal pattern of study. The paper adopts a comparative perspective keeping in view the differences in space, time and circumstances of the three studies.