“Writing about the Diaspora doesn’t matter anymore. We just talk about the same topics, the same issues and the same ways of thinking over and over again.”
I remember coming across this comment a while back on Facebook – yes it was one of those annoying statuses that some people will post for the sake of it – and thinking how utterly bizarre this was.
Granted, there are many topics that look, feel and are overdone such as colourism, the caste system, generational tensions, racialisation and more.
But just because they are beginning to feel irrelevant, does not mean that these issues will simply go away, we must still have those discussions about such subjects so that they do not go underground where we cannot monitor them.
The word ‘Diaspora’ stems from ancient Greek and means ‘scattering/dispersion’ – it is more commonly used as a term to describe a particular population whose origin lies elsewhere or the movement of a population from its original homeland.
In a nutshell, it’s safe to say that every Diaspora is in a state of limbo (psychologically and socially) because they do not fully belong to their ancestors’ country of origin or the country that they have been born and brought up in.
“I am forced to admit that I am, to them, nothing but a series of destinations with no meaningful expanses in between.” Monique Truong
As someone of visible ethnic descent, and a member of the South Asian Diaspora (in the UK), I have long been bewildered, fascinated and intrigued by my Diasporic identity.
It is truly a unique and multi-faceted quality that many of us do not fully realise, nor appreciate, because we are so busy trying to fit in with mainstream society.
Firstly, as younger members of the Diaspora find their feet (identity-wise) they become conscious of how much their Diasporic communities have changed or how they are regarded by the country that they live in. For example, the Indian Diaspora has come a long way from what it used to be.
This sense of nostalgia either reinforces a sense of pride in their ethnic roots, a sense of alienation from their birth country (an example is Islamaphobia and racial profiling) or they romanticise their respective motherlands based on what their parents and grandparents tell them.
Secondly, members of a Diaspora, tend to be in minorities when compared to the countries that they now live in. When you are a member of a minority group, coupled with a psychological sense of not belonging anywhere, you are much more aware of how the world perceives you.
This is one of the main reasons why many members of Diasporic communities (regardless of ethnic descent) do not particularly align themselves with nationalist views.
“Sometimes we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.” Salman Rushdie
I think that Diasporic experiences, stories and voices are essential and will remain to be so for a very, very long time. To say that they are not important – or matter anymore – is a statement that is wholly ignorant.
If we do not take ownership of our stories and voices, they will either be lost or re-written by those who did not live our lives, understand our experiences as a Diasporic community and how South Asian identity in the West is continuing to evolve.
There is no one else who can articulate what it means to live on the cusp of two cultures – regardless of us being first, second or third generation.