Replacing the nation in the age of migration: negotiating South Asian identities in Toronto
Keywords:Toronto, South Asian diaspora, Multiculturalism, Transnationalism, Ethnography, Migration
This essay examines the role of the national in shaping the geo-political divides and connections of the South Asian diaspora in Toronto. South Asian diaspora identities are explored through two contrasting political projects that reveal the ambivalent role of the nation in producing diasporic subjectivities and their shifting borders. First, by discussing the perceptions of South Asians in Toronto, it is contended that national and religious divides are reproduced in the diaspora as a means of national belonging to the society of settlement. Diasporic geo-political divides are not merely transposed from societies of origin to settlement, but rather lie at the intersection of transnational and multicultural politics that encompass societies of origin and settlement. The reproduction of national divides in the South Asian diaspora is situated in the neighbourhoods of immigrant settlement that are positioned as the objects of multicultural efficacy. The second political project reconstitutes the national through cross-national solidarities. Through a discussion of South Asian organizations and political initiatives in Toronto and other cities in North America, this section illuminates diasporic politics predicated on new understandings of history and connection that rejuvenate and politicize multicultural politics. The argument presented finds that national boundaries are re-inscribed in the diaspora at the intersection of the multiple claims of membership. Simultaneously, experiences and interactions in the diaspora provide the grounds for transforming and questioning the limits of national belonging.