Ishan Ashutosh, Assistant Professor, IU Department of Geography. He is a critical human geographer whose research examines the multiple and contested representations of South Asia through projects situated in migration and area studies.
This interdisciplinary conversation with Professor Ashutosh examines the changing relationship between South Asian diasporas and the nation-state. While diaspora is often framed in contrast to the nation-state, he provides a more nuanced account of this shifting dynamic through a focus on the Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil diasporas in North America. The Indian state no longer views segments of its diaspora through ambivalence, the primary characteristic that guided the Indian state’s position towards its diaspora since the partition and independence of British India in 1947. In the past 25 years, however, the Indian state has increasingly attempted to transform the dispersed Indian diaspora as a central feature of neoliberal India through a range of practices that include diaspora philanthropy and various citizenship schemes. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, by contrast, has long challenged the exclusions of the Sri Lankan state through political transnational practices centered on Tamil Eelam. These practices, while using the language of national self-determination and the demand for territory, produced forms of diasporic belonging that lie beyond the rights and obligations of national membership. By placing these two South Asian diasporas in relation to the nation-state, this paper illuminates the contours of post-colonial nationalism, diasporic belonging, and the practices that characterize the transnational activity of South Asian diasporas.