Arborescent community: Displaced Sindhis' Politics of Emplacement
Jelena Salmi (University of Jyväskylä)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the role of the past in displaced Sindhi ethnic community's efforts to emplace itself in a position of legitimate presence in the city of Ahmedabad, India.
Paper long abstract:
During the partition of India in 1947, thousands of Sindhi Hindus migrated from Pakistan to Gujarat, India. Sindhis were rehabilitated in refugee camps, many of which were established in the Ahmedabad city. One of the camps was set next to Ahmedabad's Kankaria Lake, and became known as the Sindhi Camp. Fifty-nine year later, however, the story of the Sindhi Camp came to its end—in 2006, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation demolished the neighborhoods by the lake under an urban restructuring project. Sindhis were resettled again, this time in slum resettlement sites in the outskirts of the city. Drawing on ten months' ethnographic fieldwork in one of Ahmedabad's resettlement sites, this paper examines displaced Sindhis' politics of emplacement focusing on the role of a temple dedicated to Jhūlelāl, the Sindhi community god, and the "arborescent metaphors" (Deleuze & Guattari 1987) of roots, branches and trees mobilized by the offspring of Sindhi refugees. I suggest that central to emplacement efforts is a creation of a collective imaginary of a tree-like, unified community capable of rerooting itself in a hostile "jungle," and the materialization of this imaginary in the form of the temple. I demonstrate the role of the temple in constructing the Sindhi community both symbolically and in practice, and in negotiating its right to the city. Finally, I argue that the temple objectifies an imaginary of arborescent stability gathering past places, events, and people within its structure, and continuing the story of the diasporic Sindhi community across time and space.
Materializing the past and imagining the future