Landscapes of Affect, Homescapes of Longing: The Jat Sikh Diaspora's Rural Imaginary
(University of the Fraser Valley)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the rural imaginary - a means of negotiating displacement and reterritorialization in the Jat Sikh diaspora – in ethnographic and popular film evidence, interrogating the multiple locations of its affective contours, and problematizing the idea that diasporas are necessarily organized around nation-state boundaries.
Paper long abstract:
As a long migrant community of farmers and landlords, Jat Sikhs across cities in India and around the globe share a nostalgic memory construction that I term the rural imaginary. This memorative construction negotiates the emotions of displacement and reterritorialization, celebrating community identity even as it laments the alienating modern aspects of the postcolonial condition. In the case of this agricultural community, the notion of diaspora sits uncomfortably at this nexus. Are Jats in diaspora only in transnational circumstances (as much of the diaspora literature would have us believe), or, are they in diaspora merely having left their villages? This paper, via an interrogation of the emotional responses to the experience of migration among Jats as presented in ethnographic and popular film evidence, questions whether a common nostalgic trope, the rural imaginary, is inspired by both rural-urban migration in India and transnational migration abroad. I demonstrate that the affective contours of Punjabi landscapes and homescapes are shared across multiple diaspora locations. This argument problematizes the conventional meaning of diaspora as organized around nation-state boundaries, and considers whether the exilic traumas and reconstructions of identity inherent to diaspora may be more appropriately understood as aspects of regional modernity in the Jat case.
Mobile sentiments: transformations of affect amid transnational migration