The Largest Gathering Of The Global Indian Family: Neoliberalism, Nationalism, And Diaspora At Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

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Spring 2008

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Mani and Varadarajan examine the first annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (“Day of Indians Abroad”), a conference organized by India’s government that in 2003 attracted more than 2,000 persons of Indian origin from around the world, including the descendants of indentured laborers in the Caribbean as well as Silicon Valley professionals. Culminating a decade of neoliberal economic reforms initiated by the Indian government, this and other Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conferences inaugurated a new cultural, historical, and political relationship between the Indian state and its diasporas. Working from disciplinary standpoints in political science and cultural studies, the authors explore the intersection of ideologies of nationalism, neoliberalism, and diaspora in modern India. They first discuss the ways in which diverse histories and experiences of immigration were consolidated into a singular category of “diaspora,” provoking ambivalence and resistance from some delegates. Second, they situate the conference within a longer of history of interactions between the colonial and postcolonial Indian state and overseas Indian populations, arguing that Pravasi Bharatiya Divas marked a radical departure from previous government policies toward non-resident Indian (NRI) and person of Indian origin (PIO) population, by rhetorically evoking an unbroken link between “Mother India” and her “children abroad.” As such, it marked a serious attempt by the Indian state to redefine its position on the world stage. Third, the authors examine the ways in which the new “global” India produced onstage at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was prefigured through the institutionalization of neoliberal economic policies from 1991 onward. They conclude by arguing that celebrations like Pravasi Bharatiya Divas enable us to understand how postcolonial states actively constitute diasporas as national subjects. By redefining the domain of the “national,” Pravasi Bharatiya Divas reasserts the relevance of the state in the contemporary era of globalization.

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