Reading the double diaspora: representing Gujarati East African identity in Britain

Parmar, Maya (2013). Reading the double diaspora: representing Gujarati East African identity in Britain. Atlantis, 35(1) pp. 137–155.



August 2012 saw the fortieth anniversary of the South Asian population’s expulsion from Uganda, by Idi Amin. Many members of this community, who were indeed also Gujaratis, migrated to Britain. My research, grounded in literary studies, excavates the cultural impact of these painful deracinations, which were forced in Uganda, and less coerced in Kenya. Given the trauma of departing from multiple homelands and relocating in a sometimes racist host nation, this article explicates how both individuated and collective identity are formed and reformed. Here I also seek to demonstrate a broad overview of the intervention my research eff ects within scholarship on the Gujarati diaspora, their narratives of belonging and, as Parminder Bhachu describes, discourses on the ‘twice migrant’. Within this remit, close reading of selected dance, culinary practices and visual materials will illustrate the trajectory of my research. Because of the paucity in fictional literary representation of the Gujarati East African in Britain, it is to these other forms of social knowledge that I turn. I argue that this lacuna in fictional writings highlights an inadequacy in the written text when articulating the experience of the twice displaced community. I demonstrate that it is the embodied ‘text’ that is favoured by this diasporic community in communicating identity. These embodied ‘texts’, of dance and culinary practices, are also significant in embedding knowledge covertly. The sense of secret or ‘esoteric knowledge’, that manifests itself time again within the double diaspora, is here too examined.

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