Brief Report on the Conference “India 75: Reflections On and From the Indian Diaspora” 2022, Mumbai, India

Antragstellerin: Richa Mittal
Fachbereich, Studienrichtung: FB 09, Master National and Transnational Studies

I was recently invited by Prof. Dr. Nilufer Bharucha, Co-Director of Mumbai Münster Institute of Advanced Studies (MMIAS), to make a brief presentation at the Joint International Interdisciplinary Conference “India 75: Reflections On and From the Indian Diaspora”. This was organised by MMIAS in collaboration with the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR) which was held from the 24th to 26th of August 2022 in Mumbai, India. It was a hybrid conference including both online and offline participation and screening modes.

Since the independence of India in 1947, the last 75 years have witnessed India’s evolution from a principled but impoverished postcolonial country, to a global power that has sent space crafts to the moon as well as Mars. Celebrating this grand occasion, the conference aimed to explore how the Indian diaspora - which is spread over a 100 countries and numbers approximately 25 million - was responding to it. Representative academics and critics living in the diaspora, who may also be creative writers, from colonial as well as postcolonial diasporic nodes, were invited to present their works.

As this was an interdisciplinary conference, a cross section of diasporics, not just across time and space, but also disciplines were invited. Some of these responses drew upon the Indian diaspora’s history and achievements in their new homelands in the fields of culture, politics, sociology, economics and science. These achievements directly and indirectly reflected upon India itself. So, this was a celebration of not just the national space of India but of the Indian Diaspora itself. Study of the Indian Diaspora, as the second largest and politically and economically important global diaspora, is the focus of academia not just in the post-imperial countries but also in Eastern Europe, South East Asian countries and Japan. Consequently, yet another aspect of this conference was how academics and critics considered and reflected upon the India diaspora. Here again, researchers from across India and the world were present from centres and universities that have a research focus particularly on diaspora studies.

My presentation was themed on the Indian Diaspora in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and their many contestations and relationships to concepts of citizenship and belonging to a space that only primarily accepts them as temporary migrant labour workers, offering them little to no human rights. As a part of the Rapid Fire Round, I navigated not only the presentation of a dense topic of human subjectivities, but also learnt how to concisely and quickly summarise it within a ten-minute time frame. Thanks to all the individual field experts, brilliant researchers ranging from PhDs to senior professors present, I had the opportunity to learn from a plethora of perspectives. Attending this
conference was a first for me, so being able to participate in person was enriched by not only avenues of networking opportunities, but also having the pleasure of receiving personally guided tours around the esteemed University of Mumbai. It was an honour to not only be the youngest researcher in the conference hall, but also a proud representative of the University of Muenster at a conference organised by MMIAS, a collaborative genesis of Mumbai and Muenster universities.

I am very grateful for the contacts, insights and experiences that I was able to gain through this conference, which would not have been possible without the support of the Santander Mobility Fund. I am confident of their indispensibility in my future research. A heartfelt thanks to Prof. Dr. Nilufer Bharucha, Prof. Dr. Klaus Stierstorfer, as well as Ms. Linda Dieks for gracing me with this esteemed opportunity.