February 2, 2012

Diasporic Politics of Belonging: Punjabis in Britain c. 1947-2010

Rajbir Purewal Hazelwood, Dissertation
My dissertation explores the practices by which Punjabi migrants in Britain have constructed a sense of belonging, community, and cultural identity c1947-2010. I draw on a diverse archive for this project, including over fifty oral histories, local newspapers, council meeting minutes from three different London boroughs, and the private back catalogue of the Des Pardes (home and away) weekly newspaper. The Des Pardes is currently the most widely circulated Punjabi language newspaper printed outside of India. Established in 1965 in London, the paper has been of central importance to the formation of a Punjabi community in Britain and, during the course of my research, I gained unprecedented access to the back catalogue as well as unpublished photos and readers’ letters in their private archive. Through these sources, along with Punjabi literature, I piece together in my dissertation the conversations via which Punjabi migrants have understood and framed their sense of identity, community, and belonging. In this dissertation I excavate the key identity narratives that emerged in the course of my research from three different vantage points:  ‘place, space, and mobility,’ where I explore through chapters two and three the (re)- claiming of belonging in moments of travel and displacement and the urban geographies through which locality is configured within Punjabi diasporic lives; ‘cultural consumption and production,’ where through chapters four and five I unravel how community identity has been instantiated and inhabited through the production and consumption of different cultural forms, primarily food, cinema and literature; and ‘disorder and violence,’ where through chapter six I examine the space and narratives of violence in sustaining, remembering, and redefining identities and community for Punjabis in urban Britain.  I argue that these narratives, which exist within everyday practices of sociality, cultural production, as well as collective memory, serve to connect the diverse and dispersed Punjabi population in Britain, connections through which a transnational terrain of Punjabi diasporic belonging and community is forged.