The Five "Scapes" of India

An analytical essay on the dismantling of previously impervious spatial boundaries in contemporary India through diaspora populations.


The essay defines and discusses the five various "scapes" - ethnic, technologic, financial, media, ideologue - which reveal transformations within the Indian transnational class.




A Discourse for the Future

Since gaining national independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, India has experienced a unique narrative of globalization – a narrative that both exemplifies a prospective global future yet cautions underlying social, political and economic issues of a globally connected community. Central to the underlying global process is deterritorialization. Understood as the severance of various social, political, economic and cultural ties, deterritorialization is experienced after relocation from a native place or population and is a natural, constant byproduct of global interconnectedness. The Indian American anthropologist, Arjun Appadurai explains how ethnic, cultural and group identities become non-localized as global flows dismantle previously impervious spatial boundaries. He describes these processes through the lens of five separate, yet seemingly related scapes. Coined as the ethno-scape, techno-scape, finance-scape, media-scape and ideo-scape, these terms provide a window of study into the global process, and represent dimensions of specific global cultural flows (33, 48)[1]. The five scapes reveal a transformative effect in advances of economic and social well-being for the Indian transnational class, but also cast certain contradictions as diaspora groups spread over various global locations creating a revitalized sense of an Indian identity.

The popularity of Darjeeling tea in the Indian transnational class highlights the process of deterritorialization as both a creator of new markets for Indian businesses to pursue, and as a composer of a newly imagined Indian homeland. This conveys an expanding finance-scape, as Indian products flow into new global markets, as well as a redefined ethno-scape, created from the imagination of media marketing. Defined by Sarah Besky, a professor of anthropology, foods with terroir are a geographical indication, or a “taste of place” (84).[2] Legally protected as intellectual property by the Indian government, the terroir of Darjeeling tea cultivates, “invented national or regional traditions of food production” (87). The Tea Board of India stipulates that Darjeeling Tea can only be grown on 87 plantations in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Through the use of images, marketers seek to emphasize Darjeeling tea’s unique ecological landscape and stress the craft of harvesting tea leaves by skilled artisans. This imagined landscape produces a materialization of terroir by printing images of a glorified Indian homeland, thus allowing consumers to transport themselves to an invented notion of India with every sip of Darjeeling tea they take. The importance of the media-scape is prevalent in the narrative of Darjeeling tea as the product’s images market newly invented realms of both India and the global – realms which Indian transnationals must continuously navigate.

As Indian transnational groups settle in a plethora of foreign nations, nationalistic sentiments within the Indian homeland have sought to homogenize a singular narrative of “Indianness”. A candid example of this process is the Resurgent India campaign, propagated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After successful nuclear tests were conducted by India in the late nineties, western nations, including the United States, imposed economic sanctions on India as punishment. In response, the state bank of India issued Resurgent India Bonds to counter the forecasted economic impact. In doing so, the state of Indian sought their diaspora communities for financial assistance (145).[3] On the surface, the creation of this new bond market appears as a simple expansion of the Indian finance-scape, but in reality, it has much deeper cultural and ethnic implications. As author Purnima Mankekar notes, the Resurgent India campaign, “represented a moral imperative to reverse the drain represented by the emigration of the nation’s educated and wealthy elites into financial gain for the homeland” (146). These bonds are better summarized through the lens of the ideo-scape rather than the finance-scape, as purchase of this particular financial asset represents an explicit appeal towards Hindu nationalism. These nationalistic sentiments have been stirring in the Indian state for a long time. In a Davide Greene NPR interview with Indian correspondent Lauren Frayer, the topic of Hindu nationalism is discussed. Frayer provides accounts of beef bans, a growing popularity of Ayurveda (food, health and beauty products based on ancient Hindu teachings) and the changing of Muslim cities and landmark names to Hindu holy words as evidence of this changing cultural landscape within both the territorial boundary of India and the greater Indian diaspora.[4] The purchase of an Indian Resurgent Bond shows how a seemingly basic financial transaction is rather a marketed, ideological and politicized action which seeks to homogenize India both within its territory, and its global diaspora.

Although certain cultural flows may promote a unified image of “Indianness”, it is clear that Indian diaspora groups create diverse portrayals of a global India, thus producing constant tension between cultural flows of homogenous and heterogeneous narratives. Researchers Renu Modi and Ian Taylor describe the relationship between India and the various diaspora groups in African countries, with particular emphasis on the Indian community of South Africa. Their article discusses the annual celebration of Pravasi Bharatya Divas, an event sponsored by numerous governmental agencies, including the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, in recognition of the concerns held by Indian diasporas. Issues are taken about the intent and purpose of this event. Many believe it is a controversial political stunt designed to privilege certain Indian diasporas above others as evidenced by the,

"new middle-class professional and entrepreneurial migrants especially in the United States that form an important focus for Indian politics. Indeed, there is an unspoken hierarchy (dare we say it, caste?) which underpins this notional Indian nation outside India” (920)." [5]

The favoring of different diaspora groups over others in various scapes for political, financial, ethnic or cultural purposes has begun to ostracize the sentiments of many reterritorialized Indians. This sentiment is explained by academic researcher Smitha Radhakrishnan, as a,

"premise that a revitalized notion of ‘Indianness’ is created and mobilized by a class of professionals in multiple locations, though not all of these locations are equally privileged in their ability to create these meanings for other Indians." (18).

In fact, data from the research article by Renu Modi and Ian Taylor show statistics indicating over 95% of Indians living in South Africa regard English as their first language, while a quarter have converted to Christianity. Furthermore, in a survey of 213 South African Indian respondents, aged 15 to 17, approximately 80% did not know where their ancestors had lived on the Indian mainland (921).5 These statistics indicate South African Indians as embracing their new cultural homeland while shifting away from a singular narrative of “Indianness” by increasingly dissociating themselves from their traditional, native Indian identity. A potential reason for this is the unique experience South African Indians had in their participation of the liberation movement from apartheid rule. The diaspora cooperation of creating a new South Africa could potentially shift Indian identities to align more with South Africa rather than India. Radhakrishnan explains the effects South African liberalization had for its Indian diaspora, writing, “the end of apartheid opened up space for renegotiations of Indianness as a primarily cultural, rather than racial identity, where gendered performance and practice also remained key” (15).[6] Throughout the process of globalization, diaspora groups have had to produce their own discourse of belonging to India by navigating through realms of the “global” and the “Indian” in cultural flows of the five scapes.


The navigation between realms of the “global” and the “Indian” are highly exemplified in cultural flows of the media-scape as evidenced by recent Bollywood films which illustrate the convergence between a transnational cinematic imagination and a manifestation of consumerist desire. Perhaps no Bollywood movie exemplifies this more than the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Better known as K3G, this movie depicts an overall narrative which consists of a constant desire for transnationally based characters to reunite with both their extended family and the Indian homeland. Various morals are explored in K3G as discussions of family unity, various traditions, modernity, sexual modesty and patriotism are played out. However, K3G overall,

"signals and resonates with the reconfiguration of Hindu/Indian nationalism congruent with the moral and affective bases of an emergent Global India. This particular construction of Global India, and what it means to be Indian in a transnational world, is embedded in affectively charged discourses of morality, specifically though its representation of ideal femininity and of the heteronormative family" (167).

The movie portrays further tensions of homogenous and heterogeneous cultural flows in the Indian transnational class, highlighting the significance this tension has in creating a new discourse of a global India.

Through the five scapes, the recent history of India reveals the global process to be a chaotic system of inherent contradictions and a continuously redefined discourse of what “Indianness” entails. India exemplifies both the transformative potential and exclusionary politics of globalization but does not clearly indicate which narrative is stronger. Only the future will reveal what the transnational effect Indian diasporas have on defining a global India, but it will certainly be molded by cultural flows within the five scapes.



1 Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. (Ch. 1-3) 2 Besky, Sarah. "The Labor of Terroir and the Terroir of Labor: Geographical Indications and Darjeeling Tea Plantations." Agric Hum Values 31 (2014): 83-96 3 Mankekar, Purnima. Unsettling India: Affect, Temporality, Transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. (Ch. 5) 4 Greene, David, host. "Hindu Nationalism, the Growing Trend in India." Morning Edition, 22 Apr. 2019. NPR. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020. [5]Modi, Renu, and Ian Taylor. "The Indian Diaspora in Africa: The Commodification of Hindu Rashtra”. Globalizations. Globalizations. Michigan Library, doi:10.1080/14747731.2017.1287451. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020. [6] Radhakrishnan, Smitha. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. (Introduction)



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