Singapore: The Hindustani diaspora are now recognised as highly intersectional and have increasingly blended into Singapore’s multi-racial society, according to a study presented on Saturday.
In revealing that experience, the Sojourners and Settlers from the Gangetic Heartland: The Hindustani Diaspora in Singapore’ investigates the foundations of a diaspora in Singapore set by sepoy and convict pioneers in the early and mid-19th century.
It also traces the growth of the diaspora led by transient circulators of the late 19th and early 20th century, including settlement patterns and aspects of their institutional development.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) study in the form of a book notes the social shifts in the community in the mid- and late-20th century as members become citizens of the new nation.
The study focuses on new connections between the old and the new diaspora in the 21st century and the implications this has had on the development of the community.
The NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has showcased five books on South Asian community here.
In addition to Sojourners and Settlers from the Gangetic Heartland: The Hindustani Diaspora in Singapore, the other four books include Bhadralok’ Connection: The Bengali Diaspora in Singapore, Being Catholic the Tamil Way or Being Tamil the Catholic Way? The Tamil Catholic Community in Singapore, Telugus in Singapore: Re-making Diasporic Identities and Business Connections, Culture and its Continuities: The Gujarati Diaspora in Singapore.
These books and short documentaries that focused on Singapore’s lesser-known South Asian communities were launched at the Indian Heritage Centre of the city state on Saturday.
Titled Hidden Heritage: Minority South Asian Communities in Singapore , the series shines a spotlight on the Bengali, Gujarati, Hindustani (the diaspora from the Gangetic Heartland), Tamil Catholic and Telugu communities.
It is an initiative of the NUS FASS South Asian Studies Programme.
The project is led by Head of the Programme Associate Professor Rajesh Rai, and Senior Lecturer Dr Jayati Bhattacharya, with research and writing support from the Programme’s former and current students. It is supported by the Heritage Research Grant of the National Heritage Board of Singapore.
Professor Tan Tai Yong, Chairman of the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies and Guest-of-Honour at the event, said, The Hidden Heritage Series contributes to our understanding of lesser-known South Asian communities in Singapore. Collectively the books and documentaries raise awareness of the intricate tapestry of Singapore’s diverse multicultural society.
A fascinating aspect of this research has been in the unveiling of the immense contribution of these small communities in the historical development of Singapore. At the same time, these studies also draw attention to how their identities have transformed over time in the context of living in a global city, Rai explained.
The event saw a panel discussion with the authors to introduce the series. This was followed by a screening of the documentaries. The event was attended by distinguished members of the local Indian community, guests from the Indian Heritage Centre and National Heritage Board, as well as representatives from FASS.
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