Getaway! An Incomplete Travel Guide Through the Diaspora
Looking for an adventure that blends curiosity with conviction, belief with bewilderment, and discovery with doubt? Travelers will find all of the above in this syllabus which serves as an incomplete travel guide to engage with and question the concept of diaspora.
We know what you’re thinking — “diaspora” has become a bit of an inflated term, relegated to identity-based parlance that has permeated society. Any attempt to define the diaspora experience would be futile; the experience is as scattered as the word’s meaning. A diaspora could include those who have chosen to leave their homeland for societal advancement, those who have been ripped away from their homes without consent, and those who seek refuge from crumbling realities.
This travel guide seeks to recognize the complexities and diversity of the diasporic experience, and thus, it is a journey without a destination. We have organized it into a non-linear route with five stops. At each stop, intrepid travelers can engage with resources, process guiding questions, and indulge in a sensory experience, all related to that stop’s theme.
We are your guides and fellow travelers on this journey: a Minnesota-bred, South Indian and Parsi by way of Bombay and a Philadelphia-gal with Pashtun, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Uzbek, (and probably more) roots. We are always learning and unlearning how we engage with our specific heritage, so this guide uses our experience as a case study. The stops are specific enough for fellow South Asians to engage with deeply and universal enough for anyone to ponder their own relationship to belonging and collective liberation.
By no means do we have all the answers. In fact, as travelers ourselves, we only have more questions on this sinuous, convoluted journey. We look forward to reshaping our understanding of what the diaspora means together with you. So, please, join us on this getaway!
Bank of Authenticity
Travelers can exchange currency to prepare for their journey but only after interrogating the nature of the currency itself.
- Identity Fraud (Gawker)
- Blunt Force Ethnic Credibility (Astra Mag)
- Curry Lit: Writing Authentically About India (The Paris Review)
- How to Write about Pakistan (Granta)
- When My Authentic is your Exotic (Lithub)
- Let’s Call It Assimilation Food (Taste Cooking)
- Rethinking Appropriation and Wokeness in Pop Music (Pitchfork)
- What does it look like to belong to an identity?
- Who, if anyone, “adjudicates authenticity”?
- What about me feels “authentic?” Why?
- Who can or should profit from “authenticity?” Do I?
- Cook a dish of “assimilation” food. Serve it to someone you love with an explanation of it.
Take a load off at your local Aunty’s house. This warm and welcoming abode offers not only comfort and chai but also space for your questions and ideas on who defines the diasporic individual.
- Making Fun of How South Asians Talk: A History (Atlantic)
- The Pursuit of White Women (QZ)
- Indian Matchmaking Exposes the Easy Acceptance of Caste (The Atlantic)
- Upstairs, Downstairs: The Unseen Labor of Aunties in Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (Critical Aunty Studies)
- Close your eyes and imagine a member of the _______ diaspora. Pull characteristics from the world around you or from narratives you’ve encountered. Who is this person? What are they doing? Where are they? What do they like?
- What informs this image?
- Do you see yourself in these depictions? Why or why not?
- Give yourself a tour of “home.” Make a video or write about the images, the sounds, and the smells.
Museum of Hidden Histories
This museum is under construction — a constantly evolving space that uncovers quieted stories, family secrets, and historical myths with which our diaspora contends. This is a museum of self-examination as much as one of hidden history.
- The Ghost of Harlem Past (Himal Mag)
- The Lost Histories Project
- The Surprisingly Early History of Christianity in India (Smithsonian)
- Why India’s Parsi Population is Shrinking Dramatically (NYT)
- The American Coolie Slave Trade
- Casteist Technology and Digital Brahmanism (The Radical AI Podcast)
- Black Desi Secret History
- How Turbans Helped Some Blacks Go Incognito In The Jim Crow Era (NPR)
- Imagine Otherwise: Gayatri Gopinath (Ideas on Fire)
- The East India Company: The Original Corporate Raiders (The Guardian)
- When does your notion of the _______ diaspora begin? Who is there?
- Whose histories have been excluded from mainstream stories about the ____ diaspora? Why?
- What was a “myth” you were told when you were younger?
- Pull out some archived images — photos of yourself, your family, your friends. Who is there? What stories do you want to preserve?
- If you’re in the Bay Area, check out the Berkeley Radical South Asian walking tour
- If you’re in the Philadelphia area, check out the Revolutionary Remix walking tour
Internet Spiral Amusement Park
Sever the distance between the “homeland” and the diaspora in seconds by jumping into a riveting rabbit hole of some of our favorite diasporic videos, music, artwork, and readings.
- What is diaspora art?
- What do I like or dislike about these pieces? Why?
- What do I feel when I consume this kind of art?
- Using lyrics, quotes, and excerpts from the links in this section, create a Found Poem.
Park of South Asian Futurism
In this park, travelers are asked to consider our collective future — one of self-examination and multi-racial solidarity.
- Saying No to the Racial Bribe (Deepa Iyer excerpt)
- How to design for diversity (The Creative Independent)
- How to Bring a Language Into the Future (Rest of World)
- What B.R. Ambedkar Wrote to W.E.B. Du Bois (SAADA)
- Black, Dalit, and Sheedi Internationalist Solidarities
- What practices might I introduce or change in my daily life to shift structures of power?
- What do I expect to feel through my efforts of building solidarity with others?
- Find a local action to support racial justice.