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Prospectus

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Shaping Culture: Disobedient Diasporas

Course
2012-2013

Tag(s)

GC, HI, PA

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.

Description

How has the idea of ‘belonging’ in academic and literary writing shaped how we view multiple national, cultural and religious identities? What does it really mean to be African-American, expatriate-Dutch, or Surinamese-Hindu, and how and why do academics decide who belongs to which identity? Rather than take for granted what has been written down about diaspora by leading academics, we will examine how diasporic identity and diaspora communities are negotiated based on the lived experiences and practices of those people who identity themselves as diasporic. Musical performance, religious rituals, literary writing and film will form the basis of our case studies, with a particular focus on the Surinamese-Hindu community in Amsterdam. By highlighting the many competing voices within one diasporic community, we will see how real life disobeys what is written. It will be our main task to assess, debate and discuss how the shaping of diasporic identity needs to be rethought and refocused to accommodate dissonance and individuality.

The theoretical readings in this course will include (but are not limited to) Walter D. Mignolo’s “Epistemic Disobedience, De-linking and Decolonial Freedom” and Steven Vertovec’s “The Three Meanings of Diaspora” which will contextualize our understanding of the term ‘diaspora’’.

Course Objectives

  • Speak articulately and critically about the term ‘diaspora’ and historically contextualize its development as an academic term

  • Critically think, discuss and engage with the academic theory of epistemic disobedience

  • Develop and articulate in academic writing their own theoretical understanding of ‘diaspora’ based on course materials and discussion

Mode of Instruction

As mentioned above, this course means to focus on lived experience rather than simply reading academic literature, which is why a field trip is planned to bring various aspects of diasporic communities into focus. Our class will attend and participate in a Hindu religious service at the Shri Radha Krishna Mandir in Amsterdam. However, because so much of our learning goals are tied up with critiquing and refocusing academic literature, there is also a strong theoretical component that will be addressed through writing (see ‘assessment’ section for more information.)

As this is a 300-level course, the emphasis will be on discussion and debate rather than on formal lectures. Although some material will inevitably have to be ‘taught’, each ‘lesson’ will end with a discussion about how/why what was presented is relevant to our conversation on diaspora in the first place. Student presentations will begin in the second week of class and will also include a strong discussion element.

Our guests this block will be musician and Goodwill Embassador for the Global Human Rights Defence, Pravini Baboeram, and documentary film maker Ramesh Singh. During their sessions, they will give us insights into their experiences as diasporic performers and ‘documentors’ as well as moderate the discussions that come forth from the session’s required readings and the session’s student presentations. However, the instructor will always be present and will be solely responsible for assigning a mark to the presentations.

Assessment

Among other forms of assessment, students will be asked to keep a personal journal throughout the course in order to highlight the importance of individual experience in the development of theories on diaspora, as well as complete a formal essay based on the theoretical literature discussed in class.

Literature

Walter D. Mignolo. “Epistemic Disobedience, De-Linking and Decolonial Freedom” (available on blackboard)

Steven Vertovec. “Three Meanings of Diaspora, exemplified among South Asian religions” (available on blackboard)

James Clifford. “Diaspora” (available on blackboard)

Stuart Hall. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” (available on blackboard)

Gayatri C. Spivak. “Moving Devi.”

V.S. Naipaul. Excerpt from Half a Life (pp. 45-105)

Hanif Kureishi. My Son the Fanatic.

Zadie Smith—Excerpt from White Teeth (pp. 424-452)

Priya Swamy—Excerpt from the forthcoming “One Language is Not Enough: The Use of Sanskrit Among Surinamese Hindus in Amsterdam” (pp. 8-12, available on blackboard)

In Class Film Viewings:

Ayub Khan-Din. East is East (selected scenes)

Ramesh Singh. A Surinamese Hindu Wedding.

Contact Information

Priya Darshini Swamy (priya@lucresearch.nl)

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Theoretical Framings of Diaspora: Introducing [Epistemic] Disobedience
Week 2: Diasporic Representations in Film
Week 3: Disobedience and Diasporic Characters in Literature
Week 4: Performing Diaspora: How Music Communicates Diasporic Experience
Week 5: Half-Lies and Invented Lives: Identities Without Nations, Without Borders
Week 6: Disobedience and Ritual: Hinduism in the Diaspora (case study)
Week 7: Towards a New Understanding of the Term ‘Diaspora’

Preparation for first session

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