"I'm going to be Indian until I die": A visual narrative of diaspora experience(s)

Authors: Christabel Devadoss*, West Virginia University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: visuals, diaspora, photography, migration, hybridity, non-representation, emotion, experience, India, Tamil
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper uses narrative form and photography to situate a single diasporic experience. Literature on diasporic and migrant communities in general can be very sterile. Much of it is represented textually and presented as “objective”, missing links to memory and individual experience. In recent political climates, minority communities are described without emotion and context. The individual person is reduced to a broader narrative of groups or generalized characteristics. Additionally, typical academic writing in many ways reinforces colonial structures, placing the power through “objective” writing, rather than personal, emotional experience. This article seeks to accomplish two goals. First, to disrupt traditional, hierarchical, “objective” approaches to presenting diaspora experience(s). Second, in doing so, to use narrative and visuals to interact with diasporic hybridity and legacy in very personal ways. Geographic knowledge can be engaged in multiple ways – not just through the written text, but also through narrative-based work and photography. Diasporic legacy is often talked about as food, clothes, events, performance, but what is often missing in this academic narrative is that of memories and specific people that shape engagement in diasporas. I integrate these concepts into a brief narrative of the diasporic experience(s) of my father, an Indian Tamil immigrant, before and after two significant events - 9/11 and the current political climate following the Trump election United States.

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