The Indigenous Ao Naga people of India’s Nagaland, and the Chippewa First Nations people of Canada, are the focus of the lead article in this issue. It is a part of a collection of five research articles that the journal is delighted to present as a Roundtable on the Indigenous and the Diaspora. The collection grew out of several papers delivered at a recent conference at the Centre for Canadian Studies at the Department of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, in which quite a few of our journal’s writers had participated. We are publishing some of those articles on the diaspora that resonate with each other through meta-narratives of Indian migrants, as well as in the muzzled voices of the Indigenous. As a journal dedicated to global and local Asian affairs, from time to time we will examine the Indian diasporas in the East and the West, in addition to our usual areas of interest.
In the lead research article, Urmi Sengupta explores the emergence of an Indigenous ecofeminist standpoint as a major tool of protest against colonial atrocities and postcolonial governance deficits, which have adversely affected the Chippewa (Ojibwe) of Canada and the Ao Naga of Nagaland in India. By referring to the poetry of the Chippewa writer, activist and publisher, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, and the works of the Ao Naga writer, scholar and ethnographer, Temsula Ao, Sengupta traces an ecofeminist trajectory of Indigenous interconnectedness across the two nations.
On a similar theme, Debashree Dattaray explains that feminist cultural practice that defines specific gender roles has often been inadequate to the agenda of Indigenous Canadian and Dalit women’s concerns for identity and self-determination. In her study of literature by Indigenous Canadian and Dalit authors, Dattaray argues that these writers offer a trajectory to evaluate modes of embodied knowledges and communal values. She explains that a gendered selfhood in these contexts is not distinct from, but may also be indispensable to, the process of conveying a holistic, complex framework of Indigenous and Dalit knowledge building.
The scholar, Julie Mehta, investigates the impact and implications of the National Inquiry report about the Indigenous peoples of Canada that was released in June 2019. The government-funded and supported investigation describes the murders and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls as “genocide” based on race and gender. Canadian conservatives, however, refuse to accept the label, genocide. The author examines the underlying politics of multiculturalism that affects the Indigenous people of Canada, as well as the new migrants, particularly those from Asia. She argues that the so-called “Students for Western Civilization” is expressing White Canadian anxiety within the liberal universities of Canada, and that the SWC is destabilising the ethos of diversity which is protected by the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1985.
In her article, Sutanuka Ghosh Roy revises the notions of diaspora and cultural identity, and offers a rethinking on the question of ethnicity and multiculturalism, and how the author, Shauna Singh Baldwin, contributes to the Indian diaspora in Canada. Ghosh Roy’s article concentrates on the question: do women in diasporic communities in Canada suffer from a double subordination? The figurative interaction between the diaspora and the writer leads to an understanding of the other, signposting a social dialogue within multicultural communities.
In the final article in the collection, Kamaran M.K. Mondal argues that India-Canada relations are marked by both convergence and divergence, sharing a unique blend of history, common values of liberal democracy, the Commonwealth connection, their economic complementarity, the diaspora factor, and close trade partnership that led to the setting up of strategic partnership. Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long visit to India in February 2018 further expanded bilateral ties. But controversy over convicted Sikh separatist leader Jaspal Atwal marred Trudeau’s visit. The Canadian government’s perceived support for the Khalistan cause weighed heavily and adversely on his tour. The best that the two sides can do is to side-line the Khalistan issue and build their relationship on convergent issues that are in abundance.
We now turn to the twentieth-century history of Indo-Vietnam relations in an article jointly authored by Maherbaanali Sheliya and Abhinav Jha, who have consulted the American archives and Asian texts to explore how the two Cold War allies, India and Vietnam, shared a common anti-colonial outlook, with India advocating an end to the American military intervention in Vietnam, and Hanoi later supporting India’s bid for membership of the United Nations’ Security Council, and urging New Delhi to play a larger role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Sheliya and Jha examine the impact the bilateral relationship has produced on Southeast Asia. A continued partnership with Vietnam would help India emerge a dominant power in the Asia-Pacific, and the two countries together may bring peace and security to the region.
In her article on the vexed topic of nationalism that has lessons for the present, Uma Dasgupta consults important historical documents showing that Nobel Prize winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore, was arguably the world’s most eloquent critic of nationalism in his time. Disillusioned by the authoritarian and military power of the West, he argued for a new vision of freedom that he thought could be attained by means of cooperation and intermingling of the minds of the East and the West with a spirit of intellectual detachment. Such thought went into the establishment of his Santiniketan school and his Visva-Bharati international university. Tagore hoped that the holistic values imparted to the students of Santiniketan would help to build a new Indian personality, free from the conflict of communities and embracing both the Indian cultural tradition and the Liberal tradition of the West.
In our books section, Anjana Basu reviews three recent works on India’s North East—a book of political non-fiction, a travelogue, and a novel set in the North East that are, at once, troubling and disturbing because they enter a terrain where standard academic texts seldom venture.
Monir Hossain Moni reviews a book that continues the on-going discussion on East Asian regional integration, and wonders whether such debates will strenuously strengthen a cooperative network to help achieve a ‘harmonious Asia’ in the ‘Asian century.’ Yet, the reviewer asks whether integration means an exclusive East Asian regional club or a non-discriminatory ‘open regionalism’ in Asia.
The journal welcomes articles on Asia in general, on India (as well as India’s North East), and India’s role in world affairs; South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia (Japan, the Koreas, Taiwan, and China); and the policy towards Asia pursued by the United States, Russia and the West, as well as West Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. The journal’s focus is on diplomacy, conduct of foreign policy, international relations, soft power (use of film and the arts as tools of diplomacy), diplomatic history, war and peace, defence issues, geo-strategy, national and global economic issues, peace studies, informal diplomacy and Track Two diplomacy, revolution and counterrevolution, terrorism and counterterrorism, colonialism and decolonisation, and hegemony and resistance. The journal carries articles on contemporary world affairs, and major events and policies of the twentieth century that are still shaping the world today and are being revisited in light of the new historical material that is declassified and becomes available from time to time.