“I Am From Nowhere”
Partition and Being Punjabi
Ethnic minorities share a memory of movement and a sense of collective history of displacement that helps to create their transnational identities. 1
For the Hindu Punjabis of my research, the trajectory of this historical memory can be traced to the 1947 Partition of British India. Partition was the prior event that had already disrupted the sense of ethnicity cum community cum identity based on place. Marking the end of the colonial period in the Subcontinent, the division of British India into India and Pakistan created specific senses of national histories and identifications based on place and religion. Muslims belonged in Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs left their homes in that region for the newly independent India. In the Punjab, through which the resulting fault line ran, the break altered the importance of language as a common denominator. Further religious fracturing subsequently divided the post-Partition Punjab into two states, Punjab and Haryana. The ways that the HPs in London think about being Punjabi and the history of the Partition together give specific credence to my central thesis that ethnic migrants should not be marked as products of globalization. Instead of focusing on the most recent movement, I want to show how they live the multiple processes of producing a viable meaningful ethnic identity because of an earlier displacement and sense of difference. Taken in this frame, Vilayati and Asian are only the most recent manifestations of being outsiders from a homeland.