Diaspora, Identity, and Religion: New Directions in Theory and Research

By Waltraud Kokot; Khachig Tölölyan et al. | Go to book overview

11

Let it flow

Economy, spirituality and gender in the Sindhi Network

Dieter Haller

In her article on siting Nevisian culture, Fog Olwig (1997) mentioned that her diasporic group seemed to be everywhere but never where she did her research. Wherever she carried out her multilocal research, be it on the Caribbean island of Nevis, in New Haven, CT, Leeds, England, or in the US Virgin Islands, she met people whose siblings or children lived in another place, who themselves had thought about migrating to another place or who migrated already. The same is true for two groups I worked with during a one-year field study - a Jewish Sephardic community and approximately 600 members of the Sindhi community, both in the British crown colony of Gibraltar, both groups that are mainly merchant communities. In this chapter, I will present the example of the latter group.

Due to political circumstances, no relatives of my informants - who come from a Hindu community - are living in their homeland Sindh, which nowadays belongs to Muslim Pakistan. After the partition of India in 1947, Hindu Sindhis fled their homeland into the new republic of India, while Muslims were expelled into Pakistan. Today this network straddles the globe, stretching from Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong through the Middle East to Africa and the Canary Islands, and across Britain and Europe to the USA and Latin America. The total number of the Sindhi communities outside India is estimated at 120,000-140,000 members, with the largest communities in the US (est. 50,000), Spain and Canada (est. 10,000), UK (est. 5,000-15,000), Nigeria (5,000-10,000), Hong Kong (7,500) and Singapore (5,000) (Markovits 2000:281).

Many Sindhis mainly of the merchant castes had already left Sindh decades earlier. Sindhi merchants had settled in Gibraltar as early as 1858. Nowadays, Gibraltarian Hindus form an integral part of the civil society of the colony. Many of them were born on the Rock, they went to school there, they possess a British passport, some of them have married Christian partners. But in every family there were members who were born or grown up either in Sindh or in other places, such as Bombay, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Nigerian Lagos or in Panama. Some of my Gibraltarian informants owned businesses in other spots on the globe, while other owners of local Gibraltar shops lived far away, also in Hong Kong or India. During my fieldwork in 1996/7, my informants constantly welcomed relatives from all over the world to Gibraltar, while some of the locals often visited those places abroad due to weddings, business meetings, or family events.

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