Introduction: Community and identity among South Asians in diaspora

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


‘Communalism’ is a term used in India, but invented by colonial rulers in the nineteenth century, to refer to the use and manipulation of religious and/or ethnic differences for ‘political’ ends antithetical to the national (or colonial) interest. It is related to, but very different from, the idea of ‘community’. The solidarity of communities, at a local level, has been an important feature of Indian society since ancient times (Stein 1998). ‘Communalism’ however is predicated upon a nonlocal concept of community which developed, largely through political processes, in the late colonial period. Arguably, the rise of ‘communalism’ was partly a reaction to the undermining of older, more local communities by rapid economic and social change. During the period of colonial occupation alternative outlets for popular unease and discontent included the Indian nationalist movement, but the division of this movement into Muslim, Hindu, Brahmin, non-Brahmin and other fractions, encouraged by the colonial power for strategic reasons, became a hallmark of Indian politics and social life in the late colonial period, leading ultimately to Partition in 1947.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunity, Empire and Migration
Subtitle of host publicationSouth Asians in Diaspora
EditorsCrispin Bates
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages45
ISBN (Electronic)9780333977293
ISBN (Print)9780333800461
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2000


  • identity formation
  • plural society
  • colonial power
  • African National Congress
  • migrant community

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