"Cricket is in the blood" (Re)producing Indianness: Families negotiating diasporic identity through cricket in Singapore
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Diaspora invokes a way of living. Geographic displacement, either voluntary or forced, brings about heightened processes of negotiation between the past, the present and the future. Effectively, diaspora creates a space for dialogue about notions of individual subjectivity and group representation, as well as global and local belonging. These processes contribute pivotally to the identity development of diasporic people, and this plays out continually as is evident in the choices diasporic people make about the way they live. This thesis explores one aspect of the lives of elite diasporic Indian families in Singapore - cricket. The central question is how these diasporic people become 'Indian' through their participation in the sport. There are two major components - cricket and family. Firstly, I identify cricket as a site of diasporic negotiation in the lives of these Indians. I explore their practice of this activity as a physical and ideological space in and through which they negotiate their identity. In a country where cricket is not common practice, the Indian domination of the widespread 'public culture' of their country of origin reflects their intensified investment in Indianness. This results in the creation of a minoritized and largely exclusive social space. By participating in cricket, they play out their diasporic Indian identity. This is a myriad process of social construction and transformation of Indianness at individual and collective levels. Through active and concerted social labour in the cricket arena, translation of relevant Indianness into a foreign setting effectively creates a new Indian ethnicity. It is the very negotiation and mobilization of their ethnicity that facilitates the thriving of this elite Indian diaspora. The other major component in this thesis is that of the family in diaspora. This is important because most of the elite Indians moved to Singapore as nuclear family units. Decisions made and the structures of their lives take into account the impact upon the household at individual and collective levels. I explore and highlight the importance not only of families doing diaspora together, but that of the varied individual contributions of family members to cricket and how their various parts support one another's negotiation of their Indianness. Divided broadly into three categories of fathers, mothers and children (male and female), I look at their different ideals, attitudes and involvement in the sport. From my research, I found that fathers were the ideological spearhead and instigators of interest for cricket within families; mothers played support roles; and children participated for a variety of reasons. Boys played because it was deemed the natural thing for Indian boys as it is 'in their blood'. Girls on the other hand, played for a variety of different reasons which differed from their male counterparts. Their participation was a concerted effort in an attempt to get forms of Indianness that are reflected and constructed in cricket, 'into their blood'. This thesis is framed by the concept of doing Indian diaspora in Singapore. I explore the cricket arena as a key site of identity negotiation in three realms - the individual, the family, and the wider Indian network/community. This analysis seeks to highlight the importance of each realm in reinforcing and supporting one another's projects of constant and complex formation processes of Indianness.