A new sort of togetherness

With new technology and new concerns, émigrés reinvent themselves

May 20th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

AT A Hindu temple in Chicago, hundreds of people of Indian descent, professing many faiths, turned up from across Illinois and farther afield to hear a speaker from back home. But the meeting on May 15th was not the usual style of diaspora politics, in which a nation’s far-flung children are urged to cheer for the homeland.

The man they came to see was Jayaprakash Narayan, head of a movement called Lok Satta which opposes corruption and wants electoral reform. And the aim of his month-long American tour, which includes venues like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Google headquarters in California, is to get support from Indian-Americans for a drive to correct some of India’s failings. That sounds a lot better than passing round the hat for hardline Hindu nationalist causes, something else that occurs in the diaspora. Continue reading

Remembering the Farhud

Extract from a talk given by historian and broadcaster Simon Schama (Columbia University) at the British Academy, London, on May 13, 2010, honouring the memory of Jewish-Iraqi historian Professor Elie Kedourie. The full lecture is available as a podcast at http://www.britac.ac.uk/cmsfiles/assets/9586.mp3

The streets of the Jewish quarter where rioting took place over two days

WELL IN advance of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Kedourie had begin to think about political Islam and about the increasingly religious turn taken by Israeli politics – not as marginal but as central to the politics of the Middle East. There is, I think, one telltale revelation about why Kedourie came to brood on the awakening of these old demons and the list of places where nationalism had been marched out to silence democratic dissent. He drops the case of Iraq.

It was a place he never stopped thinking about because of course it was a country and culture that had made him. In a book of essays published in the 1970s called Arabic Political Memoirs, Kedourie included one essay that was as yet unpublished, perhaps because it meant more to him personally than some of the other learned investigations of policy, diplomacy and literature. Continue reading