1984 and the Diasporic Politics of Aesthetics: Reconfigurations and New Constellations among Toronto’s Sikh Youth
Abstract

This article explores how Sikh youth in Toronto respond—through personal narratives and performative practices—to past events of violence associated with the Indian Army’s 1984 attack on the “Golden Temple” in Amritsar, as well as the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, India. Arguably, the politics of representation around the “Punjab crisis” of 1984 have been considered crucial for conceptualizing Sikh diaspora formations. However, studying how young Sikh activists relate to these events today and redefine their own sense of diasporic citizenship a generation after the event allows us to challenge both the homogeneous framings of (religious) diaspora and the primary role attributed to trauma through which past injuries are narrated. I shall demonstrate that there is a discursive trope (or tendency) in youth accounts that, on the one hand, asserts an attachment to injury as well as the separatist and nationalist sentiments that have long been embodied in representations of 1984 and, on the other, points to identity formations yet to be defined within the context of emerging “transnational second generations.” Moreover, Sikh youth are engaged in increasingly diverse forms of social justice work and have different motivations for their participation. This research reveals involvement in an emerging grassroots movement that is globally tuned into broader social justice struggles, while maintaining local ties to placespecific engagements and narratives


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