To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Akademi, in collaboration with the ICA, brought together leading international thinkers in a one day symposium - No Man's Land - Exploring South Asianness. Together they examined the complex terrain of South Asian identity politics, deconstructing the origin, development, relevance and implications of 'South Asianness' from their very different perspectives.
The term has achieved wide currency today - often for the sake of political expedience - but it is hotly disputed within the diaspora as well as the regions themselves. Is 'South Asianness' a new nationality or convenient catch all, a diverse and resilient state of being or just 'Indianness' in disguise? And how relevant is the concept to those of increasingly mixed or 'multi mongrelist' backgrounds?
This symposium provided an important forum for the audience to question and explode the myths, truths and paradoxes inherent within essentialised identities, with key academics, policy makers, and artists.
Key note speaker Sunil Khilnani (Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC), expanded on his seminal work The Idea of India.
Shobana Jeyasingh, acclaimed choreographer and founder of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, chaired the discussions with contributions from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (The Independent), Jeevan Deol (St John's College, Cambridge), Daoud Ali (School of Oriental and African Studies), Pavan Varma (Nehru Centre), Andrée Grau (Roehampton University of Surrey), Keith Khan (Moti Roti), Parminder Vir (Carlton TV), Sanjoy Roy (The Guardian), and Sanjay Sharma (University of East London).