Assets Far Away: Transnational Properties and its Discontents in Indian Punjab
Vekkal Varghese (Visiting Fellow, Sussex Department of Anthropology)
Wednesday, 09 February 2011, 12pm to 1pm
Charles Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College
Hosted by International Migration Institute
This event is part of the IMI Informal Brown Bag seminar series.
One of the often pointed out signs of Non Resident Punjabis’ (NRPs) intense connection with their home state is their investments in properties, landed and built, and its retention in Punjab. Such investments are part of an objectification of the overseas success on to the landscape of Punjab, particularly by the first generation migrants to the countries in the west. My presentation will look into this aspect of Punjabi transnationalism and the multiple discontents it generates in managing and retaining the assets. It will look into the strategies adopted by the NRPs to buy such assets alongside its retention.
Based on ethnographic research conducted in the Doaba region, the migration belt of Punjab, the presentation argues that property-related disputes between the NRPs and the local population is on the rise, forcing the government of Punjab to put special mechanisms in place to deal with the problem. It is found that the state mechanism has produced extreme informalities to exploit the apparent economic affluence of the NRPs, while unscrupulous elements in the local population, including close relatives, attempt to make use of their absence.
Through a select number of case studies of such property disputes, the presentation unravels the multiple forces at work in the transnational economic terrain, the popular perception of NRPs as a money-milking category, corruption and institutional failure and the manners in which NRPs seek solution to the problem.
The presentation will also look at the political economy of property disputes and the increasing trend of reverse remittances from the state of Punjab. It underlines growing ambivalences of transnationalism and accentuates one of the perils involved in the so called transnationalism from below, apart from the increasing state intervention into the transnational cultural field created and maintained by participating people.