Remember Africa? The effects of twice-migration on the religious and cultural lives of British ‘East African’ Jains

October 2019 to September 2023
transgenerational memory
memorial activities
East Africa
African diaspora
Research fields
Cultural Sciences
Social Sciences

The project "Remember Africa?” uses different types of contemporary memorial projects and narratives of individual Jains in the UK to address the experience of twice-migration and its impact upon religious and cultural praxis. It comprises two distinct levels of inquiry.
First, it will approach memory as a source, and construct a continuous history of Jainism as it moved spatially from India to East-Africa to the UK, and temporally from a 20th century colonial to a 21st century postcolonial context, identifying successive cultural and religious transformations that arose in the course of this collective movement through time and space. As existing research on South Asians in East Africa has a strong focus on (socio-)economic aspects, this will help fill significant gaps in existing research in Jain studies and Jain history, and add to academic understanding of religion in complex migration situations.
On a second level, this project will take memory as the subject of inquiry. The nostalgia and fear of forgetting that emerge from individual narratives, and the prevalence of different types of public memorial projects indicate an increased preoccupation with the past as it gradually fades from living memory. I will acknowledge and unpack the emotionally charged relationship many Jains have with this shared past, and look at memorial projects as strategies to establish transgenerational memory and strengthen a common narrative.