Wednesday, 26 September 2012

not indigenous

i was reading this post at mellow yellow regarding indigenous people, which raises some really interesting issues re colonisers and indigenous people in the asian context.  and it led me to start thinking about my own place in the world.  is there any place where i could consider myself "indigenous"?

i was born in india, and am clearly not indigenous to new zealand.  only maori fit that description in this country.  when it comes to india, i'm certain that i don't belong to one of the indigenous tribes - not many indians do, something like 8% of the population are indigenous.  india has been colonised and ruled by so many different foreign forces, and i don't know that my family tree goes back enough centuries to tell exactly where my ancestry lies.  could be with the persians, could go back to the arabs, unlikely to be from the countries to the north of india.  and who knows what intermarriage might have added to the mix.

i'm certainly not aware of any british ancestry & very much doubt that could have been hidden.  and given the way marriage works in my district of india, where family connections, geographical location, social status, and economic status tended to be strong determinants in the choice of marriage partners, i'd say that there's not likely to have been much intermarriage, at least not in the last couple of hundred years.

the greatest likelihood is that by race/ethnicity, i could trace my roots back eventually to somewhere in the middle east or persia. but it would seem to be a nonsense to say that i'm indigenous to that part of the world, especially when i have no connection to it - neither by language, culture, family connections or anything really.

i'm finally left with the conclusion that i'm not really indigenous to anywhere, not in a way that is meaningful.  which feels a little sad, because it makes me feel like i don't really belong anywhere. somehow the notion of indigeneity invokes such a strong connection to place and tradition, to history and to the land.  it also invokes a strong sense of oppression and dispossession, because so many indigenous peoples have suffered from colonisation.

if i'm not indigenous to anywhere, then i guess any place can be home.  and while i can support the struggles of indigenous peoples, it will never really be my struggle.  which is ok.  there are plenty of other things to be advocating for.

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