My research at IIAS investigates subversion of cultural sedimentation by living heritage in relation to interaction between Siddis, a diasporic African community in India, and host cultures in states of Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in India. Siddis’ cultural heritages in the form of Goma/Dhamal music and dance, folklores, superstitions, customs, sayings etc., while revealing vestiges of their African descent, present a composite structure whose heavy layering of host culture reveals the transformative process of contestation and amalgamation. The cultural encounters within the geographical space of India spanning nearly a thousand years have given rise to syncretic intangible cultural heritages of Siddis which heavily lean on socio-economic and political constraints facing this migrant community. The collision and collusion of Siddis with native regional communities such as Gujarati, Kannada, Konkni etc. on the spectrum of different religious affiliations has been responsible for creating hybrid forms of behaviour within which exist Siddis’ unique experiences as slaves, traders and soldiers in the coastal areas of India. Due to apparent political and economic inequalities between African Indians and their host communities, the movement towards hybrid formation of Siddi culture was characterized by its use of gaps within the host culture’s repertoire for transformation and accommodation of its own cultural heritage.
My project while investigating cultural transformations undergone by the Siddis during their stay in India would attempt to locate the process of acculturation faced by slave communities and I propose to develop a theoretical framework while localizing it on the peculiar experiences of Siddis in India.