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BUILDING DIASPORA AND NATION: THE 1991 ‘CULTURAL FESTIVAL OF INDIA’

This article discusses the production of Indian ethnicity in the United States through a close reading of the Cultural Festival of India, an event that took place over four weeks in 1991 in Edison, New Jersey. The festival, organized by the Gujarati Hindu sect, Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha, presented an extravagant and general vision of ‘India’ for Indian as well as non-Indian Americans through arts performances, shopping displays, food stands and cultural exhibits. The Cultural Festival of India can be seen as an occasion for a new type of ‘imagined community’, or as an instance of diasporic nationalism, that is, produced by immigrant Indians intent on projecting a positive image of themselves, and is steeped in romantic notions of the home country.