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Bollywood Nights: Indian Youth and the Creation of Diasporic Identity in South Africa

Priscilla Boshoff


Bollywood’s popularity as a global cultural form has occurred at the same time as the valorization of “difference” in the South African political landscape. As the youngest members of the 19th-century labour diaspora, South African Indian youths are the inheritors of a conservative—yet adaptable—home culture amidst the marginalized identities of (post-)apartheid South Africa. Their desire to create an identity for themselves that encompasses their self-perception both as “modern” South African subjects and as guardians of their traditional home cultures is achieved through Bollywood, which speaks to its diasporic audiences through images of an idealized “traditional yet modern” India. While India is not a place of return for these youth, their reactivation of a diasporic identity through Bollywood’s representations of a successful Indian diasporic culture and their participation in South African Bollywood concerts and award ceremonies has provided an opportunity for young South African Indians to reimagine their diasporic Indian identity in ways that (re-)connect them to India and to an imagined global diaspora.

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