Yeeva Cheng delivers a paper at an international Hakka Studies conference

At an international conference titled “Hakka Cultural Diversity and Theory in Hakka Studies” held at Jiaying College in Meizhou Prefecture, Guangdong Province on December 6-10, 2012, Yeeva Cheng (’15) presented “Historical Trauma and Cultural Discontinuity in the Hakka Diaspora: The 1962 Internment of Indian Hakka and the Barriers to Political Mobilization.” The conference was attended by close to one hundred scholars from all over the world, mostly from various parts of Asia with sizable Hakka communities. The Hakka are a subset of the dominant Han ethnic group in China, with a distinct dialect, cultural system, cuisine, and history. They are characterized by their scattering as a diaspora, their historical relative gender equality, and their disproportionate representation in political leadership, educational attainments, and entrepreneurial spirit. Because of the paucity of research on the Indian Hakka community overall and the nature of the historical trauma, Cheng’s paper was well-received by the academic audience, and will be published in conference proceedings in the future. The abstract for Cheng’s paper can be found below.


During the 1962 border conflict between China and India, nearly three thousand Indian Chinese accused of being Communist sympathizers (many of whom were Hakka) were incarcerated in the Deoli Internment Camp in Rajasthan. Almost fifty years after the trauma faced by the Hakka Indian community, ex-internees who migrated to Canada and the United States formed the Association of India Deoli Camp Internees 1962 (AIDCI). Members of the Hakka Indian community have become prominent leaders in the group, largely due to kinship ties among members. While the formation of AIDCI seems to indicate a positive step forward for the Hakka community in terms of resolving this historical trauma, AIDCI struggles with three major factors: geography, time, and space. Geography has become a challenge as AIDCI members struggle to mobilize the diasporic community. Time is a struggle as AIDCI members consist mostly of senior citizens who fear that they will pass on before they receive an apology from the Indian government. And space has become a subsequent challenge of the issue of geography; while the Canadian Hakka community has remained close and active, they struggle with carving out a political space in which they can amplify AIDCI’s impact.
Based on interviews with ex-internees, the Deoli Internment Camp literature, and Cheng’s personal involvement in AIDCI, this paper will explore how generational displacement has limited the Hakka Indian community’s ability to mobilize politically and resolve the legacy of historical trauma. Despite finally finding a space for political action, Hakka survivors of the Indian internment camp must overcome their lack of education, the differences that come with an “interethnic” organization, and difficulty in communicating with new, assimilated generations (the children of ex-internees).