The idea of South Asia: Indian exceptionalism and the debate over Rishi Sunak’s origins

This article first appeared in on November 5, 2022

Rishi Sunak, born in Southampton to parents from Kenya and Tanzania and descended from ancestors in Gujranwala in present-day Pakistan, has become prime minister of a greatly diminished United Kingdom. Understandably, the media and social media of present-day India went into overdrive, appropriating him as one of their country’s own despite the extended migratory path.

A tweet by this writer suggesting that Sunak is described more correctly as of “South Asian” origin than “Indian” attracted a fair bit of rage. Once again, we are confronted with the need to address the semantic confusion that holds us in its grasp.

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