British Columbia

Local podcast explores 'humble, everyday stories' of South Asian history in Vancouver

From race riots to intercultural love stories, a group of local historians are exploring a century of South Asian history in Vancouver in podcast form

Stories of love, betrayal, politics and history told in The Nameless Collective podcast

Streetcars, carriages and pedestrians on the corner of Granville Street and West Hastings in the early 1900s. Podcast co-host Paneet Singh will focus his history talk Nov. 25 on three geographical areas, including downtown Vancouver (Philip T. Timms/ City of Vancouver Archives)

From race riots to intercultural love stories, a group of local historians are exploring a century of South Asian history in Vancouver in podcast form.

The Nameless Collective tells stories from the South Asian community from the early 20th century, which otherwise would be overlooked or go untold, said Paneet Singh, one of the co-hosts of the podcast.

"We are familiar usually with the flagship stories, the big stories attached to migrant communities — especially earlier ones such as Komagata Maru — but it's usually those humble, everyday stories that have been erased from our history," Singh said.

Significant historical events like Komagata Maru, when a crowded ship of immigrants was turned away from the Burrard Inlet in 1914 and forced to return to India, are well-known today.

It's an important story to tell, Singh told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff, but it shouldn't be the only story or overshadow what else was going on. 

"In the Komagata Maru, what often gets lost unfortunately is the presence of the South Asian community that was here for those years beforehand," he said. "There were 5,000 migrants here at the time and all the stories of how they established themselves, how they organized themselves kind of gets lost in that narrative."

The Nameless Collective attempts to decipher who is in this photo of a 1913 cremation. (The Nameless Collective/The Kohaly Collective)

'Giving the voice back'

The history podcast focuses on people, sharing stories like the one of Annie Wright and Munsha Singh, who married in 1909 in the first noted marriage between a Caucasian Christian and a South Asian Sikh in Canada.

It also attempts to track down the names of unidentified men in old photographs at a cremation in Chinatown in 1913. 

Paneet Singh, who is also co-founder of the South Asian Canadian Histories Association, said a key part of the project is putting the storytelling back in the hands of the community.

"For so long, marginalized people haven't had a chance to tell their own story and that's because of a lack of resources, a lack of a platform, a lack of opportunity," he said. "It's really just about giving the voice back to the people that it belongs too."

Singh, along with two other members of The Nameless Collective, are giving a presentation about cultural landscapes and the history of Vancouver's South Asian community in the early 1900s at Harbour Centre's Vancouver Lookout on Sunday morning, Nov. 26. 

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition.


  • A previous version of the story provided incorrect information for the date of the public talk at Vancouver's Harbour Centre.
    Nov 25, 2017 6:25 PM PT