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Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture

Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture: Novels of the South Asian Diaspora in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Mythologies of Migration, Vocabularies of Indenture
    Book Description:

    Pirbhai uses the critical paradigm of 'indenture history' to examine the local literary and cultural histories that have influenced and shaped the development of novel-length fiction by writers of the South Asian diaspora in national contexts as diverse as Mauritius, South Africa, Guyana, and Fiji.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9780-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)

    • 1 The Multiple Voices of Indenture History: An Introduction
      (pp. 3-13)

      The movement and migration of South Asian peoples predates European colonial history, and can be traced back to several millennia of intellectual exchange, inter-cultural contact, and vigorous trade that is most tellingly manifested in the imprint of Hindu, Buddhist, and, later, Islamic civilizations across the Asian continent. However, the largest dispersal of South Asian peoples within a finite historical period occurred under the auspices of the British colonial administration in a post-emancipation economy. There was a burgeoning demand for manual labour on sugar, rubber, tea, and coffee plantations in the island colonies; for the construction and policing of such projects...

    • 2 New Approaches to an Old Diaspora: Theorizing Texts and Contexts
      (pp. 14-38)

      The ethnicity of South Asian migrants has historically been classified by British colonial administrators as ‘Indian’ in most locations of the diaspora. This is also a culturally expedient label of self-identification to refer to an otherwise diverse collective. Though the present-day countries of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives comprise the Indian subcontinent, India, as the largest of these nations, holds greater political and cultural currency on the international stage. Divorced from its geographic designation, therefore, the use of the term ‘Indian’ is all too often identified with the national entity, thereby imposing a monolithic ethnic...


    • 3 The Indenture Narrative of Mauritius: Deepchand Beeharry’s That Others Might Live
      (pp. 41-65)

      As a post-colonial island nation that continues to produce the bulk of its literature in French, Mauritius occupies an ambiguous position in a study devoted to South Asian diasporic literature in English.¹ However, as the first sugar colony to receive a large number of South Asian immigrants in a post-emancipation era, Mauritius stands at the epicentre of indenture history. This history permeates the imaginative landscape of the majority of South Asian diasporic peoples.² Consequently, Indo-Mauritian history reveals the central tropes of the old South Asian diaspora: the recruitment for labour; the ship voyage across thekala pani; the process of...

    • 4 ‘Passenger Indians’ and Dispossessed Citizens in Uganda and South Africa: Peter Nazareth’s In a Brown Mantle and Farida Karodia’s Daughters of the Twilight
      (pp. 66-96)

      The South Asian presence in Africa predates the colonial era. Under the jurisdiction of the Arab sultanate of Zanzibar, South Asians enjoyed a favourable reputation as coastal settlers and savvy traders.¹ Social historians such as Dent Ocaya-Lakidi agree,² however, that once South Asian peoples arrived in the thousands as British colonial subjects, anti-South Asian feeling surfaced in images of Punjabis policing the East Africa Protectorate; of Gujarati merchants amassing commercial strongholds; of the particularly alien practices and customs of Hindu migrants; of the ubiquitous indentured labourers’ seeming usurpation of ‘the indigenous workers’ rightful, negotiated place in the socio-economic hierarchy’;³ and,...


    • 5 New Configurations of Identity for the Indo-Guyanese ‘This Time Generation’: Rooplall Monar’s Janjhat and Narmala Shewcharan’s Tomorrow Is Another Day
      (pp. 99-126)

      In his discussion of the African diaspora, Stuart Hall jokes that the Asian presence in the Caribbean reveals the paradoxical truth of Columbus’s mistaken impression that he had, in fact, arrived in the ‘Indies’ in 1492. As Hall ironically comments, ‘Youcanfind “Asia” by sailing west.’¹ Caribbean writers most certainly cannot escape the irony of the epic blunder in the eventual encounter of the misnamed American ‘Indians’ with the Indian indentured labourer, and the subsequent patterns of misrepresentation that would be the hallmark of official colonial records. As Sam Selvon writes, ‘Christopher Columbus must be killing himself with laugh,...

    • 6 Indo-Trinidadian Fictions of Community within the Metanarratives of ‘Faith’: Lakshmi Persaud’s Butterfly in the Wind and Sharlow Mohammed’s The Elect
      (pp. 127-154)

      Trinidad is home to the largest South Asian diasporic community in the Caribbean archipelago. Indentured peoples began to disembark from the first ship theFatel Rozack(itself a mispronunciation ofFath al Razack), to arrive on its shores on 30 May 1845, which has since become the nationally celebrated Indian Arrival Day.¹ Historically, the South Asian population of Trinidad and Tobago has shared a near-majority status with people of African origins: since a 1987 census, ethnic ratios have remained relatively stable at 42 per cent black, 40 per cent East Indian, 16 percent other/mixed, and 2 per cent white.² However,...


    • 7 The Politics of (the English) Language in Malaysia and Singapore: K.S. Maniam’s The Return and Gopal Baratham’s A Candle or the Sun
      (pp. 157-178)

      The majority of South Asian peoples to have permanently settled in South-East Asia by the nineteenth century followed the common patterns of migration under the colonial administration, as indentured labourers or free passengers. South Asian immigrants came to the Malaysian peninsula as estate labourers who quickly dominated the dense rubber plantations. In contrast, such plantations were scarce on the small island colony of Singapore (which was primarily used by the British Empire as a major naval base). Here immigrants were essentially employed as civil servicemen/women and for public services such as policing and sanitation. In both regions, a large proportion...

    • 8 From the Ganges to the South Seas: Fiji as ‘Fatal Paradise’ in Satendra Nandan’s The Wounded Sea
      (pp. 179-195)

      Officially ceded to Queen Victoria as late as 1874, Fiji, one of the youngest colonies of the Empire, was also the last to receive indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent. The first wave of labourers arrived on board theLeonidasin 1879, four decades after Mauritius received the very first group ofgirmitiyasin 1835 on theShah Allum. Of course, Fiji, like other islands in the Pacific Rim, had seeped into the British imperial imagination as early as 1768, through the writings of Captain James Cook in his numerous expeditions across the Pacific Ocean. The colonial writing and travelogues...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 196-202)

    As a body of writing that has developed in the lap of indenture history, the narratives of the old diaspora invariably offer a specialized critique of the systems and institutions of European imperialism. These novels necessarily evoke and nuance, from their variously positioned geopolitical perspectives, the tropes, themes, and concerns of post-colonial literature. However, they explore not simply the relationship between race and power across the colonial and post-colonial era but also the particular experience of migration, settlement, and belonging of colonized people among other colonized groups.

    This unique aspect of the old South Asian diaspora has greatly shaped the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 203-230)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-248)
  11. Index
    (pp. 249-262)