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CSCS - Centre for Study of Culture & Society


MOBILIZING "INDIA": GENDER AND ETHNICITY IN THE SUBALTERN DIASPORA, A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF TRINIDAD AND SOUTH AFRICA
Researcher : Tejaswini Niranjana

This is a comparative study of the ideological construction of "Indianness" in contemporary Trinidad and South Africa, with implicit references to the situation in India. I am interested in analysing the ways in which "India" is mobilized in discourses and spaces other than those of nationalism and the nation-state, and in the impact such mobilization might have on questions being raised in India. My specific interest is in exploring the centrality of gender in claims of ethnicity and identity, with a focus on migrant or diasporic communities. These are communities with their own complex histories, some of the convergences and divergences of which my project will attempt to illuminate. Although my focus is on the present-day mobilization of "Indianness", I approach the question through the colonial and post-colonial history of migrant Indians, dating back to 1845 for Trinidad and to 1860 for South Africa.

In this project, I plan to investigate the material and discursive production--historical as well as contemporary--of the "Indian" woman, in the context of the current refiguring of racial and ethnic identities in Trinidad and in post-apartheid South Africa. My larger interest is in investigating how postcolonial modernities are constructed, examining in this context questions of gender in their specific configurations with questions of caste, race and religious identity in the subaltern (ex-indentured labourers) Indian diaspora.

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