Indian indenture: Speaking across the oceans

Goolam Vahed, Ashwin Desai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that research on Indian indentured labour needs to move beyond the conceptual limitations imposed by the neo-slavery / Tinkerian paradigm, which has focused excessively on the extent to which the indentured experience was (or was not) little more than "a new system of slavery" in which indentured labourers were often portrayed as mere victims of this system. There is a need transcend the basically descriptive nature of much of the work on the indentured experience, and carefully analyse topics and issues under consideration in this volume, such as emotions, culture, and religion. Further, pre-occupation with the indentured experience in individual colonies/countries/nation-states has imposed severe limitations and there is a pressing need for truly comparative studies of the indentured experience, as has been the case in slave / Atlantic studies. In short, we argue for the need to examine the indentured experience in all of its complexity, including intra- and inter-community relations in the plural societies created by indentured immigration, immigrant life away from the plantation, gender issues, racial and ethnic identities, as well as the impact of 'free' immigrants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-213
Number of pages19
JournalMan in India
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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