Women constitute a significant composition of Indian diasporic communities universally. Even though the role of female sojourners has been invisible in diasporic accounts for considerable period of time, feminist and subaltern interventions made substantial advancement in recognizing the uniqueness and differences of women diaspora. Discourse on diaspora studies in India invariably appropriates from sociological perspectives, literary narrations, anthropological studies and political accounts. The book under review employs a multidisciplinary approach and methodology to map the struggles, challenges, agency and resilience of indentured and post-indentured Indian women. The volume underlines theoretical scholarship and narrative accounts on indentured Indian women in regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific and Caribbean. It offers a combination of historiography of indentured Indian emigration, exploitative and emancipatory dimensions of indenture, perspectives on liminality and agency by means of discourse, literary accounts, memories and oral histories. In addition, it examines the push and pulls factors of indenture, subjugation and exploitation of indentured women, individual and collective resistance, activism and organizational skills.
The text locates women at the spheres of political economy and socio-cultural formations in the context of indenture. The papers investigate the double burden of systemic subjugation and exploitation of indentured women. The authors also situate culture as a source of oppression as well as emancipation in patriarchal communities. Broadly, indentured Indian women fit into Robin Cohen’s typology of labour diaspora. Economic and social exploitation of indentured women is a serious concern for both feminist inquiries and migration studies. The role of culture in reproduction and reinvention of diasporic identities is pertinent to contemporary academic interventions. A number of gendered perspectives the volume explores invariably widen the scope not only of research but also resistance strategies employed by the women diaspora.
The book is divided into four sections. A sound pattern of organization by meticulous chapterization based on geographical locations and temporal dimensions of challenges and resilience of indentured Indian women is evident. Contributors to the volume accredit academic works of Hugh Tinker, Joy Mahabir, Brij V Lal, Margaret Mishra and others. The introduction by Amba Pande provides a distinguished heritage walk on emigration of Indians to overseas British colonies since the 1880s. It emphasizes transoceanic migration-coastal migration under various categories of the indenture system and discussions including indenture as slavery in contrast to indenture as emancipation. Pande also indicates the dangers of a binary understanding of indentured experiences of women. Usage of categories of freedom and unfreedom manifested in depictions of women as victims of colonial oppression and exploitation on one hand, and agents of informed choice and liberation on the other, produces binary understandings.