ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Connections between India and South Africa

Contemporary India and South Africa: Legacies, Identities and Dilemmas edited by Sujata Patel and Tina Uys, New Delhi and UK, Routledge, 2012; pp x+ 318, Rs 795.

South Africa and India: Shaping the Global South edited by Isabel Hofmeyer and Michelle Williams, 2011; Johannesburg, Wits University Press, pp vii-328, Rands 243.

There is a significant overlap in the grounds covered by the two books under review as they both study the historic transoceanic connections between India and South Africa during the British Raj through, inter alia, migration of Indians—both indentured labourers and free passengers— to South Africa. The first segment of both the volumes traces the archetypal and tumultuous colonial historiographies of indentured labour from India and covers a vast array of themes related to movements across the Western Indian Ocean; of Goans, British, African and Asian seamen (lascars) in the steam age, the linkages between port cities along the routes and issues of identity.

In addition to focusing on the links across the Indian Ocean, Hofmeyer and Williams also put emphasis on the fault lines therein and the intertwined relationship of the “empire and Diaspora” (2011: 10). The co-editors also dwell on the overall cumulative cultural transnationalism and issues of identity of the Indian Diaspora in South Africa (Pamela Gupta in Chapter 4 and Jonathan Hyslop in Chapter 2 of Hofmeyer and Williams’ book). The most notable aspect of the two volumes is that the contributors shift from the “one way problem” that characterised older historiography on the subject and therefore did not offer an explanation on the impact of migration in the sending context that is in India.

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