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

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Caste among the Indian Diaspora in Africa

Caste consciousness is common among the Indian diaspora worldwide, so is the practice of the caste system. This article looks at the Indian diaspora in Africa and tries to understand how Indians of various castes responded to life there. It argues that caste has changed form in the new social and geographical context but it has not been eliminated. A majority of the Indian diaspora in Africa still looks to marry within caste and endorses caste identities. This article also touches upon Gandhi's role in organising Indians in South Africa and tries to interrogate his understanding of the caste scenario there.

This article tries to contextualise the issue of caste among the Indian diaspora in Africa, a topic not discussed as much as that of caste in the Indian diaspora in North America and Europe. Caste identity has been central to the ways in which Indians overseas organised their society. The continuous migration of Indians means that there are clustered caste groups amongst the modern Indian diaspora in Africa, North America and Europe.

Migration to Africa in the 19th century was part of the broader expansion of the British colonial empire. This was supplemented by the mobility of Indian labour and trade to Africa. This article will present the diverse representations of caste among Indians in South and East Africa. It will also analyse Mahatma Gandhi’s sociopolitical activism in understanding caste. In doing so, it will try to understand whether Gandhi really cared about caste or he was totally ignorant of caste practices in South Africa. The arguments in this article will be supported with broader arguments from literature that draws on empirical findings from South Africa.

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