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

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Subordinated Pasts, Subordinated Present?

Mini-India: The Politics of Migration and Subalternity in the Andaman Islands by Philipp Zehmisch, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017;  pp xxii + 358, ₹ 1,100.


The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are frequently celebrated as a miniature version of India’s cultural and ethnic diversity, leading to the epithet Mini-India for the islands. They have been long echoed in nationalist imagination as kaala paani, the dreaded penal settlement across the forbidden seas where convicted freedom fighters were transported to serve out their sentences. More recently, for the winds of nationhood and nationalism that have been blowing with renewed zeal across India, the brief period of nominal self-rule under the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) during de facto Japanese occupation (1942–45) has served to foreground an alternative articulation of India’s anti-colonial struggle, finding expression in the recent renaming of three islands in the Andaman archipelago. Amidst these shifting currents, Philipp Zehmisch’s Mini-India: The Politics of Migration and Subalternity in the Andaman Islands represents a counter-current. In this work on the immigrant ethnic groups of the Andaman Islands, Zehmisch draws attention to fissures in the dominant discourses of nationalism and “unity in diversity” that shape popular perceptions of the islands. Shedding light on the histories of subordination experienced by the Andaman Islands’ immigrant communities, the book goes on to illuminate with considerable intensity the poignant lifeworlds of the Ranchis, the endogenous ethnic identifier for people of Chhotanagpuri and Chhattisgarhi origin, who laboured in difficult and dangerous conditions to make the islands habitable but remain in the margins of social and political life dominated by the beneficiaries of their labour.

Microcosm of Migrants

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Updated On : 18th Jun, 2019
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