Girmit: A Journey Through Indian Indenture Historiography

Brij Lal

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    The history of Indian indenture is a well-established field with a body of sophisticated literature and in this article I recount my own experience of the exploration of a subject with which I have been intimately engaged for over thirty years. It is in the nature of a personal reflection, but not idiosyncratically so, and should echo the journeys of other scholars. Historians came late to the study of overseas Indian communities and their early works focused primarily on the political disabilities facing overseas Indian communities. In the past two decades, however, a new historiography of indenture has emerged whose principal concern is not with apportioning blame, adjudicating questions of right and wrong, or with the formulation of high policy that was the preoccupation of the earlier generation, but to understand the nature of the lived experience of indenture. It can be asserted with confidence that if not the indenture experience itself, then its complex and contested legacies will continue to be debated by scholars and the public alike. As long as human beings retain a curiosity about who they are and how they have come to be what they are, in other words, curiosity about questions of identity, purpose and place, indenture will not fade from public memory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)215-224
    JournalMan In India
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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