Two Minds, One Heart

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2012-02-08 00:04Z by Steven

Two Minds, One Heart

SAS Fronties: Research and Scholarship in the School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania
February 2011

Blake Cole

Undergraduate Kaneesha Parsard delves into the storied history of indentured Indian labor in the Caribbean.

“Growing up I never thought much about it, except for the fact that in addition to curry chicken, I also had an affinity for jerk chicken,” Parsard laughs. “As I developed my coursework at Penn and took African and Asian Diaspora classes, I became interested in continuing to explore the legacy of African slavery and Indian indenture in the Caribbean, and what it meant to occupy both of these boundaries.”
An English and Africana Studies major and undergraduate member of the Penn Humanities Forum, Parsard first learned of the Forum through peers in her Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Having recently found relatives on Facebook she had never met, all bearing her surname, she applied her experience to the Virtuality-themed 2011 Forum in hopes of negotiating her own virtual identity. Additionally, she is interested in the ways in which Caribbean populations imagine homeland(s).
Parsard’s research is most concerned with Trinidad and Tobago, a southern Caribbean state where the Indian population is near equal to the African population. Slavery in the Caribbean ended in the 1840s, the result of long-standing pressure leftover from the Haitian Revolution in the late 18th century. The emancipation of the slaves opened a hole in the labor force, which led to the influx of Indian workers.
“The black-white racial dynamic was interrupted by the entrance of the Indian indentured population. Free black laborers saw the indentures as beneath them, because they didn’t have their freedom, but at the same time the indentured Indians often looked down on the blacks because they had once been enslaved. There was violence at times, and feelings of superiority among the different groups left a long-lasting legacy of tension.”
The initial waves of Indian immigrants were almost all men. Over time they began pairing themselves with African women. As a result, many Indian men who had expected to leave the Caribbean once their indenture ended became rooted there by new partners and, sometimes, mixed-race children.
The mixed-race children of these unions are historically referred to as dougla, a term that evolved from a Hindi term that refers to inter-caste marriage. In Trinidad and Tobago there is an ongoing debate about douglarization: Africans in the region are largely seen as “growers” of culture, Parsard explains, while Indians are seen as falling victim to deculturization…
Read the entire article here.

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