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Plantation Diaspora Testimonios and the enigma of the Black Waters

Mishra, V. (2014) Plantation Diaspora Testimonios and the enigma of the Black Waters. Interventions, 17 (4). pp. 548-567.

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The Indian plantation diaspora has few surviving written testimonios that give contemporary accounts of the subaltern lifeworlds of the indentured labourers. In the case of the Fiji Indian plantation diaspora, Totaram Sanadhya's two testimonios show the effects of crossing the black waters on the labourers, the role of the recruiters and the creation of a collective memory of the homeland. A key symbol of the recall took the form of memorial reconstructions of songs of love-longing and departure. Through these songs – often cast as songs of the rainy season – the people of the diaspora, like the men and women on board the Ibis in Amitav Ghosh's memorable Sea of Poppies (2009), lamented their lost homeland. The essay examines the emotional capital of these songs by reworking them back into the real, material conditions of indenture so graphically outlined in Sanadhya's testimonios. Using memory as an affective source, the essay connects the material conditions of indenture to memories of the author's own frail mother.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group
Copyright: 2014 Taylor & Francis
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