Transnational Chinese women filmmakers reflect the enormous changes happening in the global film industry as well as political, economic, technological, social, and cultural transformations taking place in the region since the beginning of the millennium. An analysis of Hong Kong writer-director Aubrey Lam’s Anna & Anna (2007) uncovers how this film explores the divided psyche of a woman torn between “two systems” that model femininity for women in Singapore and Shanghai in the 21st century. Lam’s narrative touches on issues central to the work of many women working across the Chinese-speaking world including migration, labor relations, postcolonial and postsocialist identities, commodification of female bodies in consumer culture, cross-border sexualities, female desire and domesticity.
Memories of global wars are often anything but global: counterfactual notions of a “white man’s war” continue to present a one-sided account of World War II centred on Europe and North America that sidelines the contributions and sacrifices of millions of soldiers from all over the world and negates their manifold agendas and forms of agency. This is particularly true of the “Afrasian” war experiences of tens of thousands of African soldiers who fought in Asia which are the subject of Biyi Bandele’s novel Burma Boy. The following essay highlights how Bandele’s text counteracts Eurocentric accounts of World War II, explores the complex motivations of African soldiers and their equally complex encounters with Asians in Burma, and draws on transregional imaginaries to produce a challenging non-heroic account of “Afrasia at war.”
The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji (2012) centres on the central figure of the novel’s story, Kamal. He is the son of an African mother and an Asian (read Indian) father, who grows up in Tanzania and then relocates to Canada where he becomes an established doctor. The novel tackles themes of African-Asian (read Afrasian) racial identity, belonging, and the effects of the past on the present. Kamal identifies mainly as an African when residing with his mother in Kilwa during his childhood; he is then urged to embrace an Indian identity when he is sent to live with his uncle in Dar es Salaam in his early adolescence. Decades after moving to Edmonton, Canada, Kamal decides to come back to Kilwa. This paper explores the tension and ambiguity in Kamal’s identity by analyzing the way he defines himself—or is defined—in Kilwa and Dar es Salaam, and then investigating, through an eclectic psychochriticism lens, how that in turn affects him as he ages and drives him to return in seach of what it means to be both an Asian and an African in the context of East African cultural landscapes.
The establishment of the Phoenix Settlement and the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) in South Africa was an experiment in self-sufficient communal living and the promotion of the values and principles of Mahatma Gandhi and South Africa’s democratic Constitution, respectively. While both entities are the result of Gandhi’s South African connection, they serve to embody, through the Mahatma, an Afrasian Entanglement. Gandhi’s time in South Africa made a remarkable impact on him and the country, transforming his political and social positions and influencing its struggle for freedom. In post-apartheid South Africa, the shared mission of both organisations is to advance a culture of nonviolence, peace and social responsibility through a range of transformative programmes. This article details Gandhi’s South African journey, his evolving ideas of passive resistance and social reconstruction there, and the resultant legacy programmes that resonate with the spirit of Ubuntu and the South African Constitution to reinforce democracy.
This article looks at Sultan Somjee’s Bead Bai (2012) which focuses on Sakina, a member of the Satpanth Ismaili community living in mid-twentieth century Kenya. Based on nine years of research and interviews with Khoja women who now reside in Western Europe and North America, Bead Bai is generally described as a “historical novel” or an “ethnographic fiction,” yet it also can be thought of as pertaining to the genre of what Brett Smith et al. (2015) call “ethnographic creative nonfiction.” I discuss the ways in which the ‘genre-bending’ aspects of Bead Bai participate in retracing the little-known history of Afrasian entanglements for Asian African women who sorted out, arranged and looked after ethnic beads during colonial times in East Africa. More specifically, I will suggest that, by toying with the boundary between fiction and ethnography, Somjee opens new gendered avenues for reinserting the category of the imaginary at the heart of Afrasian entanglements.
In the coastal regions of Kochi in Kerala, memories of forced African migration to India are preserved through shrines dedicated to African or Kappiri spirits, belief in their mischievous acts, and their intercessory powers. Shrines for African spirits are eclectic and modest, and they operate as indexical reminders of the troubled African pasts during the colonial occupation of Kerala. For most local people, Kappiri is a spectral deity, figureless and seemingly abstract, and a pervasive spirit who inhabits the coastal landscape. By studying vernacular histories, tales of spirit sightings, and worship practices surrounding the spectral figure of Kappiri, I have analysed how African spirits manifest their phantom presences and channel their spectral powers to those who seek to believe in their histories, which otherwise are obliterated from institutional discourses. Focussing on different material and intangible manifestations of African spirits, I discuss how different recollective practices—ritualistic, creative, and secular—offer alternative discursive exegesis on Afro-Indian connections.
Ceramics have been extensively imported on the East African Coast over many centuries. The principal sources have been Iran and China, the latter trans-shipped through the port of Malacca and the Indian ports of the western Indian Ocean. These ceramics were used to embellish the gates and mihrabs of mosques, and the exteriors of elaborate tombs. They were vessels in homes and decorations on buildings. In the last two centuries, the old ceramics came to be supplanted by imported ware more utilitarian in make and appearance. These came in mainly from Holland, England and Germany. These products of Western Europe were influenced by the Islamic markets they had entered, while in turn these plates became an important part of the East African Coast’s architecture and Swahili traditions and homes.
This article invites readers to rethink the work that routes can do in world history by braiding together the spatial and historical imaginaries of an itinerant community: the dhow captains (nakhodas) of Kuwait. Through a close reading of two genres of nakhoda writings, logbooks and nautical manuals, it explores the deliberate process by which they constructed their movement across the sea. It suggests that for dhows, travel across the Indian Ocean was a voyage through world history itself—a route along a recent and distant past, entangled with an imperial present. Through these materials historians can move towards a sense of space and time that foregrounds the imaginative processes that produce the Indian Ocean as an historical arena on the part of those who spent their lives traversing it.