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East Indians in the Caribbean

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
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[First paragraph]Transients to Settlers: The Experience of Indians in Jamaica 1845-J950. VERENE SHEPHERD. Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree Books, 1993. 281 pp. (Paper £12.95)Survivors of Another Crossing: A History of East Indians in Trinidad, 1880-1946. MARIANNE D. SOARES RAMESAR. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: U.W.I. School of Continuing Education, 1994. xiii + 190 pp. (Paper n.p.)Les Indes Antillaises: Presence et situation des communautes indiennes en milieu caribeen. ROGER TOUMSON (ed.). Paris: L'Harmattan, 1994. 264 pp. (Paper 140.00 FF)Nation and Migration: The Politics of Space in the South Asian Diaspora. PETER VAN DER VEER (ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995. vi + 256 pp. (Cloth US$ 39.95, Paper US$ 17.95)In the decade since 1988, Caribbean nations with Indian communities have commemorated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of East Indians to the West Indies. These celebrations are part of local revitalization movements of Indian culture and identity stretching from the French departement of Guadeloupe in the Windward Islands to Trinidad and Guyana in the south. Political changes have mirrored the cultural revival in the region. While the debate so often in the past centered on the legitimacy of East Indian claims to local nationality in these societies where African or Creole cultures dominate, in the 1990s leaders of Indian descent were elected heads of government in the two Caribbean nations with the most populous East Indian communities: Cheddi Jagan as President of Guyana in October 1992 (after a 28-year hiatus) and Basdeo Panday as Prime Minister of Trinidad in November 1995. Both men have long been associated with their respective countries' struggles for economic, political, and social equality. Outside the region during the summer of 1997, fiftieth-anniversary celebrations marking the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain confirmed that Indo chic — or "Indofrenzy" as anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls it (Sengupta 1997:13) - has captured the American imagination with the new popularity of literature, art, and film emanating from India and its diaspora.

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