chapter
13 Pages

Introduction A World on the Move

Although Indian traders, entrepreneurs, travelers, and religious missionaries have been traveling overseas since the beginning of the third century AD, especially to Southeast Asia and the east coast of Africa, the modern Indian diaspora begins to emerge in the third decade of the nineteenth century with Indian labor migrating to the plantation economies of Mauritius, South Africa, Malaya, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the Anglophone, Francophone and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. In the Pacific, migration to Fiji started in the 1870s and more recently, mid-twentieth century labor migration to the Gulf continues to this day. As contrasted with the old diaspora, the “new” diaspora dates from the 1950s and 1960s to UK, Canada, Australia, and USA (and more recently to other European countries). This diaspora, initially comprising economic migrants of working-class and white-collar occupations, really came into its own in the post-1960s period with an increasing number of professional migrants, including information technology specialists. The population of the modern Indian diaspora1 is estimated to be about 30 million. It can be conveniently divided into six major geographical zones, though immigrants from India are found in nearly all parts of the world. The six major geographical zones are: Africa and Mauritius, West and Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, North America, and Europe. Perhaps, in a more eco-geographical sense, the Indian Ocean

zone and the Asia Pacific zone can be delineated. My own fieldwork experience refers to Malaysia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Mauritius, and Australia, though I have liberally used primary and secondary sources of information relating to these countries as well as for comparative references to other parts of Indian diaspora, especially in UK, USA and Canada. My fieldwork among Indo-Fijians was carried out in Australia. I have not counted as fieldwork my brief stopovers or conference attendance in many other parts of the world. Before outlining my comparative approach to studying Indian diaspora, let me provide brief profiles of Indian communities in the countries that are the main focus of my research in this book. The sequence of listed research sites is broadly dependent on the time spent in each.