Elegantly written, scholarly but accessible, these essays cover new ground in Indo-Caribbean history and also explore aspects of the intellectual legacy of four eminent Caribbean writers and thinkers: Martin Carter, Walter Rodney, V.S. Naipaul, and C.L.R. James.
The essays challenge received assumptions on the subject of the migration of indentured labourers from India to the Caribbean, rejecting the view of migrants as victims with no agency in the process. They demonstrate that Indians in Guyana shaped a new persona of hope, rising from the death of caste limitations (whilst sometimes displacing caste prejudices onto the African Guyanese); made much of the possibilities of a more open environment in creating communities rooted in rice, cattle and retail trade; and maximized the benefits of colonial education while claiming the legacy of ‘many Indias’, part fact, part fiction, in advancing their civil and political rights in Guyana. Within this complex mix are located studies of several Indo-Guyanese personalities, including Cheddi Jagan and Balram Singh Rai, politicians of contrasting visions; and the unsung cricketer, Ivan Madray.
But the collection also addresses the unhappy state of Guyana as it approaches fifty years of political independence, still riven by ethnic divisions and wounded by the flight of many Guyanese overseas. Here Seecharan connects his search for a historiography adequate to Guyana’s diversity to his wish for a politics free of corruption, ethnocentricity and illusions of El Dorado, and his urging of empathy and generosity in Guyanese people’s dealings with each other.
Clem Seecharan was born in Guyana. He is Emeritus Professor of History at London Metropolitan University where he was the Head of Caribbean Studies for nearly 20 years.