The Indian Diaspora and the Preservation of Cultural Identity

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University of Delaware
This project seeks to investigate the social implications of Indian laborers migration from northern India to Guyana orchestrated by the British government to fulfill labor demands during the late colonial period, between 1870s and 1910s. Because of these migrations, the East Indians laborers’ lives changed drastically in a course of a journey across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans; they were uprooted from their cultural context and thrust into a new world of which they knew very little. In this new land, Guyana, they were forced to create a new life, but also had to reinvent an identity for themselves. What was their lifestyle during their indentured servitude on the plantations? How did their lives change once the terms of service changed? Hence, my project will identify the continuity and changes in the East Indians religious and cultural practices Guyana. In particular, this project seeks to understand the ways in which a prevailing sense of ‘Indian-ness” amongst the Indian community in Guyana was transformed as they assimilated into a new cultural context. Based on nearly three months of field work and archival research in the metropolitan and rural regions of both Guyana and India, this thesis argues that there is indeed a sense of unity and “Indian-ness” that prevails in Guyana today.