This book explores the understudied and often overlooked subject of African presence in India. It focuses on the so-called Sidis, Siddis or Habshis who occupy a unique place in Indian history. The Sidis comprise scattered communities of people of African descent who travelled and settled along the western coast of India, mainly in Gujarat, but also in Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sri Lanka and in Sindh (Pakistan) as a result of the Indian Ocean trade from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries.
The work draws from extant scholarly research and documentary sources to provide a comprehensive study of people of African descent in India and sheds new light on their experiences. By employing an interdisciplinary approach across fields of history, art, anthropology, religion, literature and oral history, it provides an analysis of their negotiations with cultural resistance, survivals and collective memory. The author examines how the Sidi communities strived to construct a distinct identity in a new homeland in a polyglot Indian society, their present status, as well as their future prospects.
The book will interest those working in the fields of history, sociology and social anthropology, cultural studies, international relations, and migration and diaspora studies.
Table of Contents
List of figures. Acknowledgements. Prologue 1. Sidis: A Historical Perspective 2. Links Between Africa and India in Antiquity 3. Institution of Slavery: Origins and Variations 4. Slave Trade in Travel Accounts 5. History of Sidis in South Asia 6. Three Sidi Kingdoms in India 7. Acculturation and Change in the Sidi Community 8. Sidi Contributions to Art and Architecture 9. Abolition of Slavery and the Plight of Freed Slaves 10. Sidi Women: Past and Present 11. The Diasporic Experience 12. Sidis Today. Bibliography. Glossary. Index
Purnima Mehta Bhatt is Professor (Emerita) of History, Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Hood College, USA, where she has taught since 1977. She completed her BA and MA in Indian History from the University of Delhi, did post-graduate work at Harvard University and was awarded her PhD in African history from Howard University. Her current research interests focus on the historical and contemporary roles of women in Asia and Africa; global perspectives on women, power and politics; women’s leadership in peace movements; the impact of globalisation on women; and the African presence in India. Among her publications are Scholars’ Guide to Washington D.C. for African Studies, Reminiscences: The Memoirs of Shardaben Mehta, Shardaben Mehta: Una Mujer Exceptionale en al India de su Tiempo, a chapter in ‘Ethno-Ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Cultures and Society’ and Her Space, Her Story: Exploring the Stepwells of Gujarat (2014). Her most recent publication is a chapter in Women’s Leadership in Chaotic Environments (2016). She has lectured extensively across the world, is recipient of many fellowships and honours, and has presented numerous papers at conferences.