Beyond the Culture Concept: Indo-Caribbean Identity as Diasporic Consciousness


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project adapts Aisha Khan’s concept of “diasporic consciousness” to rethink race and culture-based models of identity, arguing that Indo-Caribbeans in North America formulate identity as a political awareness of colonial labor exploitation and multiple migrations rather than “Indian” cultural practices or ethnic origins. Obscured by Caribbean Afro-centrism and marginalized within the South Asian diaspora by the traumatic history of indentured labor, Indo-Caribbean writers, activists and artists negotiate competing discourses of multiculturalism, anti-Blackness, and normative South Asianness without reproducing racial essentialism and ethnic separatism. Reading across literary texts, visual and documentary art, and grassroots activism from Indo-Caribbeans in the US and Canada, the project unsettles “culture” as the basis of diaspora to understand how marginalized diasporas navigate identity and build solidarities.