New book: Signification des Noms Indiens de Guadeloupe


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In their new book Signification des Noms Indiens de Guadeloupe, Ernest Moutoussamy and Appasamy Murugaiyan trace proper names that have survived one and a half centuries after Indian migration to Guadeloupe as indentured workers in 1854. Approximately 50,000 people out of a population of 330,000 are of East Indian origin. The sense of belonging to this ancient civilization has never ceased to exist in the popular imagination and everyday life of a great number of citizens of Guadeloupe. This work responds to the desire and will of Guadeloupeans of Indian origin to rediscover their identities through their patronymic roots.

Ernest Moutoussamy explains, “When I tried to trace my roots, I found only numbers and names of people in the records and India as place of origin. From the name I guess I am from a Tamil-speaking region here. [. . .] Though we are Catholics, we still have images of Hindu gods at home. We celebrate all the Christian festivals but we don’t celebrate Deepavali. I am an Indian but then Guadeloupe is home to me.” For Mr. Moutoussamy, a writer and prominent politician (five-time member of the French Parliament and Mayor of Saint-Francois) in Guadeloupe, the Tamil connection remains just in his name. Having grown up on a sugarcane plantation where his father and grandfather worked, he knows that his forefathers came from India.  This detailed exploration of East Indian names, their meanings, and trajectories, is a collaboration between Mr. Moutoussamy and Dr. Appasamy Murugaiyan, professor of comparative and historical linguistics at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris. He specializes in Dravidian and Tamil linguistics and epigraphy, and the Tamil Diaspora in French-speaking islands.

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