Coolie Diaspora: From Indentureship to Transnational Communities


Two groundbreaking works on the history of indentured labor and the Asian diaspora in the Caribbean come into conversation with one another at a forthcoming event at New York University.

November 13 @ 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU

8 Washington Mews New York, NY 10003 United States

In Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Gaiutra Bahadur traces the story of her great-grandmother, who in 1903 journeyed from India to Guyana and, through the excavation of countless colonial archives, reveals the complex lives of a quarter of a million other “coolie women” like her. Pankaj Mishra writes that Coolie Woman, “shows, with understated literary power, the bitterly paradoxical nature of colonial modernity: the unbearable dialectic between enslavement and liberation that many unsung millions underwent in their private lives.”

Kathleen López’s Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) explores the transition of the Chinese from indentured to free migrants and the formation of transnational communities. López demonstrates how Chinese migration, intermarriage, and assimilation are central to Cuban history and national identity during a key period of transition from slave to wage labor and from colony to nation. Praised by Evelyn Hu-Dehart as, “[m]eticulously researched and beautifully written…this is the first serious and comprehensive history of the Chinese in Cuba.”

Sukhdev Sandhu (Department of Social & Cultural Analysis) moderates.

RSVP by Monday, November 11 using the form below.

Co-sponsored by the NYU Center for Multicultural Education & Programs.

Gaiutra Bahadur is a journalist and book critic who writes frequently about the culture and politics of global migration. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, The (London) Observer, and Ms., among other publications. A former daily newspaper reporter, she has reported on topics and topographies ranging from politics in Texas to the war in Iraq, post-9/11 hate crimes to Hinjew weddings, Austin’s high-tech immigrants to Arizona’s nativists. Gaiutra studied literature at Yale University and journalism at Columbia University and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She was born in Guyana and emigrated to the United States with her family when she was six. She is the recipient of a 2013 New Jersey Council on the Arts Fellowship and a 2013 grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, a national feminist arts organization in the US.

Kathleen López is an assistant professor in the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and the Department of History at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She holds an MA in Asian Studies from Cornell University and a PhD in History from the University of Michigan.


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