Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius

Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius

Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius

Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius

Synopsis

Little India is a rich historical and ethnographic examination of a fascinating example of linguistic plurality on the island of Mauritius, where more than two-thirds of the population is of Indian ancestry. Patrick Eisenlohr's groundbreaking study focuses on the formation of diaspora as mediated through the cultural phenomenon of Indian ancestral languages--principally Hindi, which is used primarily in religious contexts. Eisenlohr emphasizes the variety of cultural practices that construct and transform boundaries in communities in diaspora and illustrates different modes of experiencing the temporal relationships between diaspora and homeland.

Excerpt

In February 1999, two months after I had left Mauritius, having concluded my main dissertation fieldwork, riots erupted on the island for the first time since 1968. the popular singer Kaya had died under suspicious circumstances in police custody, where he had been held on drug charges. Kaya was a member of the Creole ethnic community of Mauritius, most of whom trace their ancestry to African and Malagasy slaves. After the news of Kaya’s death in the central police headquarters of Port Louis became known, protesters took to the streets in suburbs of the capital, attacking police stations and other government buildings, torching vehicles, and destroying and looting businesses. the riots very quickly acquired an ethnic dimension, since many of the protesters were of poor Creole background, and some of them viewed the police as a Hindu force, given the predominance of Hindus in Mauritian state institutions. in addition, Kaya had been considered a leadership figure among young Creoles, and while the events were still unfolding, representatives of Creole organizations publicly claimed that the violence was a reaction against multiple forms of political and economic exclusion suffered by members of the Creole community. Fears suddenly spread that groups of Creoles from suburbs of the capital such as Roche-Bois, where some of the first outbreaks of violence occurred, were preparing to attack and loot in the rural, Hindu-dominated north of the island. Driven by these . . .

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