Nienke Boer deposited Settlers and Laborers: The Afterlife of Indenture in Early South African Indian Writing on Humanities Commons 1 year, 5 months ago
As part of a growing scholarly corpus on African literature within an Indian Ocean framework, Gaurav Desai, in his recent book on writing by South Asians in East Africa, asks: “How, and under what conditions, do settlers become natives?” (13). While discussions of Indian South African writing have centered around recent novels, I take up Desai’s question in relation to earlier generations of Indian South African writing, specifically Ansuyah R. Singh’s novel, Behold the Earth Mourns, and Mohandas K. Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. I argue that these authors wanted to distance themselves from indenture and embrace a different narrative: that of the settler. They thus employ the tropes of settler writing to escape the constraints, both temporal and narrative, imposed by the indenture contract. However, the specter of the contract introduces the rhetoric of law into their work, at odds with the sentimental language associated with settler narratives.