With or Without Roots: The Compared and Conflictual Memories of Slavery and Indentured Labor in the Mauritian Public Space

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:40 AM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Mathieu Claveyrolas , CNRS, and CEIAS, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
This paper deals with the Mauritian contemporary context of competing communal memories. Mauritius is a young nation. The island was uninhabited until the seventeenth century. It was colonized by the Dutch, the French and the British before becoming independent in 1968. Mauritius is mainly inhabited by descendants of enslaved Africans and by descendants of Indian indentured laborers brought to Mauritius to replace the slave workforce after the abolition of slavery in the first half of the nineteenth century. Considering the ongoing construction of a nation in a context of creoleness (dynamic interpenetration of various cultures resulting from forced migration and slavery context), this paper will 1) discuss the interactions between the reconstruction of the slaves and indentured laborers' past through the numerous celebrations and monuments, and the different influences of transnationalism (links with Africa and India, pretentions to creoleness); 2) compare, from the point of view of the descendants of slaves and of indentured laborers, the different founding mythologies and narratives (denial of the past, reconstruction or quest for roots) and their various meanings whether we consider the Mauritian political context or the transnational context.
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