Connected and Comparative History: South Asia in New American, Asian, and Borderlands Histories

AHA Session 7
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 1
Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Liberty Suite 3 (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Neilesh Bose, St. John's University
Moon-Ho Jung, University of Washington Seattle

Session Abstract

The role of South Asia in global history has been traditionally studied with respect to early modern empires, long-distance trade, and internal migrations within Indian Ocean arenas. Less studied have been migrations of South Asians, as well as the impacts of these migrations, in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as integrations with regions in North America, the Caribbean, and the Western hemisphere throughout the age of modern Euro-American empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Inspired by recent research in the field, such as the recent edited volume, The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power (NYU Press, 2013) as well as recent published research on South Asian migration in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceanic regions, this roundtable engages three particular questions about connected and comparative approaches to global history. First, to what degree do South Asian migrations, and the new developments in the Americas such migrations brought forth regarding race, the politics of labor, and evolving laws regulating migrants, fit into a broader Asian-American history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Are South Asian migrations distinctive from other Asian histories in the Americas? Second, are the imperial histories of colonial India and South Asia and imperial North America linked in ways that may complicate historical frameworks of nation, empire, and diaspora? Might new spatial frameworks, and potentially, new understandings of borders and borderlands (oceans?), emerge from a systematic study of South Asian migrations in the context of imperial history? Finally, the panel queries the role of labor history in studies of South Asian diasporas in the Americas. How do the histories of migrant laborers as well as indentured laborers (often studied in the Indian Ocean context) transform our understanding of both South Asia and the Americas? Are comparisons with the Indian Ocean, particularly Indian and Chinese laborers in the mines and fields of southern Africa and Australia, useful for understanding South Asian migrations in across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans? As an adjunct to this question, the panel features scholars working at the nexus of formal historical scholarship and multi-disciplinary journalism, historical fiction, and multi-media approaches to the topic.This panel situates South Asia alongside the Americas in connected and comparative conversations within and outside the discipline of history, as it includes the voices of recent scholars working in multidisciplinary frameworks, and outside the formal discipline, alongside historians working in the academy. Discussions about South Asian migrations’ to the Americas will address modern South Asian historians, U.S. historians, borderlands scholars, historians of Asian American topics, and all who may be interested in modern comparative and connected histories.

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