Much of what I’ve read on (Pardesi-) Desis (in English) has been about Desis in the West. I have come across some material on Desis in the Gulf and some on Desis in the Carribean, but not much on Desis in East Africa or Southern Africa or East Asia etc. (That is one of the reasons why reading Vinay Lal is essential.) Bollywood too has been fixated on the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) in the West, and it seems, so are the Subcontinental nations. Or may be I have just been navel-gazing.
Whatever the case may be, I found M. Neelika Jayawardane‘s essay, “‘Everyone’s Got Their Indian’ — The South Asian Diaspora in South Africa,” in Transition 107, invaluable. Jayawardane narrates histories of South Asians in South Africa through colonial times to apartheid to the present, and shows how the divides created or at least hardened by the colonial state persist in stereotypes. She then goes on to show by reviewing relevant literature, scholarship, photography, and vignettes, how these stereotypes and imagined separation of Indians from South Africans were — and are — contested; how they are belied by the lived histories of common struggles against colonialism and apartheid and struggles for worker rights; and by the rich histories of their entanglements in culture, food, architecture, and much more.
I enjoyed working on the aforesaid essay in order to cut a shorter version of it for Chapati Mystery, which is available in the following two parts: