Coolies and the Legacy of Indentureship

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English
contact email: 

At the “East Indians in the Caribbean Conference” in Trinidad in 1979, Sam Selvon disarmingly titled his opening address “Three into One Can’t Go—East Indian, Trinidadian or West Indian.” He presented the contradictions apparent in competing discourses of identification as the descendants of Indian indentured labourers sought to define themselves in their national and regional contexts. Selvon’s underlying question of how (formerly) indentured labourers establish a sense of belonging in their new environment is applicable to other sites of indentureship like Guyana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Suriname, and Fiji. Another identifying label that should be added to Selvon’s triad is coolie, a pejorative that some Indians have sought to reclaim. It is a word that resonates not only wherever this labour system was implemented but also wherever these labourers’ descendants immigrated. Grappling with this fraught identity and the legacy of indentureship has led to diverse works like David Dabydeen’s Coolie Odyssey, Harold Sonny Ladoo’s No Pain Like This Body, Khal Torabully’s writings on coolitude, and Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman. This panel welcomes papers that respond to such works with potential topics including but not limited to recouped cultural identifiers (like coolie), the economic determinations of indentureship, cultural memory and migration, and how indentureship organizes relationships to the environment.

Please send the following: A file containing a 300 to 500-word paper proposal, without personal identifying marks; A file containing a 100-word abstract and a 50-word biographical statement; and the 2017 Proposal Info Sheet available on the ACCUTE website to Kris Singh at by Nov 1st.