This general issue of the journal comprises two articles and two review essays on recently published books. Each of the articles studies Anglo-Indians in a particular geographic, political and temporal frame. Dorothy McMenamin’s article is based in her extensive study of Anglo-Indians in Pakistan, focusing on the Partition. Lyndon Thomas offers us a window into his current ongoing study of Anglo-Indians in present day Odisha, and some of its preliminary conclusions. The review essays respectively address very significant recent publications: Uther Charlton-Stevens’ Anglo-India and the End of Empire (2022), reviewed by Anjana Banerjee; and, Barry O’Brien’s The Anglo-Indians: A Portrait of a Community (2022), reviewed by Dolores Chew.
Dorothy McMenamin’s article, ‘Anglo-Indian Immunity from Partition Violence’ is largely based on one chapter in her recently published book, Anglo-Indian Lives in Pakistan (2023), which emerged from her PhD in history, which aimed to highlight the particular and different experiences of Anglo-Indians in Pakistan compared with India around the Partition and thereafter as both nations emerged. Central to her argument is the unique impact of the socioreligious milieu of Pakistan and India as, respectively, Muslim and Hindu majority states, to the lives of the Christian minority Anglo-Indians. This article focuses on Partition, and provides vivid oral history accounts from Anglo-Indians who lived through Partition but were very rarely victims of the violence. She also includes a number of stories of Anglo-Indian heroism. McMenamin’s work adds a rarely seen dimension within the study of Partition – the experiences of a small minority in the midst of the political turmoil, mass migration and bloodshed.
Lyndon Thomas and Sthitaprajna have carried out an ethnographic study of Odisha’s Anglo-Indian community, which has hardly ever attracted any scholarly attention in the past because, perhaps, Anglo-Indians in Odisha have been overshadowed by the cultural centre of gravity of the community in Kolkata just a few hundred kilometres to the north. Now is an apt time for their study, as the community is under cultural strain from diminishing numbers, particularly as railway employment had been their past stronghold but is not any longer. Their ethnography seeks to study the community’s past, its defining cultural anchors and markers of identity, reasons for and principles of change, and the reflections of Anglo-Indians in their own words about the future. In this article, which presents and problematises the community in Odisha, the authors also reveal some of their preliminary conclusions: that Odisha’s Anglo-Indians strongly identify with India as home, while simultaneously feeling distinct from other Indians in some key ways especially tied to their past collective experiences, but which struggle for firm grounding in the present due to changes in occupation, forms of socialising, and the migration out of Odisha for educational and employment opportunities no longer connected to the railways.
Last calendar year, 2022, saw the publishing of two important books in the study of Anglo-Indians, and we eagerly publish extended review essays on both of them. One is Uther Charlton-Stevens’ second book, Anglo-Indians and the End of Empire, reviewed by Anjana Banerjee. Unlike Charlton-Stevens’ first book, Anglo-Indians and Minority Politics (2017), which was an academic history based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford, this latest book targets a popular rather than specialist readership but gives no less a deep dive into Anglo-Indian engagement with politics, theatre and film, the world wars, racial attitudes, Partition and migration in the last decades of the Raj. The other important book of 2022 is The Anglo-Indians: A Portrait of a Community, by Barry O’Brien, current President-in-Chief of the All India Anglo-Indian Association (AIAIA). At over five hundred pages O’Brien aims to tell a comprehensive story of a Community, drawing on both on historical sources and engaging anecdotes gleaned from a life lived at the centre of all things Anglo-Indian, and highlight the perspective of the largest and more than century old extant organisation of Anglo-Indians, the AIAIA. Historian Dolores Chew provides a review essay no less lively than O’Brien’s book.
Copyright (c) 2023 Brent Otto, Robyn Andrews
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