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Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

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Author: Gaiutra Bahadur

Number Of Pages: 312

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In 1903, a young woman sailed from India to Guiana as a "coolie"―the British name for indentured laborers who replaced the newly emancipated slaves on sugar plantations all around the world. Pregnant and traveling alone, this woman, like so many coolies, disappeared into history. In Coolie Woman, her great-granddaughter Gaiutra Bahadur embarks on a journey into the past to find her. Traversing three continents and trawling through countless colonial archives, Bahadur excavates not only her great-grandmother's story but also the repressed history of some quarter of a million other coolie women, shining a light on their complex lives.

Shunned by society, and sometimes in mortal danger, many coolie women were either runaways, widows, or outcasts. Many of them left husbands and families behind to migrate alone in epic sea voyages―traumatic "middle passages"―only to face a life of hard labor, dismal living conditions and sexual exploitation. Coolie Woman is a meditation on survival, a gripping story of a double diaspora―from India to the West Indies in one century, Guyana to the United States in the next―that is at once a search for one's roots and an exploration of gender and power, peril and opportunity. 

Release Date: 04-08-2014

Languages: English