This essay engages a key thematic of Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture—racialized, gendered and sexualized violence in the making of the “coolie” woman in British Guiana. Through literary nonfiction, Bahadur offers a rigorous and imaginative methodological approach that reveals and challenges the epistemic violence of the official archive. Her analysis incisively attends to the relationships between empire, intimacy, and violence without sacrificing attention to either the devastating effects for women or the multiple ways Indian women refused to be defined only in terms set by violence. Finally, while Bahadur engages infrastructures of colonial violence that positioned the “coolie” as not a slave, this essay offers a cautionary note about reproducing archival investments in irreconcilable difference. It extends Bahadur’s own approach to revisit some of the intimate encounters between Africans and Indians presented in the text to suggest other readings of ordinary proximities beyond violence.
Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: Intimacies, Proximities, Relationalities
D. Alissa Trotz teaches in women and gender studies and Caribbean studies at New College, University of Toronto, and is an associate faculty at the Dame Nita Barrow Institute of Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies (Barbados). She is a member of Red Thread Women’s Organization, Guyana, and edits a weekly newspaper column, “In the Diaspora,” in the Stabroek News, Guyana.
D. Alissa Trotz; Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: Intimacies, Proximities, Relationalities. Small Axe 1 July 2018; 22 (2 (56)): 219–231. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-6985935
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