Labouring bodies, labouring histories: The Malaysian-Indian estate girl

  • Jeyathurai D
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This article brings together three seemingly disparate texts, namely, K.S. Jomo and Josie Zaini’s Meena: A Plantation Child Worker, K.S. Maniam’s Between Lives and Preeta Samarasan’s Evening is the Whole Day. By placing these narratives into conversation with each other as well as situating them against the complex history of Malaysia’s Indian minority, this essay sets into relief the legacies of the colonial plantation industry in Malaysia and its implications for this community. In the process of doing so, this article focuses its attention upon the particularly gendered implications that are illuminated by the ways in which these three texts imagine Malaysian-Indian estate girls. These renderings of both Malaysian-Indian estate girls and estate women disrupt more commonplace narratives about the ever mobile and cosmopolitan Indian diasporic subject. These texts invite us to consider those diasporic subjects who crossed oceans under the aegis of the British Empire to work in unfamiliar lands before it became de rigueur for Indian professionals to move to New York, Tokyo, London, Singapore, and so on. Importantly, when read against each other, these texts force us to contemplate what happens with a community mired in the persistent debris of decolonization while the new nation marches on.

Author-supplied keywords

  • "estate girl"
  • Indian diaspora
  • Malaysian-Indian
  • decolonization
  • indenture history
  • labor

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  • Dashini Jeyathurai

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