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Racialized Casteism: Exposing the Relationship Between Race, Caste, and Colorism Through the Experiences of Africana People in India and Sri Lanka

Abstract

Contemporary South Asian sociality is marked by signifiers of race, caste, ethnicity, and colorism. Examining the particular social inequalities and marginalization experienced by Africana people in these societies uncovers the dialectical interrelationship between caste, race, and colorism. This yields an understanding of how race and its more trenchant inflection, racism, function in South Asia. Interpreting implications for Africana politics in South Asian societies requires a theorization of these categories. Racialized casteism is an analytic that reveals the relationship between race, caste, and colorism in South Asia and highlights how Africana presence indisputably raises the significance of race thereby intensifying the outcomes faced by Siddis and Kaffirs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Richard Pankhurst, “On the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean Region” in The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean, eds. Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Richard Pankhurst (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003), 7–18; Helene Basu, “History on the Line: Music and the Formation of Sidi Identity in Western India” History Workshop Journal 65 (2008): 161–178. Siddis and Kaffirs are two Africana populations in India and Sri Lanka. The term “Siddi” (or Sidi) is a derivative of the combination of sayyid, an honorific title used in Arabic, originally to denote someone in the lineage of the Prophet Muhammed and the Arabic saydi, meaning captive or prisoner of war. This appellation was given indiscriminately to enslaved Africans and African sailors working on dhows (Arab sailing vessels) and in Indian Ocean ports. The term “Kaffir” is an ethnonym used to refer to African-descended people in Sri Lanka, regardless of religion and faith. It has negative connotations in some African contexts (e.g., in South Africa, where Kaffir was historically used as a racial epithet). However, in the Sri Lankan context, the term comes from the Arabic word kafir, meaning nonbeliever (i.e., non-Muslim).

  2. 2.

    Several scholars have used the term in theorizing about Indian social organization. See Steve Barnett, “Approaches to Changes in Caste Ideology in South India,” in Essays on South Asia, ed. Burton Stein (Hawaii: University Press of Hawaii, 1975) for a discussion relating modern instantiations of caste to ethnicization. David A. Washbrook, “Ethnicity in Contemporary Indian Politics,” in South Asia, eds. Hamza Alavi and John Harriss (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989) argues that religion, language, and caste symbolize ethnicity. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) locates the origins of ethnicity in categories of religion, caste, and language. For a discussion of ethnicity signifying the reach for a grounding within the postmodern push for diversity see Deepa S. Reddy, “The Ethnicity of Caste,” Anthropological Quarterly 78, no. 3 (2005): 543–584 and Stuart Hall, “The Local and the Global,” Culture, Globalization and the World System, ed. Anthony D. King (London: Macmillan, 1991), 19–40. For a discussion of ethnicity as defining distinctive groups of solidarity and strategic alliances that demand both conceptual and material recognition, see Talcott Parsons, “Some Theoretical Considerations on the Nature and Trends of Change of Ethnicity,” Ethnicity: Theory and Experience, eds. Nathan Glazer and David P. Moynihan (Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press, 1975).

  3. 3.

    Govind Sadashiv Ghurye, Caste and Race in India (Popular Prakashan, 1969). Oliver C. Cox, “Race and Caste: A Distinction.” American Journal of Sociology (1945): 360–368.

  4. 4.

    Barnor Hesse, “Racialized Modernity: An Analysis of White Mythologies,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 30, no.4 (2007): 643–663; Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays (Caraf Books, 1992), 22.

  5. 5.

    Orientalist discourse refers to the romanticized conceptualization of the Orient in the European imaginary, viewing it and treating it as weak and feminine, and providing justification for its penetration and development by the West. It is the Orientalist that gives voice to the Orient, he/she “makes the Orient speak.” Willed over the Orient, this doctrine exaggerates and distorts images about the continent writ large. See Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: UK, 1978).

  6. 6.

    Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar, and Angshuman Kar, “Introduction,” in The Politics of Social Exclusion in India: Democracy at the Crossroads, eds. Harihar Bhattacharyya, Partha Sarkar, and Angshuman Kar (Oxon, Canada: Routledge, 2010), 1–14.

  7. 7.

    For more extensive discussions on the term, “Africana” and its utility within the discipline of Africana Studies, see: Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, eds, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999), s.v. “Introduction”; John H. Clarke, “Africana Studies: A Decade of Change, Challenge, and Conflict,” in The African American Studies Reader, ed. Nathanial Norment (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007), 292–301. James E. Turner, “Africana Studies and Epistemology: A Discourse in the Sociology of Knowledge,” in The African American Studies Reader, ed. Nathanial Norment (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007), 74–87. Marquita Pellerin, “Benefits of Afrocentricity in Exploring Social Phenomena: Understanding Afrocentricity as a Social Science Methodology,” The Journal of Pan African Studies 5, no.4 (2012): 149–160. Drawing on their definitions, in this paper, the term “Africana” refers to people of African descent around the world, their essential interconnectedness beyond phenotype, relating them to land, history, and culture; implies the inclusion of the “total” phenomenon of the Black experience; and by centering Africa in the analysis of Africana people, an ideological move is made to improve their global conditions.

  8. 8.

    See Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Caste, Culture and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal. (Sage, 2004). Christophe Jaffrelot, Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and Fighting Caste (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). Anupama Rao, The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). Gail Omvedt, Land, Caste, and Politics in Indian States (South Asia Books, 1982). Dipankar Gupta, ed., Caste in Question: Identity or Hierarchy? (India: SAGE Publications, 2004). Louis Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). Mary Searle-Chatterjee and Ursula Sharma, eds., Contextualising Caste: Post-Dumontian Approaches (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Vasanth Kannabiran and Kalpana Kannabiran. “Caste and Gender: Understanding Dynamics of Power and Violence,” Economic and Political Weekly (1991): 2130–2133. Hiroyuki Kotani, ed., Caste System, Untouchability, and the Depressed (India: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1997). Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development (India: Patrika Publications, 1916). Ishita Banerjee-Dube, ed., Caste in History (London: Oxford University Press, 2008). Shiv Visvanathan, “The Race for Caste: Prolegomena to the Durban Conference,” Economic and Political Weekly (2001): 2512–2516.

  9. 9.

    Mel Gunasekera, “Where ‘kaffir’ is no insult,” The Telegraph, November 20, 2009, accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html

  10. 10.

    Pashington Obeng, Shaping Membership, Defining Nation: The Cultural Politics of African Indians in South Asia (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007).

  11. 11.

    Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi, “Linguistic Evidence of Bantu Origins of the Sidis of India,” TADIA: The African Diaspora in Asia—Explorations on a Less Known Fact (2008), 301–313.

  12. 12.

    Obeng, Shaping Membership.

  13. 13.

    Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, “The African Diaspora in Sri Lanka,” in The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean, eds. Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya and Richard Pankhurst. (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2003) 251–288. The 2011 census recorded 0.13 % “others,” which includes small minority populations like self-contained Kaffir communities.

  14. 14.

    Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka, “Census of Population and Housing of Sri Lanka, 2012http://www.statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/CPH2012Visualization/htdocs/index.php?usecase=indicator&action=Map&indId=11 (accessed April 12, 2015); de Silva Jayasuriya, “The African Diaspora in Sri Lanka.” In terms of a collective group identification that could have held potential for political mobilization, in Sri Lanka, Kaffirs appeared in the census records from 1871 to 1921 in proportionate numbers of males and females. However, they ceased to appear as a separate ethnic group in the census since 1911 and are currently categorized broadly under “others” alongside several small minorities. There is no clear indication for this change in the Department of National Statistics in Sri Lanka.

  15. 15.

    Maura O’Connor, “Getting to Know the Kaffirs through Music and Dance” The Sunday Times, November 9, 2008, accessed April 20, 2015 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/081109/Plus/sundaytimesplus_10.html

  16. 16.

    cf. de Silva Jayasuriya, “The African Diaspora in Sri Lanka.”

  17. 17.

    Pashington Obeng, Shaping Membership, Defining Nation: The Cultural Politics of African Indians in South Asia (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007); Joseph E. Harris, The African Presence in Asia: Consequences of the East African Slave Trade (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971); Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity in Asia: Cultural Effects of Forced Migration (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2009); Richard Pankhurst, "The Habshis of India, Appendix E," in An Introduction the Economic History of Ethiopia (London: Lalibela House, 1961). In addition to forced movement by way of capture and subjugation, Africans also migrated voluntarily across the Indian Ocean. This movement resulted from long established trade networks in the littoral. Trade between Africans and Indians existed from as early as the sixth century. In Sri Lanka, the earliest African presence on the island was in the fifth century when Abyssinians were trading in Matota, a northwestern province.

  18. 18.

    Edward A. Alpers, “Recollecting Africa: Diasporic Memory in the Indian Ocean World,” African Studies Review 43, no.1 (2000): 83–99. Joseph E. Harris, African Presence.

  19. 19.

    Obeng, Shaping Membership.

  20. 20.

    Harris, African Presence.

  21. 21.

    de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity.

  22. 22.

    Pankhurst, “The Habshis of India,” 409-422; de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity.

  23. 23.

    de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity.

  24. 24.

    Abdulaziz Y. Lodhi, “African Settlements in India,” Nordic Journal of African Studies 1 (1992): 85.

  25. 25.

    Ibid.

  26. 26.

    Ibid.

  27. 27.

    Joseph E. Harris, “Expanding the Scope of African Diaspora Studies: The Middle East and India, A Research Agenda,” Radical History Review 87 (2003), p. 158.

  28. 28.

    Ibid.

  29. 29.

    Ibid.

  30. 30.

    As quoted in Peter Robb, The Concept of Race in South Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), the earliest dates for these initial definitions of race are said to have been 1596, 1600, 1605, and 1774. These are significant dates in relation to European conquest in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. For the definition of race as referring to distinct ethnic group, the O.E.D. date is 1842.

  31. 31.

    Ibid.

  32. 32.

    Camara Jules P. Harrell, Manichean Psychology: Racism and the Minds of People of African Descent (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1999).

  33. 33.

    Marimba Ani, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior (Maryland: Afrikan World Books, 1994). Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (New York: NYU Press, 1989).

  34. 34.

    David Arnold, “Race, Place, and Bodily Difference in Early Nineteenth-Century India,” Historical Research 77, no. 196 (2004): 254-273. More discussion of the role the body played in racial conceptualization is in the next section of this essay.

  35. 35.

    Hesse, “Racialized Modernity.”

  36. 36.

    Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti, State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1990), 110.

  37. 37.

    Robert Aldrich, Cultural Encounters and Homoeroticism in Sri Lanka: Sex and Serendipity (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014), 18. One example of this tendency is that of John Davy, a physician in the British forces in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who observed and compared differences in height, bone structure, physical features such as hair—on the scalp and face, countenance, and morality between natives of Sri Lanka and Europeans.

  38. 38.

    For more detailed discussion of the foundational discourses that marked phenotypic difference see: Arnold, "Race, Place and Bodily Difference." Said, Orientalism; Said, Orientalism.

  39. 39.

    Hesse, “Racialized Modernity,” 658–9. Hesse elaborates the onto-coloniality as “the modernity of social realities historically brought into racialized being by colonial regimes of demarcations, designations and deployments, that is to say, as the effects of onto-colonial taxonomies.”

  40. 40.

    Ishita Bannerjee-Dube, “Caste, Race and Difference: The Limits of Knowledge and Resistance,” Current Sociology 62, no.4 (2014: 512–530. Although South Asia does not deal with race and racial politics much in the same manner as the West, “race” as a global ideological construct developed in relation to Europe’s contact with Asia as well as Africa. While the conceptualization of race vis-à-vis Africa is well documented, there is little scholarly discussion of the role that Asia played in this relationship.

  41. 41.

    Junaid Rana, Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora (NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

  42. 42.

    Marimba Ani, Yurugu. An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior (Maryland: Afrikan World Books, 1994).

  43. 43.

    Arnold, “Race, Place and Bodily Difference”; Vijay Prashad, Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian connections and the myth of cultural purity (Boston: Beacon, 2002).

  44. 44.

    Ibid.

  45. 45.

    Ibid. In the eighteenth century, Bernier was followed by Swedish scientist Linneaus who altered the method of raciology with scientific classification schemes. At the same time, German naturalist Blumenbach who developed the field of physical anthropology was the first to establish a link between the African man and the ape.

  46. 46.

    Robert Cox, Transactions of the Phrenological Society, VII, no. XL (1834): 577–603.

  47. 47.

    Shivrang Setlur, “Searching for South Asian Intelligence: Psychometry in British India, 1919–1940,” Journal of History of the Behavioral Sciences 50, no.4 (2014): 359–375.

  48. 48.

    Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). He argues that both responses were discursively manufactured by the colonial rule of difference and were acquired discourses in that they expressed the essential difference of the indigenous population in terms legible to the West and relied on the conceptual lexicon of Western history and political thought. Giorgio Shani, “Indigenous Modernities: Nationalism and Communalism in Colonial India,” Ritsumeikan Annual Review of International Studies 4 (2005): 87–112.

  49. 49.

    Ibid. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Risley was a civil servant and British ethnographer whose avid promotion of physical anthropology in the service of the colonial enterprise gained him notoriety. Part of this project entailed the definition and differentiation of Indian society in largely biological terms. Most notably, Risley’s beliefs in a biologically justified racism galvanized his conclusions that “race sentiment” in India transcended the “intolerant pride of the Brahman” and was predicated upon “a foundation of fact which scientific methods confirm.”

  50. 50.

    Crispin Bates, “Race, Caste, and Tribe in Central India: The Early Origins of Indian Anthropometry,” in The Concept of Race in South Asia, ed. Peter Robb (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 219–259; Said, Orientalism, 1–3; Harrell, Manichean Psychology, 15. Said’s meditations on “orientalism” offers an incisive reading of the European investment in the discursive potential of these ideas. Drawing on Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Harrell explains this dualism in the following manner: “The Manicheans conceived of blackness and things associated with it as evil. Whiteness, or light, became associated with good.”

  51. 51.

    Bates, “Race, Caste, and Tribe.”

  52. 52.

    Nico Slate, “Translating Race and Caste,” Journal of Historical Sociology 24, no.1 (2011): 62–79.

  53. 53.

    Ibid. Ishita Banerjee-Dube, “Caste, Race and Difference: The Limits of Knowledge and Resistance.” Current Sociology 62, no. 4 (2014): 512–530. Bannerjee-Dube cautions against the tendency to fold caste into race in order to advance platforms of cross-cultural and international solidarity in struggles against the oppression of Third World peoples.

  54. 54.

    Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse,22.

  55. 55.

    Romila Thapar, “The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History and Politics,” Social Scientist (1996), 3–29.

  56. 56.

    Cheikh Anta Diop, Precolonial Black Africa: A comparative study of the political and social systems of Europe and Black Africa, from antiquity to the formation of modern states (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Company, 1987).

  57. 57.

    Ibid. Added to this, Diop argues that the Aryans added ideals of materialism and the possession of goods to the Cushite caste system underscoring social organization based on economic distinction rather than ethnic differentiation.

  58. 58.

    Ibid.

  59. 59.

    Sharma, “Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the Aryan Invasion (2004)”; Waughray, “Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights.” India is considered the locus of the genesis of caste regionally. As a result, scholarship on caste in South Asia doggedly maintains that upon arrival in India, the Aryans proceeded to distinguish themselves from the native Dasas and Dasyus, which ultimately led to the creation of the caste system.

  60. 60.

    Bates, “Race, Caste, and Tribe.” Indrani Chatterjee, “Abolition by denial: The South Asian example,” in Abolition and its aftermath in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, ed. Gwyn Campbell (New York: Routledge, 2005), 150–168.

  61. 61.

    Ibid.

  62. 62.

    Ibid.

  63. 63.

    Ibid.

  64. 64.

    Denzil C.J. Ibbetson, Report on the Census of Pubjab 1 (Calcutta: Government of India, 1881). See: Annapurna Waughray, “Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights: The Case of India’s Dalits,” International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 17 (2010): 327–353. Prashad, Karma (2000). An indeterminate number of geographically based, hierarchically ranked kinship groups—jati—are present alongside the varna system in Indian society. These kinship groups serve as the operational units of the caste system and their principles are localized and much more varied than with varnas. Although varnas are fixed and immutable, jati are innumerable due to groups merging or subdividing as in marital ties. Jati rankings have also been regularly contested.

  65. 65.

    Louis Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus; The Caste System and its Implications (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974); Nicholas B. Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

  66. 66.

    Waughray, “Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights”; Robert E. Frykenberg, “The Social Context: Caste and ‘Color,’” Christian History and Biography 87 (2005): 28. Hindu adherents aside, caste as well as caste-based discrimination is found among adherents of other religious affiliations such as Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Parsism, and Christianity. These groups are stratified into castes based on their lineages and lifestyles.

  67. 67.

    Sharma, “Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the Aryan Invasion (2004).”

  68. 68.

    Ibbetson, Report on the Census.

  69. 69.

    Waughray, “Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights”: Frykenberg, “The Social Context.”

  70. 70.

    Obeng, Shaping Membership, 10; Charles Camara, “The Siddis of Uttara Kannada: History, Identity and Change among African Descendants in Contemporary Karnataka,” in Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians, eds. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers (Uttar Pradesh: Rainbow Publishers, 2004), 113; Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers, “Introduction,” in Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians, eds. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers (Uttar Pradesh: Rainbow Publishers, 2004), 7.

  71. 71.

    G.P. Malalasekera and K.N. Jayatilleke, “Buddhism and the Race Question,” UNESCO (1958).

  72. 72.

    Chandima S.M. Wickramasinghe, “Coloured Slavery in Ceylon (Sri Lanka),” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka 54 (2008): 159-178.

  73. 73.

    Kalinga T. Silva, P.P. Sivapragasam, and Paramasothy Thanges, “Caste Discrimination and Social Justice in Sri Lanka: An Overview,” Indian Institute of Dalit Studies Working Paper Series 3, no. 6 (2009).

  74. 74.

    Wickramasinghe, “Coloured Slavery in Ceylon.”

  75. 75.

    Ibid.

  76. 76.

    This tier of Sri Lanka’s caste hierarchy is comparable to the Shudra group in the Brahmanic caste system.

  77. 77.

    Definition of colorism is based on Margaret Hunter, “The Persistent Problem of Colorism: Skin Tone, Status, and Inequality,” Sociology Compass 1, no.1 (2007): 237–254. Waughray, “Caste Discrimination and Minority Rights,” 28; Frykenberg, “The Social Context.” In accordance with Hindu creation mythology, the four broad hierarchical categories, or varnas, of social division are traditionally linked to occupation or social functions such as priests (Brahmins), warriors and rulers (Kshatriyas), traders and artisans (Vaisyas), and serfs and laborers (Shudras).

  78. 78.

    Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States (Oxford, UK: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006), 9.

  79. 79.

    Prashad, Kung Fu Fighting (2002).

  80. 80.

    Reddy, “Ethnicity of Caste,” 549.

  81. 81.

    Arnold, “Race, Place, and Bodily Difference.”

  82. 82.

    Ibid.

  83. 83.

    Ibid., 256.

  84. 84.

    Ibid.

  85. 85.

    Ibid., 257. Early medical records are also indicative of the discursive instantiations of the racialized Other. These records facilitated “race sentiment” and led to the subsequent intensification in British emphasis on racial difference and perceptions of physical characteristics of race throughout the nineteenth century. The relational nature of orientalism and the Manichean worldview as ideology is further contextualized in the medical discourse of the time that sought to understand the supposed effects of climate not merely in isolation but in terms of what tropical heat and humidity did to the European body…by constant comparison with Indians.” Medical topographers (such as J.R. Martin and James Annesley) investigated the incidence and impact of disease between Europeans and Indians, which led them to document differences in how disease affected the two populations.

  86. 86.

    Nazia Hussein, “Colour of Life Achievements: Historical and Media Influences of Identity Formation based on Skin Colour in South Asia,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 31, no.4 (2010): 403–424; Eric P.H. Li, Hyun Jeong Min, Russell W. Belk, Junko Kimura, and Shalini Bahl, “Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures,” Advances in Consumer Research, 35 (2008): 444–449. Lighter (in contradistinction to darker) complexion is central to beauty standards and status in South Asian societies. “Whiteness,” or the possession of a fair skin tone is an important element in the construction of female beauty standards in some Asian societies. While this may appear to be a superficial esthetic concern with little political import, South Asia, in particular, has a fascination with skin lightening due to deep historical, cultural, and media depictions of lightness as a beauty ideal and prerequisite for achievement. For instance, in Indian society, lighter skin is equated with the revered Brahmin caste, who are also priests and represent religious purity and leadership. Lower castes such as the Shudra, who are common laborers, are expectedly darker skinned.

  87. 87.

    Vijay Prashad, The Karma of Brown Folk (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

  88. 88.

    Hussein, “Colour of Life Achievements”; Diop, Precolonial Black Africa; Li et al., “Skin Lightening (2008)”; Prashad, Karma (2000). Skin color preferences alongside caste consciousness are largely seen in the fairly public searches and criteria for mate selection and specifically, in matrimonial advertising in print media. Over time, among all castes, a preference for lighter skin tones among new brides especially has been the desired norm.

  89. 89.

    Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks: The Experiences of a Black Man in a White World (Grove Press, 1967). Harrell, Manichean Psychology, 15. Drawing on Frantz Fanon, Camara Harrell explains this dualism in the following manner: “The Manicheans conceived of blackness and things associated with it as evil. Whiteness, or light, became associated with good.” The effects of this Manichean structure are evident in South Asian history. For example, Crispin Bates notes that in India, by the 1830’s, Brahmanical ideas of caste classification were being applied and observed differences based on physical appearance were being recorded. The entanglement between colorism and caste is also found through a linguistic analysis. The literal translation of the Sanskrit term, varna, is “color,” which has led to the association of caste with skin color even as early as colonial documents charting rudimentary cultural observations among South Asians. See: Hussein, “Colour of Life Achievements”; Said, Orientalism; Prashad, Karma. For instance, early British colonial administrators held the notion that skin color was an indicator of caste. In examining colonial history, it is clear that ‘Whiteness’ cohered as opposite and superior to the dark skinned Other. “Images of the other as strange, dirty, feared, animal-like, exotic, child-like, despised yet sometimes also desired” are consistent threads in colonial histories and early race discourse. Moroever, color in this context is a more likely reference to feudal colors, standards, and classes of things than phenotype and skin tone. Varna and jati are more complex than systems of racial classification found in Western societies. However, South Asian stratification became more visible and significant due to the intricate coalescing of European discourses of fairness (or, light skin) in contradistinction to darkness, combined with Hinduism’s paradox of purity and pollution.

  90. 90.

    Arnold, “Race, Place, and Bodily Difference”; Hussein, “Colour of Life Achievements.”

  91. 91.

    Hussein, “Colour of Life Achievements.”

  92. 92.

    Obeng Shaping Membership, 38–42. Prita Sandy Meier, “Per/forming African Identities: Sidi Communities in the Transnational Moment” in Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians 2004, eds. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers (Uttar Pradesh, India: Rainbow Publishers), 88–89.

  93. 93.

    de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity.

  94. 94.

    Mel Gunasekera, “Where ‘kaffir’ is no insult,” The Telegraph, November 20, 2009, accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6613354/Where-kaffir-is-no-insult.html

  95. 95.

    Farai Chideya, “Traveling while Black,” The New York Times, January 3, 2014, accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/travel/traveling-while-black.html

  96. 96.

    Ravinder Vasudeva, Riddhi Joshi, Sudipto Mondal and Namita Kohli, “Their Indian Horror: Africans Recount Everyday Racism,” Hindustan Times, October 12, 2014, accessed April 2, 2015. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/their-indian-horror-africans-recount-everyday-racism/article1-1274437.aspx

  97. 97.

    Keita India and Christophe Okito, “Congolese Nationals Arrested in Punjab, a ‘Real Hell for Black Africans,’” France 24, June 19, 2013, accessed April 2, 2015. http://observers.france24.com/content/20130619-congolese-nationals-arrested-punjab-africans.

  98. 98.

    Ibid.

  99. 99.

    Obeng, Shaping Membership; Lionel Mandy, “The Afrikan/African Sri Lankans: A History of the Resilience and Rejuvenation of People called ‘Kapiri’ or ‘Kaffirs’, April 3, 2015, http://afrikansrilankans.weebly.com/the-story-of-the-afrikan-sri-lankans.html; Melissa Schindler (a scholar of Indian Ocean African diaspora) interview with the author, May 2014.

  100. 100.

    Meier, “Per/forming African Identities”; de Silva Jayasuriya, African Identity.

  101. 101.

    Obeng, Shaping Membership.

  102. 102.

    Ibid.

  103. 103.

    “We’re Indian and African”: Voices of the Sidis. DVD. Directed and produced by Beheroze Shroff. 2003; Irvine, CA, 2003. Voices of the Sidis: Ancestral Links. DVD. Directed and produced by Beheroze Shroff. 2005; Irvine, CA, 2005. Kannan Arunasalam. “Kaffir Culture,” Vimeo video, 8:01, October 24, 2009, https://vimeo.com/7234191. In these documentary films, Siddis and Kaffirs are interviewed in regards to their African identity, perceptions about being Indian and Sri Lankan nationals, and issues of marginalization, disenfranchisement, and exploitation.

  104. 104.

    Robb, Concept of Race, 44.

  105. 105.

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Jayawardene, S.M. Racialized Casteism: Exposing the Relationship Between Race, Caste, and Colorism Through the Experiences of Africana People in India and Sri Lanka. J Afr Am St 20, 323–345 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-016-9333-5

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Keywords

  • Indian Ocean
  • African Diaspora
  • Siddis
  • Kaffirs
  • Racialized casteism