Mauritius hosted a three day conference 3rd to 5th November, organised by the Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund and held at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Moka on the theme ‘Towards the Establishment of the International Indenture Labour Route’. As my previous post states, UNESCO has just confirmed the Indenture Route Project, and this conference was intended to bring researchers and other professionals from across the world together to present their work and discuss the future of such an Indenture Labour Route. I was able to present two papers, the first on the ‘Geography of Indenture: Fashioning an Indo-Pacific Arena’ and the second, entitled ‘Sweet Madeira: An Introduction to the Madeirans in British Guiana’. At the start of my first presentation I couldn’t resist asking if there were any Geographers in the audience…I got one enthusiastic hand in the air! So I think more scope for interdisciplinary work between Geographers and Historians in this field is needed!
There were participants and many interesting papers from academics and professionals from across the so-called Indenture Route countries and territories including: Mauritius, Réunion Island, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, Uganda, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Guyana, Fiji, Australia, the Netherlands, France and of course the UK (me!).
What was clear, was the need for more joined up thinking between academics, activists, and other community professionals across the countries which were touched by 19th and early 20th century indenture. It was fascinating to hear papers about indentured labourers (Indian and non-Indian) in places from St.Lucia to Fiji, from Réunion to Suriname. And it was great in particular to be able to listen to two presentations which showed that the legacy of indenture still has ramifications today – from the South Sea Islanders community’s experience in today’s Australia and female indentured workers in Sri Lanka.