Indians in the World: Understanding Movement and Migration across the World

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSGA1FC1114

Semester and Year Offered:

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Amit Kumar Mishra

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None


This course intends to introduce the students to certain fundamental themes, questions and debates in the analysis of mobility and migration that are part of global circulation of capital, commodities, communities, cultures and ideas. This course will make an attempt to read the historical narratives of human mobility as an integral constituent of ideological affirmations of the times and ways in which human mobility facilitates the dispersal and universalization of the ideas and also in turn gets altered by these ideas. By exploring the thematic processes of insertion of local/national into the global through human mobility with specific historical narrative of Indian emigrants, this course proposes to provide the basic grounding and intends to lead the students in making the initial foray into understanding the contemporary global order from a transdisciplinary perspective.

Course Outcomes:

  1. By the end of course, students will be able to
  2. understand certain fundamental themes, concepts and debates in studying transborder movement and migration
  3. recognise the long historical trajectory and diverse nature of human mobility
  4. have a broad understanding of human mobility in larger political-economic contexts of the times as well as intertwined processes of global circulation and connectivity
  5. be able to critically engagement with diverse source material and learning methods and gain skills in analysis and articulation

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1. Indians in the World: Postcolonial Phase 1950s onwards (4 Weeks)

This unit will discuss the movement of Indians after the Indian independence – initially to Britain, from 1970s onwards to North America and Pacific, and to the Gulf region post oil boom period. This unit will help students understand how the transborder mobility of people influence and gets influenced by the processes and primacies of contemporary globalisation.

This unit will also explore the transborder mobilities of people around partition and redrawing of national boundaries in South Asian region, and trajectories of multiple migrants as well twice displaced immigrants of Indian origin.

Unit 2. Indians in the World: Colonial Phase, 1800- 1940s (3 Weeks)

unit will discuss the movement of Indians to work imperial endeavours like plantation, construction, military and auxiliary services. It will also discuss the movement of Indian traders, financiers (like Chettiars) and petty businessmen whose movements were supported by the colonial enterprise. This will also explore the mobility of Indians as soldiers and auxiliary servicemen in the imperial pursuits, as convicts and lascars.

Unit 3: Indians in the World: Precolonial Phase (2 Weeks)

unit will explore the movement of Indians from the earliest historically substantiated streams like cultural-religious emissaries, itinerant populations (e.g. Roma in Central and Eastern Europe), and movement of Indian traders and businessmen in Asian and oceanic networks till 19th Century.

Unit 4: Tracing the Fundamentals (3 Weeks)

On the basis on above narrative, this unit will lead the students to identify certain essential themes and critical issues relating to study of human mobility and transborder migration from interdisciplinary perspectives. Some of the themes to be discussed would be – factors for migration; concerns relating to gender, generation, ethnicity and race; immigrants’ exclusion, discrimination etc.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. The course will have Three assessments:
  2. First assessment will be review of a film or novel related to the subject (30%) Due in 4th Week
  3. Second assessment will be group assignment and presentation in class (30%) –Due in 8th Week
  4. Third and final assessment will be in class examination (40%)
  5. At the end of the course

Reading List:

  1. Brij, V., Peter Reeves and Rajesh Rai, (eds.), The Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora, EDM, Singapore, 2007. (select chapters)
  2. Vinay Lal, 2008, The Other Indians: A Political and Cultural History of South Asians in America, Harper Collins
  3. Weiner, Myron, ‘International Migration and Development: Indians in the Persan Gulf’, Population and Development Review Vol. 8, No. 1, 1982 pp 1-36
  4. Jain, Prakash, C (2001). Indian Diaspora in West Asia : A Reader. New Delhi : Manohar Publications
  5. Rahman, Mohd. Mahbubar, and Willem Van Schendel, ‘I am Not a Refugee: Rethinking Parttion Migraton’ MAS, Vol.37, No. 3, 2003, pp. 551-584
  6. Lal, Brij V., ‘Understanding the Indian Indenture Experience’, South Asia, Vol. 21, 1998, pp. 215-237
  7. Oonk, Gijsbert, ‘Gujarati Business Communities in East Africa: Success and Failure Stories’, EPW, 40 (20), January 2005, 2077-2081
  8. Scott Levi, 2015, Caravans: Indian Merchants on Silk Road, Penguin
  9. Claude Markovits, 2000, The Global World of Indian Merchants: Traders of Sind from Bukhara to Panama, CUP
  10. Cohen, Robin, (1995) ed. Cambridge Survey of World Migration, CUP (select chapters)
  11. Bates, Crispin (2000) ed. Community, Empire and Migration, Palgrave Macmillan
  12. Vertovec, Steven, Colin Clarke and Ceri Peach eds. (1990) South Asians Overseas: Migration and Ethnicity , CUP
  13. Peach, Ceri (1994) ‘Three phases of South Asian Emigration‘ in Judith M. Brown and Rosemary Foot (eds) Migration: the Asian experience, New York: St Martin‘s Press in association with St Antony‘s College, Oxford, 38–55
  14. Shukla, Sandhya. (2005), India Abroad: Diasporic Cultures of Postwar America and England. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
  15. Jain, R.K., (1993) Indian Communities Abroad, Manohar


  • Films Namesake , Mississippi Masala, Coolies: How Britain Reinvented the Slavery, BBC
  • Literary Texts Manju Kapur, 2008, The Immigrant, Penguin
  • Gaiutra Bahadur, 2013, Coolie Women: The Odyssey of Indenture, Hachette India
  • Giriraj Kishore, 2003, Pehla Girmitiya, Bhartiya Jananpith, (In Hindi)
  • Blogs