This essay argues that a convergence of global and postcolonial scholarship has led to a dominant mode of reading precolonial records in ways that are colonial in their perspective and political purpose. It traces this dominance between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries. The first section contains a historically specific discussion of wealth-in-people to situate Afro-Asians in the subcontinent. The second outlines two Mughal historians of the late eighteenth century who also remembered these Afro-Asian lineages in honorable ways. A third section outlines moments of emancipation during the nineteenth century that redeployed the same peoples for colonial navies and rendered them into subalterns. The fourth section concludes with a brief discussion of modern historiography, which places all Afro-Asians in diaspora and confirms nationalist border thinking.
Afro-Asian Capital and Its Dissolution
Indrani Chatterjee teaches history at University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Gender, Slavery, and the Law in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 1999), Forgotten Friends (Oxford University Press, 2013), and several articles in journals and edited volumes. She has also edited Unfamiliar Relations: Family and History in South Asia (Rutgers University Press, 2004) and, coedited with Richard Eaton, Slavery and South Asian History (Indiana University Press, 2007). She has won two fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, in 2004 and 2016, as well as the Srikant Dutt Award given by the Nehru Memorial for 2009–14.