South Asia / Books / Audio Recordings


Sidis and Scholars

Essays on African Indians

Edited by Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers

This exciting collection of essays brings together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to explore the history and present circumstances of one of India's least known minority groups, the African Indians.

Following the editors' introduction which covers the scholarly literature on Africans in India and an historical overview that looks at the larger history of Africans in India, the essays focus on two different communities of African Indians, the Sidis of Gujarat (including those in Bombay) and the Siddis of Uttara Kannada, Karnataka. They illumine various aspects of the life of Sidis in contemporary India, their worship at the Sufi shrine of Gori Pir, their music and dance, their liminal existence and their agonising dilemmas and predicament in the complex mosaic that is present-day India.

Co-edited by an ethnomusicologist of India and an historian of Africa, the contributors include specialists in anthropology, archaeology, art history, religious studies and film from Ghana, Sweden, Germany, the United States and India. Together, they bring to bear their wealth of research experience and scholarship in Africa and India on the fascinating and varied experience of Indians of African origin.




Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians


"Introduction" - Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Edward A. Alpers

"Africans in India and the Wider Context of the Indian Ocean" - Edward A. Alpers

"Sidis and the Agate Bead Industry of Western India"  -  J. Mark Kenoyer and Kuldeep K. Bhan

"Redefining Boundaries: Twenty Years at the Shrine of Gori Pir"  -  Helene Basu

"Per/forming African Identity: Sidi Communities in the Transnational Moment" -  Prita Sandy Meier

"The Siddis of Uttara Kannada: History, Identity and Change Among African Descendants in Contemporary Karnataka" -  Charles Camara

"African Indian Culture Articulation: Mediation and Negotiation in Uttara Kannada" -  Pashington Obeng

"Aliens and Homelands: Identity, Agency and the Arts Among the Siddis of Uttara Kannada" -  Henry John Drewal

"Sidis and Parsis: A Filmmaker's Notes" -  Beheroze Shroff

"A Sidi CD? Globalization of Music and the Sacred" -  Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy

"Sidis of Gujarat and the Quest for Human Dignity: A Concluding Note" -  Jayanti Patel


Excerpts from review by Noor Jehan Mecklai (Dawn, 13 June 2004)

"This revealing and valuable book is the product of conscientious and sympathetic research and lengthy fieldwork."

" ... the late respected Sidi elder, Sidi Kamar Badshah, addressed the galaxy of international scholars, learned local dignitaries and other Sidis at the recent conference, "Sidis at the Millennium," thereby putting the main problems of the Sidis of Gujarat into a nutshell. Several of the papers presented in this excellent volume owe their origin to this conference (arranged by the Maharani of Rajpipla in view of her family's centuries-old jajmani connection with local Sidis), and both the editors, E. A. Alpers and Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, who are professors at University of California (Los Angeles)....

"Alpers' opening essay ['Africans in India and the Wider Context of the Indian Ocean'] ... conceded that with the advent of Islam in India in the 10th century, large numbers of military slaves arrived (in India) ...

"Kenoyer and Bhan ['Sidis and the Agate Bead Industry of Western India'] record descriptions of Gori Pir as a wandering religious mendicant and bead trader...

"The second half of the book devotes much space to the Siddis of Uttara Kannada...

...Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy ['A Sidi CD? Globalization of Music and the Sacred'] then gives a remarkably fine description of Sidi dance forms, principally their dhamals, and their musical instruments, mentioning cultural events at home and abroad which have brought them pride and due recognition. ..."

“... this is a rich volume for those interested in how a tiny community not even well known to other citizens of India copes with their ambiguous social, racial, and religious status. As such, it will be of interest to historians of the Indian Ocean region as well as to anthropologists and ethnomusicologists.” -Frank Korom, Journal of Asian Studies 65:4 (Nov. 2006) 840-842.

ISBN 81-86962-64-6 ©2004 Price $25 softcover, $35 hard + S&H