By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Guyanese born writer and United States based Professor Lomarsh Roopnarine’s book Indian Caribbean: Migration and Identity in the Diaspora (2018), published by the University Press of Mississippi, is the winner of the prestigious Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) 2018 Gordon K. and Sybil Farrell Lewis (GKSL) book award. The GKSL award was established to honor the memory of the two distinguished scholars of Caribbean Studies. The award is granted to the best book about the Caribbean that is interdisciplinary and that has a regional and or diaspora impact.
The CSA received thirty-one books for 2018 for consideration of the 2018 prize, and the committee comprised of (Anton Allahar (chair) Maggie Shrimpton, Rita Keresztesi, Russel Benjamin, Holger Henke, Linden Lewis and Monica del Valle) shared the following information on the Caribbean Studies Association website as to why Dr. Roopnarine’s book was chosen.
“Lomarsh Roopnarine’s The Indian Caribbean: Migration and Identity in the Diaspora, makes an important contribution to an understanding of the arrival, settlement, and eventual intra- and extra-regional movement of people of Indo-Caribbean descent. The cast of the author’s new is wide and encompasses the conviction of both Gordon K. and Sybil Farrell Lewis that the Caribbean is one and indivisible. The book addresses the key question areas of Caribbean scholarship and identifies relevant theory, methods and history, and it also includes several countries within the Caribbean and Caribbean diasporas outside the region. Roopnarine is clear not to homogenize the Indians, whether back in India or in the Caribbean and extra-Caribbean diasporas. There are very informative tables and great questions raised throughout the text which make it useful both as a monograph and as a text for classroom adoption.”
Additionally, the committee was impressed with the strength and scope of the book. It notes: “The strength of the book is the framing of indenture, as an important historical event in the lives and continuing drama of adjustment of Indians in the Caribbean. There is much new insight here about the participation in indenture, the hazards of the voyage from India, the physical and the psychological state of the indentured worker that is not often accounted for in the literature. Another important contribution of the book is the movement away from a discussion of the Indian community in the familiar countries such as Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. Roopnarine’s focus is broad and includes the question of identity and creolization in such places as St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, and the Virgin Islands. Beyond the Caribbean, the author also provides important insights on the movement of Indians from the Caribbean to England, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. The author also roots his observations in important archival data on colonial policy, which attended the transplanting of Indian people in the British Commonwealth.”
Prof Roopnarine’s field of study is inert-disciplinary (social science) touching on several subjects. He has written extensively on Indian indentureship. He is a leading authority on the subject. He presented papers at various conferences on indentureship. Prof Roopnarine (a professor at Jackson State University, Mississippi) has been praised by various scholars and organization as well as Indo-Caribbean writers and leaders for his original research on indentureship and migration and for his incisive commentaries.
When contacted about the award, Dr. Roopnarine declared the following statement: “I was semi-shocked, pleasantly surprised but was submerged by the thought that a book on Indians without the word (Coolie) in the title finally made it to one of the highest levels of academia in the Caribbean and abroad. After more than two and a half decades of studying Caribbean Indians, I was not sure if the field would remain in the margins of Caribbean academic and cultural consciousness but for some reason I feel that this GKSL Award to me has helped to move the field now into the mainstream. My hope is that the award will not only lift Indians but all Caribbean people and encourage the younger generation to study Indians in the Caribbean at a time when they are becoming increasingly invisible because of migration, globalization and ethno-national politics even in the majority population of Indians in the Indo-phone Caribbean countries of Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname (GTS).”