British Indians in colonial India and Surinam

Transnational identification and estrangement

in Focaal

The authors present a case study of Indian nationalists who drew from a discourse on ‘exploited overseas Indian migrants’ to serve their own political interests. At the same time, overseas British Indians, in this case in Surinam, advocated the continuation of transnational relations between (British) India and Surinam in order to strengthen the position of their community locally. Clearly, for some time, transnational identification served the (national) interests of both groups in the two different nations. Yet the authors also show that when such transnational ‘solutions’ did not serve any longer to solve local problems, estrangement between the two communities followed. Theoretically, this article constitutes a synthesis of approaches that connect identities to specific places and theories that have abandoned the study of geographically-based national societies. It demonstrates how the politics of place is dominant even within the field of transnational alliances.