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International Lives of Migrants

P.A. Mathew

Edited by Vivek Bald , Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy and Manu Vimalassery 
Orient BlackSwan, Hyderabad, 2013, pp. 396, Rs. 995.00


The glory of the British empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was often associated with the phrase ‘The sun never sets on the British empire’. It was a statement of pride and celebration and the book under review by leaving the second half of the phrase has raised questions about historical continuities and contemporary relations of global power. The book forcefully argues that the contours of imperialism has changed and shifted over the course of the 20th century and territorial empire of the British has given way to the spread of US led globalization. In their collection of articles on South Asian diaspora in the US, in a refreshing approach the authors bring forth the idea that the increasing flows of people, money, goods, culture and ideas between South Asia and the United States has to be seen in the context of this shift and United States’s long-standing and ongoing military, geopolitical and economic pursuit in the region.  This is also a work of a generation of scholars whose essays track changes in global power and the migration experiences of different categories of people which includes Indian farmers, seamen and radicals who sought work in the US in the 1910s, Indian nurses who reached the shores of the United States thanks to the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation during the Cold War to post 9/11 detainees and deportees caught in the mess of George W. Bush’s in (famous) war on terror. These studies are interesting because there is a shift in the orientation of South Asian American studies from a largely literary and cultural analysis focussing on changes in immigration laws in the 1960s to a much neglected analysis focussing on the political economy of migration and continuities between British imperialism and US led globalization. The collection is divided into three parts. The first part, the ‘Overlapping Empires’ consisting of three chapters deals with a period in history—late nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century which is often overlooked because of the wide scope and immigrant exclusion and this collection of essays fills that gap academically. The second part entitled ‘From Imperialism to Free Market Fundamentalism: Changing Forms of Migration and Work’ draws a connection between the neo-liberal globalization and migration for both capital and labour. It shows how both these factors have been impacted by liberal globalization and how new circuits have developed over the years. The ...

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