2023 marks the 75th year since the HMT Empire Windrush carried 1027 passengers and two stowaways from Jamaica to London 1948. As we continue to educate ourselves on Windrush, it's essential to understand the circumstances under which many of us arrived in the Caribbean in the first place
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE in 2014
In 1903, a young woman sailed from India to Guiana as a "coolie"--- the British name for indentured laborers who replaced the newly emancipated enslaved people on sugar plantations worldwide.
Pregnant and traveling alone, this woman disappeared into history like so many indentured people. Now, in Coolie Woman, her great-granddaughter Gaiutra Bahadur embarks on a journey into the past to find her. Traversing three continents and trawling through countless colonial archives, Bahadur excavates not only her great-grandmother's story but also the repressed history of some quarter of a million other coolie women, shining a light on their complex lives.
Many of these women were widows, runaways, or outcasts. Many fled mistreatment, even mortal danger, to migrate alone in epic sea voyages--traumatic "middle passages"--only to face a life of hard labor, dismal living conditions, and, most notably, sexual exploitation. As Bahadur explains, however, it is precisely their sexuality that makes coolie women stand out as figures in history.
In a borderland between freedom and slavery--and because men so greatly outnumbered these women--sex made them victims simultaneously, giving them sway. And it was a source, at times, of tremendous conflict, from machete murders to entire uprisings. Examining this and many other facets of these courageous women's lives, Coolie Woman is a meditation on survival, a gripping story of a double diaspora--from India to the West Indies in one century, Guyana to the United States in the next--that is at once a search for one's roots and an exploration of gender and power, peril and opportunity.
We hope that you've enjoyed this content. Do you have any ideas, questions, or comments about our work, or interested in collaborating? Email: Jonah@blindian-project.com, and