The University of Cambridge has established what is thought to be the first-ever visiting fellowship for the study of indentured labor, the contentious system that replaced slavery under British colonization and involved millions of Indians.
Gaiutra Bahadur, a Guyanese-American professor, was selected this week as the "Ramesh and Leela Narain visiting bye-fellow in Indentureship Studies" by the university's Selwyn College.
Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, written by Bahadur, is a significant examination of the lives of Indian women who worked as indentured servants on colonial plantations in the 19th century.
As the first visiting bye-fellow in indentureship studies, Bahadur said, "I am honored and delighted."
"The funding simply wasn't there when I initially started doing research in this field, so it was in many respects a labor of love. I'm thrilled to see that there is now funding and awareness to support upcoming scholars because of this, she remarked.
Together, Selwyn College and the Ameena Gafoor Institute, which researches indentureship and its effects, created the program that allows a scholar to undertake research at the university for eight weeks.
The initiative will initially operate for five years.
According to Professor David Dabydeen, the Guyanese novelist, poet, and academic who serves as the director of the Ameena Gafoor Institute, "the study and documentation of indentureship is undoubtedly valuable, but it has barely been included in the history syllabi of British and European Universities - a staggering omission considering the millions of people, and indeed entire cultures, who have been irrevocably shaped by indentureship and its legacies."
"For that reason, it's crucial to establish a professorship and award this scholarship. An academic field has been developed by Cambridge, elevating it from the periphery to the very center. I owe the Gafoor family in Guyana a huge debt of gratitude for making all of this possible, he stated.