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Indian Africa

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Adam Michel

Note on Transliteration and Spelling of Indian Languages

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The use of ethnonyms and terms expressing national identities or national origin

1The Indian terms used in this book are either in Gujarati, the dominant vernacular language among members of the diaspora, or in Hindi and more rarely in Punjabi. Transliteration of Indian languages into English is only done for some of the Indian languages (Hindi), but remains dependent on English when there is no lexical translation.

2Representatives of the Indian-Pakistani diaspora living in East Africa are locally referred to in English as “Asians”, a geographical adjective whose translation in French ( “asiatiques”) creates confusion with people from the Far East. Had it been necessary, in an attempt to be specific, to identify immigrants by referring to their former or current citizenship, approximation and risks of confusion would have even been greater, this time leading to excessive divisions of cultural reality – particularly in the case, very common, where members of the same family are citizens of different countries.

3Another certainly less satisfactory but easier way of referring to them was adopted in this book. Considering that a fraction of close to 90 % of the current immigrants or their offspring originated from India, and also considering that a small fraction of those from present-day Pakistan left the subcontinent in large number prior to the 1947 disintegration, the editor of this collection chose to give preference to the toponymical and historical referents of “India” and “Indian” which, as identifying nouns or adjectives, relate to members of today’s diaspora. Besides, similar terms or adjectives (Muhindi/Wahindi: Indian/Indians) are still commonly used in Swahili, the language spoken by most East Africans. However, whatever their particularities that are unique to countries that resulted from the 1947 split, it also appears that they all subscribe to a very old common cultural background. Therefore, it is not superfluous (and much less dishonourable) to refer to them using the adjective “Indian”. Depending on the context, we will consequently speak of “Indians”, people of “Indian” origin or the “Indian” diaspora, sometimes even Indian-Africans (notably Indian-Kenyans, Indian-Ugandans and Indian-Tanzanians) in reference to new cultural or political identities that qualify members of the diaspora and distinguish them from more recent immigrants whose roots in the country are less established. Reference to Pakistan will only be justifiable as far as it serves to specify demographic aspects that date back to the period before 1947. As to the term “Indian-Pakistanis” (as a noun or adjective), it will only apply exceptionally, either in an attempt to be more specific (as for example in the volume’s subtitle) or to refer to a category of contemporary immigrants whose geographical origin is uncertain. Finally, whereas the use of the word “diaspora” appears suitable for a population known for spreading across continents as one of its contemporary central features, the term “Overseas Indians”, associated with the “Non Resident Indian” (NRI) administrative status issued by the Indian union government, has not been adopted here due to the restrictive nature of this term, which implies keeping preferential ties with the metropolis.

© Africae, 2015

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