India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations, edited by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay (Otago University Press, 2010) 226 pp., $49.95
Maintaining that ‘Indians are now a visible minority in New Zealand’s public life’ and commenting upon the comparative scarcity of thorough and comprehensive studies on their presence in the country, Bandhopadhyay and his contributors set out to have a fresh look at the three aspects of ‘migration and settlement’, ‘local identities’ and ‘global relations’: temporal as well as spatial dimensions relevant to our understanding of the present Indian New Zealand community. Subdivided accordingly into three parts, essays written from various perspectives by historians, anthropologists and scholars in religious, cultural, media and health studies draw attention to these issues. We encounter Jacqueline Leckie, Ruth D’Souza, Arvind Zodgekar and Henry Johnson, who have done research on Indian migration and settlement dating back three decades to when Zodgekar published an essay in Indians in New Zealand: Studies in a Sub-Culture (1980) – a collection of essays edited by Kapil N. Tiwari – and to when Leckie presented her Ph.D. thesis at Otago University in 1981. Indeed, the university and Otago University Press have promoted studies of India in New Zealand not only with the present publication but also with Jacqueline Leckie’s magisterial book Indian Settlers: The Story of a New Zealand South Asian Community, released in 2007.
The dozen chapters that together make up the three sections of India in New Zealand focus respectively on historical and demographic characteristics of the diasporan community as a whole, on its heterogeneity — which results in problematic perceptions of a single cultural identity — and on the community’s international political, economic and cultural links. The reader thus is guided along a historical trajectory from the nineteenth century to the immediate present and thence to the possible future of Indian people in New Zealand. Tony Ballantyne, professor of history at Otago University, critically analyses ‘the important role that India played in the development in New Zealand between the 1870s and 1920s’.