Commerce with the Universe: Travel, Trade and the Afrasian Imagination

Professor Gaurav Desai, Tulane University, discusses the Asian (Indian) presence in and connections with Africa.

Thursday, October 18, 2012
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1310

This talk will draw upon Desai’s forthcoming book on the Asian (Indian) presence in and connections with Africa.  The book is primarily focused on the twentieth century, but it has an overarching frame that reaches to the twelfth century world of the Indian Ocean trade re-created by Amitav Ghosh in his book In an Antique Land.  In addition to presenting a reading of Ghosh’s text which provides in many ways the theoretical anchor of his project, Professor Desai examines life narratives by Indian travelers to the interior of East Africa who wrote at the turn of the twentieth century, men of commerce who traveled between East Africa, India and other parts of the Indian Ocean, three narratives of Indians who were recruited by Julius Nyerere to serve in the project of Tanzanian socialism, and finally the canonical novel The Gunny Sack by M.G. Vassanji that in many ways provided a mythological map and charter for re-imagining the East African Asian experience after the Idi Amin expulsions.

Gaurav Desai is Associate Professor of English and has a joint appointment in the Program of African and African Diaspora Studies at Tulane University. Author of Subject to Colonialism: African Self-fashioning and the Colonial Library (Duke University Press, 2001) and editor of Teaching the African Novel (MLA, 2009) he has guest edited a volume of essays on “Culture and the Law” (South Atlantic Quarterly, 100.4, 2001), on "Actually Existing Colonialisms" (Journal of Contemporary Thought, 24, 2006), on “Asian African Literatures” (Research in African Literatures, 42.3, 2011), and co-edited a volume of essays on “Multi-Ethnic Literatures and the Idea of Social Justice” (MELUS, 28.1, Spring 2003).  Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism (Rutgers University Press, 2005) which he co-edited with Supriya Nair has become a standard reference and classroom text since its publication. Among Desai's other publications are articles in edited collections and journals such as PMLA, Genders, Representations, Boundary2, Interventions, Research in African Literatures, African Studies Review and Cultural Critique. Recipient of a residential fellowship at the National Humanities Center in 2001, Desai has also been awarded a Rockefeller Foundation award for a residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy and an ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship for his research. In 2004, Desai was made a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He has recently completed a book on narratives of Indian Ocean connections between Africa and India.  

Cost : Free and open to the public; pay-by-space and all-day parking ($11) available in lot 3.

For more information please contact:

UCLA African Studies CenterTel: 310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Center for India and South Asia, English, Mellon Postdoctural Program "Cultures in Transnational Perspectives"