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Commerce with the UniverseAfrica, India, and the Afrasian Imagination$
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Gaurav Desai

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164542

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164542.001.0001

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Anti Anti-Asianism and the Politics of Dissent

Anti Anti-Asianism and the Politics of Dissent

M. G. Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack

(p.172) 7. Anti Anti-Asianism and the Politics of Dissent
Commerce with the Universe

Gaurav Desai

Columbia University Press

This chapter presents a reading of M. G. Vassanji's The Gunny Sack. It explores the ways in which the novel creates a genealogy of Asian presence in East Africa while providing historical density to the formation of Asian ethnic identity. What makes Vassanji different from his predecessors is not only the weight and substance that he gives to a cross-generational ethnic history, but his insistence that ethnic identities matter, that they must be recognized and engaged with before they can be set aside for the sake of larger, cross-ethnic national imaginaries, such as those advocated by President Nyerere and his supporters. The chapter argues that while the racial and ethnic tensions between black Africans and Asians are a central theme in the novel, and while one of the goals of the novel is to present an anti anti-Asianism, it is the battle of ideologies between free-market capitalism and multiparty democracy, on the one hand, and a socialism inspired both by Tanzanian family traditions as well as by Chinese Communism, on the other, that drives the political motor of the novel.

Keywords:   Asian writing, East Africa, diaspora, M. G. Vassanji, ethnic identity, free market capitalism, democracy, socialism, family tradition, Chinese Communism

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