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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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Entangled Lives

(p.205) Coda
Commerce with the Universe

Gaurav Desai

Columbia University Press

This chapter first considers the enigmatic position of the Asian in much of twentieth-century Africa. At once suspected of economic misdeeds, but also often admired for his business acumen, the Indian, or Asian, appears in the most prevalent role cast for him in colonial and postcolonial Africa—that of the dukawallah (shopkeeper). The discussion then turns to Mira Nair's film Mississippi Masala, which features a lawyer father (Jay) who risks social ostracism and rebuke because he defends the interests of his black African clients. It examines the various readings of the film, particularly the racial issues emerging from Jay's resistance to his daughter's relationship with the African American Demetrius. It suggests that like the relationship between an Indian and an African American, this relationship crosses over a divide—Hindu/Muslim—which, along with the specter of the Indian partition, has continued to haunt the South Asian imagination.

Keywords:   Africa, Asians, Indians, Africans, dukawallah, Mississippi Masala

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