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The Coolie: An Ethno-Historical Poem

Talk by Professor E. Valentine Daniel, Columbia University.

Monday, February 11, 2008
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This is a selection from an account of the migration of Tamil workers, named "coolies," who came from South India to Sri Lanka between 1839 and 1947 to work in building roads and railways, and in coffee, rubber and tea plantations; and their repatriation to India of some of them starting in the 1950s.  The longer poem from which this selection is drawn is also an experiment in gathering together in verse, written archival material pertaining to this migration and labor, with oral histories of the same, collected over the last three decades.

E. Valentine Daniel is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, focusing on semeiotic violence, refugees and plantation labor. Publications include Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way, Culture/Contexture: Essays in Anthropology and Literary Study, Mistrusting Refugees, and Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence.





"Calcutta Coolies" image courtesy of

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