Callaloo Nation

Metaphors of Race and Religious Identity among South Asians in Trinidad

Callaloo Nation

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 9 b&w photos, 2 maps Published: October 2004

Author: Aisha Khan

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Mixing—whether referred to as mestizaje, callaloo, hybridity, creolization, or multiculturalism—is a foundational cultural trope in Caribbean and Latin American societies. Historically entwined with colonial, anticolonial, and democratic ideologies, ideas about mixing are powerful forces in the ways identities are interpreted and evaluated. As Aisha Khan shows in this ethnography, they reveal the tension that exists between identity as a source of equality and identity as an instrument through which social and cultural hierarchies are reinforced. Focusing on the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean, Khan examines this paradox as it is expressed in key dimensions of Hindu and Muslim cultural history and social relationships in southern Trinidad. In vivid detail, she describes how disempowered communities create livable conditions for themselves while participating in a broader culture that both celebrates and denies difference.

Khan combines ethnographic research she conducted in Trinidad over the course of a decade with extensive archival research to explore how Hindu and Muslim Indo-Trinidadians interpret authority, generational tensions, and the transformations of Indian culture in the Caribbean through metaphors of mixing. She demonstrates how ambivalence about the desirability of a callaloo nation—a multicultural society—is manifest around practices and issues, including rituals, labor, intermarriage, and class mobility. Khan maintains that metaphors of mixing are pervasive and worth paying attention to: the assumptions and concerns they communicate are key to unraveling who Indo-Trinidadians imagine themselves to be and how identities such as race and religion shape and are shaped by the politics of multiculturalism.


Callaloo Nation makes an important contribution to the literature on Indo-Trinidadians. . . . [A]n excellent book whose processual, dynamic approach contributes to our understanding of race, religion, and identity in Trinidad.” — Kevin Birth, New West Indian Guide

“[Callaloo Nation] exhibits the author’s sound scholarly interpretation of the historical and anthropological analyses of Indo-Trinidadians in the twentieth century.” — Patricia Mohammed , Journal of Anthropological Research

“[P]ersistent readers will be well rewarded because Callaloo Nation succeeds admirably in capturing the astonishing complexity and constantly shifting social landscapes of South Trinidad. Highly recommended.” — Stephen D. Glazier, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“As a strong addition to the regional literature, this book offers a significant analysis on Trinidadian East Indians and their carving out of distinctive identities in the face of notions of ‘mixedness.’” — Narmala Halstead, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Khan successfully captures the astonishing complexity and shifting social landscapes of South Trinidad. . . . Recommended. “ — S.D. Glazier, Choice

“Khan’s attention to religion’s articulation with other categories of distinction is what makes Callaloo Nation such a significant addition to the literature.” — Deborah A. Thomas , American Anthropologist

"Callaloo Nation makes an important contribution to the literature on Indo-Trinidadians. . . . [T]his is an excellent book whose processual, dynamic approach contributes to our understanding of race, religion, and identity in Trinidad." — Kevin Birth , New West Indian Guide

"[An] excellent book. Its application stretches beyond the Caribbean and should be read by those whose interests lie in multiethnic states and identity formation, regardless of whether such identities revolve strictly around religion." — Philip W. Scher, Anthropological Quarterly

"This is hardy ethnography: finely grained descriptions of the quotidian analyzed with sophisticated theory. It will be a key text not only for scholars of the Caribbean, but also for scholars of religion, particularly those interested in how domains of orthodoxy are established or undermined. . . . Khan's discussion of 'mixing metaphors' is an insightful and welcome point of departure from now hackneyed debates." — Anne Meneley , Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Callaloo Nation is a solid contribution to anthropological theory and Caribbean ethnography. In helping us to understand that group identity is in constant flux, Aisha Khan shows, far better than just about anybody else, what the term ‘essentialize’ really means.” — Sidney Mintz, author of Caribbean Transformations

“Aisha Khan is an exceptional ethnographer. Callaloo Nation brings to fruition her many years of ethnographic research focused on both Indo-Trinidadians and the social construction of their identities. There is nothing like this work in the literature on the Caribbean or on postcolonial societies in any region. It will be a shaping force in social science research on the Caribbean.” — Dan Segal, coauthor of Jane Austen and the Fiction of Culture: An Essay on the Narration of Social Realities


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aisha Khan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She is a coeditor of Women Anthropologists: A Biographical Dictionary.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

1. “This Rainbow Has Teeth” 1

2. A “Crazyquilt Society” 27

3. Locations and Dislocations 61

4. The Problem of Simi-Dimi 101

5. Carving Knowledge from Ways of Knowing 121

6. “No Bhakti, Only Gyan” 159

7. “You Get Honor for Your Knowledge” 185

8. Mixing Metaphors 221

Notes 233

Works Cited 241

Index 253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3388-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3376-0
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