Saturday, November 18, 2023

"Waiting on Empire"

New from Oxford University Press: Waiting on Empire: A History of Indian Travelling Ayahs in Britain by Arunima Datta.

About the book, from the publisher:

The expansion of the British Empire facilitated movement across the globe for both the colonizers and the colonized. Waiting on Empire focuses on a largely forgotten group in this story of movement and migration: South Asian travelling ayahs (servants and nannies), who travelled between India and Britain and often found themselves destitute in Britain as they struggled to find their way home to South Asia.

Delving into the stories of individual ayahs from a wide range of sources, Arunima Datta illuminates their brave struggle to assert their rights, showing how ayahs negotiated their precarious employment conditions, capitalized on social sympathy amongst some sections of the British population, and confronted or collaborated with various British institutions and individuals to demand justice and humane treatment.

In doing so, Datta re-imagines the experience of waiting. Waiting is a recurrent human experience, yet it is often marginalized. It takes a particular form within complex bureaucratized societies in which the marginalized inevitably wait upon those with power over them. Those who wait are often discounted as passive, inactive victims. This book shows that, in spite of their precarious position, the travelling ayahs of the British empire were far from this stereotype.
--Marshal Zeringue