Review: “The Indian Minority of Zambia, Rhodesia, and Malawi” – Floyd and Lillian Dotson

After reading “Blood on their Banner,” I couldn’t decide what I wanted to read next, when I looked at a book on my shelf and thought, “Hey, this looks like an obscure book, I shall read this one!” That book was “The Indian Minority of Zambia, Rhodesia, and Malawi” by Floyd and Lillian, which I most likely acquired from A la Page years ago.

The book is a sociological study of Indian immigrants and their descendants living in Central Africa. Thanks to such books as Shiraz Durrani’s “Kenya’s War of Independence: Mau Mau and its Legacy of Resistance to Colonialism and Imperialism, 1984-1990” and his biography of the Kenyan trade unionist and revolutionary Makhan Singh, I knew that Indians and their descendants occupied a prominent role in African affairs. But I still had a lot of questions: Why did so many Indians immigrate to Africa of all places? What was their socio-economic position in Africa? What are relations between Indians and their descendants like with Europeans and indigenous Africans? I knew there was some ethnic tension or oppression involving Indians and their descendants, such as Idi Amin’s expulsion of some 80,000 Indians and their descendants from Uganda in 1972, which at the time I learned of it struck me as odd.

Anyhow, as stated above, the book is a sociological study of Indians and their descendants in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. It is a comprehensive study based on fieldwork done by the authors in the late 1950s and again in the mid-1960s. A lot of the material is thus obtained in interviews conducted by the authors. There are chapters on the economic position Indians and their descendants occupy, religion, the heritage of caste, family and household, interethnic relations, history and settlement, pre- and post-independence politics, etc.

I found the book informative and interesting but besides the subject matter there was nothing notable or exceptional about it. I did, however, find the authors’ constant reference to the “cultural superiority” of Europeans and Indians over Africans, the authors’ British aristocrat style of writing and analysis, and especially the positive assessment of the racist Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia unsettling albeit not altogether surprising.

Conclusion: if you have to read it, read it; if not, Wikipedia should suffice.  

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