Shobana Shanker (Stonybrook) as part of the Conference - Expulsion: Uganda’s Asians and the Remaking of Nationality
Most accounts of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda in 1972 assume that African leaders and the Organization of African Unity were largely silent or unmoved to action. This interpretation assumes that Africans understood the Asian expulsion as a political problem—by contrast, I argue that Africans understood the question of Indian settlers as a fundamental problem of the postcolonial condition, connected to the very definition of African selfhood. I explore the significance of the Indian question around the African continent to the formation of intersecting
movements of anticolonialism, antiracism, nationalism, Pan-Africanism (which was a critical antidote to nationalism), and Afrocentrism. Contrary to simplistic renderings of African responses to Idi Amin’s anti-Asian racialism, African reckoning with African-Indian entanglements garnered dynamic and long-lasting African cultural responses—even where Indian settlers were few—that produced new African-Indian negotiations on the continent and among African migrants in India.
Shobana Shankar is Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Stony Brook University, in New York. Her research focuses on cultural encounters and politics in West Africa and Africa-India networks, especially in religion, intellectual history, health, and education. Her most recent book, An Uneasy Embrace: Africa, India and the Spectre of Race (Hurst, 2021), grew out of her meeting with Muslim Indian missionaries in Nigeria, during the course of her research for her first book Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c.1890-1975 (Ohio University Press). She has also co-edited two collections of essays on religion and globalization. Her recent articles focus on Ghanaian Hinduism, reformism in Nigeria, and Senegal’s Afro-Dravidian movement.