Rajiv Mohabir

Coolitude: Poetics of the Indian Labor Diaspora

The archive and the poet

As a relatively invisible community in the United States, you face many issues of representation. You’ve read that insulting article about how a white journalist “discovered” us off of the A train. How are you written about? How do you write about yourself and your community? Do you use formal poems to express your musicality of language — the sonnet or villanelle? Do you use postmodern methods of fragmentation and collage from a brown perspective? What sources do you draw from? What is important to you as a writer?

As a relatively invisible community in the United States, you face many issues of representation. You’ve read that insulting article about how a white journalist “discovered” us off of the A train. How are you written about? How do you write about yourself and your community? Do you use formal poems to express your musicality of language — the sonnet or villanelle? Do you use postmodern methods of fragmentation and collage from a brown perspective? What sources do you draw from? What is important to you as a writer?

Coolitude poetics of Andil Gosine

A Coolitude interview

Andil Gosine: All the Flowers (1/13/17–3/18/17)

Andil Gosine (PhD, MPhil, BES) is an associate professor in Art and Politics at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. His research, writing, and arts practices explore imbrications of ecology, desire, and power. He has published numerous scholarly articles in anthologies and journals, and his work has been exhibited internationally. In 2018, two solo exhibitons of Dr. Gosine’s work will be staged in Canada, “All the flowers” and “Coolie, Coolie Viens.” Accompanying the latter will be a comprehensive catalogue with essays about his work by various writers and scholars.

Performing Coolitude at the Queens Museum

On March 29, 2014, four Coolitude artists assembled a performance that engaged with the present state of Coolitude as a concept. The four performers displayed, screened, and read their works for a crowd of about sixty people at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing. Known locally as the heart of Little Guyana and Trinidad, Queens is a blooming metropolis of language and cultures. Sponsored by the Indo-Caribbean organizations Jahajee Sisters, the Rajukamri Cultural Center, Urban+Out, and the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, this event highlighted notable works that interrogate the history of British indenture and its postcolonial fallout in North America. Chaired by Lisa Outar, this was the brainchild of Andil Gosine and Gaiutra Bahadur.

On March 29, 2014, four Coolitude artists assembled a performance that engaged with the present state of Coolitude as a concept. The four performers displayed, screened, and read their works for a crowd of about sixty people at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing. Known locally as the heart of Little Guyana and Trinidad, Queens is a blooming metropolis of language and cultures.

Girmit ideology, douglarization, and Kala Pani poetics

More theories of the Indian Labor Diaspora

Above: The original uploader was Greensburger at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Coolitude is not the only way that scholars have written about the Indian Labor Diaspora; in fact it is one of several. The others I will briefly outline below, citing major sources and outlining their tenets. They move from girmit ideology to douglarization to Kala Pani poetics, each one invested in locating a subjectivity that is both specific to the particularities of each new diasporic context.

Coolitude, a poetics for 2017

What draws me specifically to this kind of engagement is its implication of history and by extension the importance of the first-person perspective. So often in the United States brown and black bodies are erased in the white world of poetry. I think the assertion of my brownness coupled with my complicated history is important since the de facto subject position is no longer cishet white and male.

What draws me specifically to this kind of engagement is its implication of history and by extension the importance of the first-person perspective. So often in the United States brown and black bodies are erased in the white world of poetry. I think the assertion of my brownness coupled with my complicated history is important since the de facto subject position is no longer cishet white and male.