Anglo-Indians come under research focus

The history, evolution, lifestyle and experiences of the Anglo-Indian community in India will come under focus as a Massey University researcher takes up the study.

Dr Robyn Andrews, based at the Palmerston North Campus of the University, has received $30,000 from the New Zealand India Research Institute and Education New Zealand for her research.

It is understood that researchers from New Zealand and India will work on the project and that Dr Andrews will visit Kolkata this month.

She has conducted extensive anthropological field studies in the West Bengal capital city over the past 12 years, but this time she will explore Anglo-Indian communities in small towns.

“Very little is known of the non-metro Anglo-Indian communities, but anecdotal information indicates their experience is very different from the large city populations,” she said.

Demographic difference

Dr Andrews was in Asansol (also known as a railway town), the third largest city and urban agglomeration in West Bengal.

“It was in this City that I discovered the difference in the demography of the Anglo-Indian community. For example, in Kolkata, about 15% of people own their own home but in Asansol, it is about 85%,” she said.

Ms Andrews also visited Pondicherry and found that while culturally the community are recognisably Anglo-Indian, they are also distinct in significant ways influenced perhaps by their French background.

She met Professor Anjali Roy from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, who had conducted similar research in the railway town of Kharagpur.

According to Ms Andrews, Anglo-Indians are a minority Indian community of mixed descent, British or European and Indian. They were formally (before 1911) known as Eurasians. Culturally they are English speaking Christians with more western, rather than Indian, ways.

The qualitative research will be conducted over 18 months in the states of Pondicherry, Goa and Kerala as well as in several railway towns and hill stations in other parts of India where concentrations of Anglo-Indians live.

It will be mainly based on interviews with community leaders and up to 30 families in each of the ten-targeted towns.

Their experiences will then turn into a book, with each chapter focusing on one Anglo-Indian community in one geographical location.

Dr Andrews, who will make research trips to Goa, Darjeeling and Pondicherry next year, said that there is a growing population of Anglo-Indians in New Zealand and that many are from areas of India outside of Kolkata.

“It is to their advantage to have their identity in India better understood. Just as India is a land of great diversity this minority community also possesses variety,” she said.

Photo Caption: Dr Robyn Andrews

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