New Books Network

Pamila Gupta

Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World

History and Ethnography

Bloomsbury Academic Press 2020

NBN Special SeriesNew Books in AnthropologyNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the Indian Ocean WorldNew Books in World Affairs August 17, 2020 Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi

Pamila Gupta’s Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2020), takes a unique approach to examining decolonization processes...

Pamila Gupta’s Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2020), takes a unique approach to examining decolonization processes across Lusophone India and Southern Africa, focusing on Goa, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa, weaving together case studies using five interconnected themes.

Gupta considers decolonization through the twined lenses of history and ethnography, accessed through written, oral, visual and eyewitness accounts of how people experienced the transfer of state power. She looks at the materiality of decolonization as a movement of peoples across vast oceanic spaces, demonstrating how it was a process of dispossession for both the Portuguese formerly in power and ordinary colonial citizens and subjects.

She then discusses the production of race and class anxieties during decolonization, which took on a variety of forms but were often articulated through material objects. The book aims to move beyond linear histories of colonial independence by connecting its various regions using the theme of decolonization, offering a productive and new approach to writing post-national histories and ethnographies.

Finally, Gupta demonstrates the value of using different source materials to access narratives of decolonization, analyzing the work of Mozambican photographer Ricardo Rangel, and including lyrical prose and ethnographical observations.

Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World provides a nuanced understanding of Lusophone decolonization, revealing the perspectives of people who experienced it. This book will be highly valuable for historians of the Indian Ocean world and decolonization, but also those interested in ethnography, diaspora studies and material culture.

Pamila Gupta is Associate Professor at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the co-editor of Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean (2010) and the author of The Relic State: St. Francis Xavier and the Politics of Ritual in Portuguese India (2014).


Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.