The history of Indians in South Africa turns on several racialized axes at once. The consolidation of a common "settler" identity derived from racially discriminatory treatment under both the colonial and the apartheid state was always already shaped by anxieties about proximity to, and dependence on, "native" Africans. Ansuyah Singh's 1960 novel, Behold the Earth Mourns, offers one pathway into this complex history if we read the African characters not as background but as part of its superstructural apparatus - and if we understand how sexuality helped shape even small histories of interracial connection. Insisting on the material presence of Africans in this fictional account of Indian anti-apartheid politics in 1940s South Africa helps to nuance our histories of the development of a self-consciously racialized Indian settler identity, which was dependent - in economic, political and imaginative terms - on the literal and figurative work of the indigenous African.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-81
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Ansuyah Singh
  • Behold the Earth Mourns
  • Indian diaspora
  • South African politics
  • anti-apartheid history
  • conjugality
  • interracial brotherhood
  • the politics of fiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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