Professor Meshtrie Visits U of I, Talks At Our Center
Professor Uma Meshtrie, renowned historian from the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, paid a two week visit to our campus this fall. Professor Mesthtrie, who has done work on Indian diasporic labor, the anti-apartheid struggle and is also the biographer of Manilal Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s second son, presented a MillerComm address to an enthusiastic Gregory Hall crowd. She chronicled the burgeoning “cottage industry” of biographies of the South African anti-apartheid history, introducing the audience to a range of locally produced volumes largely unknown outside of South Africa. She also noted the excessive number of biographies following the “great man” approach and expressed the desire for more work which embodied a “history from below” perspective. Her lecture also served as a kickoff for the 2013-2014 program connected to a multi-year U of I initiative focusing History and affiliated interdisciplinary faculty on the theme of “World Histories From Below” (http://worldhistoriesfrombelow.org/ ).
The Center for African Studies also hosted Professor Meshtrie for a brown bag talk in which she offered a fascinating account of the early 20th century immigration bureaucracy with a particular focus on how migrants from India were treated. Her profiles of immigration officers presented a rare look at how low level functionaries in colonial bureaucracies wielded their power and played a key role in perpetuating the colonial project.