Social Scientist. v 15, no. 173 (Oct 1987) p. 3.


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PRAKASH C. JAim

Towards a Class Analysis of Race Relations Situations of Overseas Indians in Colonial/Post Colonial Societies1

CLASS theories of race relations are an emergent phenomenon. In their present formulations they have been greatly influenced by neo-Marxist critiques of the theories of development and underdevelopment. These critiques have been applied not only to non-Marxist theories (e.g., modernisation, dependency, world system, pluralism, etc.) but also to orthodox Marxism, especially because of its Eurocentric bias. There has been a growing conviction among neo-Marxist scholars that race and ethnicity are no less important contradictions in any society than those based on class.

The major thrust of the emergent neo-Marxist approach, which is itself locked in internal debate, has been not only to expose the fallacy of the primordialism thesis of race relations, but also more positively to show how certain types of race relations situations are better explained in terms of their underlying class dynamics.2 In this article an attempt is made precisely on these lines to suggest a conceptual framework for the analysis of race relations situations of overseas Indians.3 The article is divided into two parts. In the first part, various established theories on the subject are critically reviewed and in the second, the said conceptual framework is outlined. Throughout the paper special reference is made to the overseas Indian communities in Guyana, Malaysia and Kenya, which are representatives of three major types of overseas Indian communities in former colonial societies.4

Theories ofPluralism

Sociological studies of overseas Indian communities in the colonial/ post-colonial context generally use one or another variant of the theory of pluralism. In its current form the theory of pluralism has been developed by M.G. Smith who was influenced by the works of Furnivall and Malino-wski. The cornerstone of Smith's theory is his focus on the mode of

*Assistant Professor, Centre for West Asian & African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.



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