Beyond stereotypes | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 18, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437



The sources available on Hindustani women and girls in Suriname were rarely produced by the women and girls themselves, but for or by British or Dutch colonial officers, European travel writers, Christian missionaries, and in some cases, by Hindustani men. In these sources, women and girls primarily figure in stereotypical roles as ‘prostitutes’, ‘unfaithful wives’, or ‘female slaves’. This article sheds light on the ways in which Hindustani women and girls positioned themselves in relation to these stereotyped identities. Records produced by the Dutch colonial government are read both along and against the grain in order to identify contradictions, interruptions, and meaningful silences. The risk of reproducing stereotypes is thus reduced and alternative interpretations of women’s acts and views are highlighted. It is argued that the historiography on Hindustani women in Suriname, as well as the wider historiography on Indo-Caribbean women, can and should use this methodology to move away from a focus on the ‘reality’ of these stereotypes towards an analysis of the active involvement of Hindustani women in the construction of family and community. It is shown how forms of coexistence between men and women, concepts of family, and financial responsibility were shaped by the norms of marriage, monogamy, and the nuclear family that were imposed, but also adapted and used by women to achieve their personal ends.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): agency; girls; Hindustani; indenture; Indian; Indo-Caribbean; Suriname; voice; women
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