Local search: Special/notable collections

Where would you like your search sent?

Indo-Caribbean Collection

Main content

Highlighting Indo-Caribbean Identity

  • Collection Overview
  • For the past several years, Penn Libraries has been broadening efforts to acquire materials related to South Asian diasporas, supported by both increased interest on campus as well as new financial contribution from the Singh Family Fund. This initiative has sparked the growth of a substantive Indo-Caribbean collection that strives to reveal histories, communities, and cultural expressions that have remained underrepresented in most research libraries and understudied in scholarly discourse. Through collection and advocacy, we aim to highlight the distinct Indo-Caribbean culture that flourishes in Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands, an ongoing legacy of the indenture system that brought more than a half million South Asians to the region to labor on British, French, and Dutch sugarcane plantations. 

  • Huts
  • Our diasporic materials from the Caribbean represent a variety of publication genres and expressive forms, including commercial publications for popular consumption, scholarly analysis for academic audiences, as well as visual imagery and ephemera. Working with small booksellers and publishers throughout the Caribbean, we’ve begun acquiring niche items, such as micro-level family histories, annual cultural souvenir magazines celebrating Divali and Indian Arrival Day, and self-published works that provide unique insight into Indo-Caribbean identity.

  • IndoCarCollage1
  • Collection Strengths
  • Special strengths of the collection include studies of indenture, politics, arts, religion, and gender. Uncommon biographies and printed speeches of influential leaders cover topics such as Hindu nationalist discourse and colonial legacies of exploitation, while electoral assessments and satire critique the political establishment. Exhibition catalogs from Caribbean museums and galleries convey distinct Indo-Caribbean artistic visions. Personal histories and narratives demonstrate the syncretic evolution of Asian, African, indigenous, and European customs, and reveal how a distinct Indo-Caribbean identity continues to take shape and assert itself. 

  • IndoCarCollage2
  • Our assortment of historical Indo-Caribbean postcards is of particular scholarly appeal. Produced from the late 1800s to 1975, the postcards depict staged vignettes from Indo-Caribbean life and speak to the exoticizing interests of American and European audiences. Produced by a variety of studios for the tourist market, these postcards traveled to a wide range of locales, including the U.S., Iceland, Tunisia, France, Holland, and Germany. Penn students have been utilizing these postcards in classes to understand the histories and ramifications of indenture.

  • IndoCarPostcards
    Examples from the collection Indo-Caribbean postcards
  • Looking Forward
  • In coming years, the Penn Libraries expects to expand our Indo-Caribbean collection in the areas of literature, ephemera, and non-English materials in regional Hindustani dialects as we strive to highlight the diversity of voices that too often remain at the periphery in collection development and academic research. 

Acquisition funds

Singh Family Fund