ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

A River of Nationalist Zeal: Punjabi Women Performers of Anti-Colonial Music in the Diaspora, 1913-1947


Ranganath Nicole - University of California, Davis, Middle East/South Asia Studies, Davis, United States


13 – The Travelling Female Performer: Mobility and Agency in and beyond South Asia, c. 1760-1940


 This paper examines the role of South Asian women in the diaspora who performed anti-colonial music in the early twentieth century.  The first call for total independence from British rule in India known as the gadar (revolt) movement was headquartered in San Francisco, California.  The revolutionary songs of Punjabi workers expressed their frustration at the racism they encountered abroad which they blamed on their status as slaves in their homeland.  This paper will focus on the women who heard and performed revolutionary music at gadar meetings.  It is the first to address how the South Asian diaspora was constituted through music, as well as women’s alternative interpretations of the environment, nationalism and community in the late colonial period.