Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Coolie Women

I really liked the lecture on March 1st where we viewed photos of Indian women. In these photos, women advertised their beauty and their prosperity. Almost always, the women depicted were laden with silver and gold. Their bodies showcased these precious metals usually in the form of bangles on their wrists. They also were generally depicted wearing silk blouses and ornies on their head, adorned with lace. I found it interesting that wearing these metals and blouses allowed these women to show their wealth and status. These representations of self were all very similar in the women’s facial expressions. Most women had inscrutable expressions, no photo shew a woman smiling, which is common for photos seen in the present day.

coolie women

I think it’s interesting that these women were referred to as Coolies because the term was conventionally used to refer to laborers, but in these photos the women appear to be moderately wealthy. Using the term “Coolie” to refer to these women marks them as foreigners in the Caribbean. It made it clear that they were not from this place, and served the purpose of laboring, regardless of their status.


  1. mcnealc

    I also find how dynamic the word Coolie is to be quite interesting, and I like how you not only analyzed their clothing and accessories but their facial expressions.

  2. brodeenk

    I also liked this lecture and found it fascinating to analyze these women’s’ jewelry, looking at how it can be used to identify class amongst each other (ie the woman on the left was a storekeeper and thus was more decorated with gold and bangles). By seeing how women dressed and expressed themselves helped me understand their identity in this time.

  3. jimminkc

    I really liked this lecture as well. I really liked how this group of people is taking this word back. I think that it is important to embrace your culture and to take the word back. I think it helps erase the ignorance that many people have when talking about race.

  4. Eve Giordano

    Lauren, great post! I also found the term, “coolie”, to be interesting and multi-faceted. How can one be a labourer yet adorn such beautiful jewelry? I think it is important to be able to distinguish between the positive and negative connotations of this word. Today, I think humanity still has a long ways to go when thinking about the meaning behind ancient describing words, how have these meanings changed today, etc.

  5. heronca

    I agree that the term “coolie” is definitely meant to alienate the Indian women in the Caribbean. So despite their social status, they are still seen as less than in a sense.

  6. harneyk

    I think this lecture is even more interesting when the music video “Coolie Pink and Green” is taken into consideration. In the very beginning of the music video, there was a scrolling text explaining the historical significance of the word and its various definitions, before the music video reclaimed the once disparaging word. The use of the term coolie in the video as well in the poem “I am a Coolie” show the resilience of the Indian community in these locations.

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