Opening Address "Who are the Anglo-Indians" By Dr. Adrian Gilbert (A Conference held in Melbourne Australia on August 10 2002 at the Carlton Crest Hotel)*
Good Morning. I am Dr. Adrian Gilbert and I would like to welcome you all to the conference "Who are the Anglo-Indians". We have guests and speakers who have travelled from England, the United States, Canada and New Zealand to be here for the Conference, which is an indication of how important they consider this exchange of ideas.
When I set up the International Journal of Anglo-Indian Studies in June of 1996 I never expected the Journal to continue on till today. I have now published 12 issues of the journal with contributions from over 20 different authors and published more than 24 different articles. The articles have covered a wide range of topics from econometrics to text analysis.
In the year 2000 I though it was about time to expand the scope of the International Journal of Anglo-Indians Studies and introduced the Anglo-Indian Wallah. Now not only do researches have an opportunity to publish their research on Anglo-Indians but authors could also publish works of fiction.
This conference is the next logical extension to the two journals.
In my experience the Anglo-Indians in Australia have been very good at organising social clubs but have an inherent suspicion of all things intellectual. This is a characteristic that they appear to share with other Australians. As a consequence we have failed to generate an impetus to engage with Australian society at the level of academia, the arts and politics. Certainly we have failed to do this using a coherent Anglo-Indian focus. Any engagement that has occurred has been piecemeal and disjointed. This conference is an attempt to move to a more coherent approach to engaging with the wider society.
We have a rich colourful history and have achieved at every level of society for hundreds of years but that record of achievement has in most cases been hidden, passed over or co-opted by the British or Indians. For us to be recognised we must start to represent ourselves at every level. Our histories have to be written by Anglo-Indians, social research must be conducted by Anglo-Indians, fictional accounts must be written by Anglo-Indians. Without this we can never be certain that we are fairly represented.
My main concern with the journals and to a certain extent the conference is the lack of research and discussion dealing with demographics and social issues relevant to the Anglo-Indians. We have yet to get definitive figures about the numbers of Anglo-Indians in Australia, the UK, Canada and India. We have yet to investigate issues such as educational attainment, racism, labour force participation, unemployment with any long term thoroughness. While studies such as Ann Lobo's of academic attainment in India, and my own work examining unemployment and income in Australia, have been important in breaking new ground in relation to the Anglo-Indians, they were not expected to be definitive but only to lead to more work in these areas.
A perusal of the IJAIS will show that in recent years the focus of Anglo-Indian academics and intellectuals has moved away from the practical and grounded towards the more exotic. While critiques of films and books about Anglo-Indians serve an important function in helping to create an Anglo-Indian identity and an environment of intellectual rigour our intelligentsia can be criticised of fiddling while Rome burns.
I don't think I exaggerate when I say that the Anglo-Indians find themselves on a cusp. In one direction lies a stronger more self-aware community that is actively working towards self-development. In the other direction lies an Anglo-Indian community that rapidly loses awareness of itself as a distinct social entity and cuts its individual members adrift to find their own psychological and emotional solutions without awareness of their distinct history and identity.
By the end of this conference I hope that we will have a better understanding of the Anglo-Indians as a group and as individuals. Further, I hope that the conference gives impetus to research into the Anglo-Indians that allows the community to continue to maintain itself. I wish to thank Professor Blair Williams for suggesting the Conference and also special thanks to Keith Butler, Dr. Glenn D'Cruz, Dr. Richard Johnson and Michael Ludgrove for their assistance with organising the Conference.
*The above is an amended version of the original presentation.