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Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to Host Book Talk

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center will welcome Nalini Natarajan, professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Friday, April 5, for a “brown-bag” book talk with her as she discusses her book Atlantic Gandhi. Participants are encouraged to bring their lunch to the event, which runs from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the CFCH Conference Room on the second floor of Capital Gallery, located at 600 Maryland Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C.

The book talk is part of the public program series of the Asian Pacific American Center’s Indian American Heritage Project, an initiative that aims to tell the multigenerational story of Indian Americans in America. Among the many program activities will be conversations and performances about Indian American art, comedy, cuisine, dance, film, television, literature and music. The book discussion with Natarajan is one of the first public programs this year, kicking off programs throughout the year and into 2015.

Atlantic Gandhi examines Gandhi’s experience as a traveler moving from a classic colony, India, to the plantation and mining society of South Africa and argues that his diasporic life resonates with recent perspectives on the Atlantic—as an ocean that not just transported the victims of a greedy plantation system, but also saw the ferment of revolutionary ideas.

“Most people think of Gandhiji as the non-violent, spiritual man in a loincloth leading the struggle for independence on the subcontinent,” said Natarajan. “There was however, another, earlier Gandhi, a world traveler catapulted from his provincial Gujarati childhood and early youth to the multiracial plantation politics more customarily associated with the Atlantic world. From the perspective of Atlantic, plantation and diaspora studies, the book looks at this ocean-faring cosmopolitan ‘from below, Atlantic’ Gandhi in the context of the solidarities and struggles of his diasporic life in South Africa. It argues that, in diaspora, he constructed ‘India.’”

The center is set to open its groundbreaking exhibition, “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” in December 2013, which is expected to reach 7 million visitors before traveling to museums, libraries and community centers across the country.

For information about the center, visit