Refiguring Goa (Raghuraman Trichur)

Refiguring Goa: From Trading Post to Tourism Destination

by Raghuraman Trichur

Goan Society / Political Economy / Development


December 2013

Rs 200 (within India). US $ 20 (overseas)

Pp 208. Pb.

ISBN 978-93-80739-50-2

Raghuraman S. Trichur is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento. His teaching and research focus includes comparative political economy, state and class formation, critical analysis of cultural change, tourism, development and violence in South Asia.

THIS BOOK sets out to challenge our current understanding of Goan society and its history. Rather than filling in our knowledge with details of Goa along the lines of well-established conventions, Refiguring Goa pushes the study of the region in a new direction. It asks fresh questions, challenges long-held orthodoxies, and encourages us to refigure our understanding of issues that affect Goa today.

Following a critical reading of Goan historiography from colonial times to the postcolonial present, Trichur develops an alternative framework by examining the development and the process of class formation in Goa. He traces the growth of the indigenous mercantile elite and the peasantry who, he argues, have been the chief architects of the postcolonial Goan economy.

Refiguring Goa explores how the continued dominance of merchant capital, and its inability to move from the sphere of circulation to the sphere of production, has in turn shaped the development of capitalism and contributed to the expansion of the tourism trade in postcolonial Goa. It offers a new perspective on the crucial role played by tourism in the construction of the Goan identity, the process of state formation, and the integration of Goa with the postcolonial Indian nation-state.



  • Politics of Goan Historiography
  • Colonial Goa
  • Agrarian Transformation in Colonial Goa
  • Political Transformation in 20th Century Colonial Goa
  • The ‘Day After’: Political Economy of Post-Colonial Goan Society (1961-1979)
  • Tourism Development in Post-Colonial Goa
  • Tourism, Nationa-Building: (Re)Locating Goa in Postcolonial India
  • Appendix: Towards a Critically-Informed Anthropology of Tourism
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Specimen chapter:

Available via mail-order (post-free anywhere in India, pay by at-par cheque). Also to overseas destinations. Contact Frederick Noronha at

In Goa, available with Golden Heart Emporium (Margao); Broadway Book Centre (Panjim); Other India Bookstore (Mapusa); Literati (Calangute).

Goa,1556’s latest booklist online:

Refiguring Goa: From Trading Post to Tourism Destination
Raghuraman S. Trichur

One of the many things that attracted my attention when I first visited Goa in 1995, was the public engagement with history and contemporary issues.  I remember numerous occasions when journalists, teachers, and other enthusiasts would congregate over endless cups of tea to discuss and debate issues.  Local scholars and researchers engage with each other, in local newspapers, periodicals, over the internet, and other fora.

It is fair to say these folks have created a vibrant community of researchers with diverse interests of a kind not evident in the rest of India. However, a careful scrutiny of the discussions reveal a silo or tunnel effect. The discussions are in-depth but isolated. They are not located within a framework that would contribute to a comprehensive understanding of history. There is no effort to  locate or link historical developments in Goa within broader trajectories of global historical processes; in other words  the articulation of local/global links are seldom identified and explored. Stated bluntly, Goan society and its history are not adequately theorized. This has creating barriers to a more robust understanding of the epochal trajectories of historical developments in Goa and their

As the title suggests, this book -- Refiguring Goa: From Trading Post to Tourism Destination -- contributes to refiguring Goan society and its history.  The analysis goes beyond the politics of identity, the colonial/anti-colonial binaries and other binaries that have informed the study of Goa and its history to date.  I have adopted a historical materialist approach to society and history. [1]

For many, this might come across as an old-fashioned approach.  However, it is my contention that historical materialism, a combination of theory and method that explores the relationship between social being and consciousness, is the best equipped epistemological framework to explain the production and reproduction of social relations that sustain and contribute to historical developments with a society.

Methodologically speaking, this book initiates a paradigmatic shift away from the chronicler or archivist approach, or an emotionally charged engagement that has dominated the study of Goa; and locates the analysis within a political economic framework that prioritizes the need to explain how the
process of class formation, class conflict and process of reproducing class relations contribute to shaping development in 20th century Goa.  With good intentions, I view this book as a proverbial spanner in the wheel of Goan studies.

It provides us with the necessary tools to explore the manner in which history unfolds in Goa.  The endeavor is to explore how the political economy of different historical processes, namely Portuguese colonialism followed by integration into the postcolonial Indian nation-state structures Goa -- a society, a location, a site, a matrix of historically constituted production relations -- created political economic opportunities while at the same time imposing limitations.  How members of the Goan society have reacted to emerging situations at different moments of history.  This book, in other words, is intended to clear the grounds and create the necessary investigative framework to inspire the reformulation of old questions and the formulation of new questions; all with the hope of generating new insights into, and from, Goa and its histories.

December 19, 1961 is indeed a critical moment in Goa's history.  Integrating Goa into the Indian
nation-state was more problematic than occupying and liberating Goa from Portuguese colonial rule, especially if one was to consider the politics that surfaced in "postcolonial" Goa over the two decades since 1961.  The India state was reduced to being a silent bystander, witnessing the expression of communal or caste conflicts masquerading as local party politics.  I argue that it is more fruitful to move away from the conventional wisdom of periodizing Goa's history as a sequence of events centered on Portuguese colonialism with a pre and a post, and explore the continuities and discontinuities between these historical periods.

For instance, the developments during the first two decades after Liberation, I argue, amounts to a political expression of class conflicts that were crystallizing in early 20th century colonial Goa.  The establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910, followed by the coup in 1926, contributed to the political transformation of colonial Goa.  The two decades of political developments soon after  Liberation should be viewed as expressions of those conflicts.

Similarly, I also contend that it was only after the state sponsored development of tourism in the 1980s (two decades after Goa’s liberation/occupation in 1961), was Goa effectively integrated into the Indian nation-state.

Informed by this broader agenda, I will trace the political and economic processes in colonial and postcolonial Goa that contributed to the transformation of Goa from a colonial society dominated by trade, to that of a postcolonial society dominated by tourism.  There are two main issues that are addressed in this book.  Firstly, the historical conditions that contributed to the ascendence of an mercantile elite of Goa and the role of merchant capital in the making of colonial Goan society.  Secondly, the book explores how continued mercantile dominance has influenced the making of the postcolonial Goan economy.  The impact of mercantile influence in postcolonial Goa will be examined with specific reference to the development of the tourism trade in Goa.

This study is premised on the thesis that merchant capital is capital confined to the process of circulation and is hence unproductive capital.  Within this framework, merchant capital is often considered the medium through which capitalism articulates the pre-capitalist modes of production....

Simply stated, the book explores the interactions between two classes within Goan society, the indigenous mercantile elite and the peasantry.  I firstly analyze the factors that contribute to the emergence of an indigenous mercantile indigenous elite and the reproduction of their position in the postcolonial environment.  And, secondly, I trace the historical transformation of rural Goa and the emergence of the peasantry in the postcolonial period.  Further, I explore the critical role played by peasant households in the expansion of the tourism trade in postcolonial Goa.

Finally, I analyze the manner in which tourism and its related discourses become the vehicle for state formation and nation building in postcolonial Goa.  In so doing, the book is also an attempt to investigate the tourism destination and its development in Goa, and how it articulates with Goa’s history.  Any attempt at constructing anything new has to start with taking stock of what is already in place.  Whether one agrees with them  or not, existing analyses constitute the building blocks for whatever comes next.

The book is divided into seven chapters. Chapter 1 provides a critical reading of Goan Studies.  Most historical accounts of Goa have either completely marginalized agrarian Goa as unimportant or have romanticized it.  Both these reactions have had a debilitating effect on a comprehensive understanding of Goan society.

Chapter 2 analyzes the history of colonial rule in Goa.  This chapter will explore the relation of co-dependence between the Portuguese colonialism state and the indigenous mercantile elite.  Secondly, this chapter also examines how the mercantile elite has secured a vice-like grip over and have dictated the structure of the postcolonial Goan economy.
Chapter 3 documents the systemic decline of the gaunkaris[2] (village associations), the dominant agrarian institution in colonial Goa.  I argue that it was the dissolution of the gaunkaris during the colonial period that set the stage for the intensification of exploitative relations between the bhatkars (land controlling rural elite), and  the mundkars (the cultivators), which subsequently led to the emergence of the Goan peasantry.

Chapter 4 examines the transformations in 20th century colonial Goa.  I will show how the political developments in Portugal during the first half of the 20th century -- namely 1) the establishment of the Republic in Portugal in 1910; and 2) the dictatorial regime of António Salazar that replaced the Republic, in 1926 -- contributed to the political and economic transformation of colonialism Goa.

I will analyze the manner in which the anti-protectionist policies of the short-lived Portuguese Republic followed by the Salazar regime's attempt to re-establish mercantilist policies, proved advantageous to the merchants and enhanced their dominant position over the Goan economy.

Portuguese colonialism left behind different perceptions, aspirations and outlooks that characterized different sections of postcolonial Goan society.  Unlike India, where anti-colonial  sentiments overrode similar concerns and propelled the Indian National Congress Party (INC) into a position of power, the political alliance that surfaced in Goa was more a reflection of class and communal conflicts that gained in strength under the colonial regime.

Chapter 5 analyzes the political economic developments in post-Liberation Goa.  I will document the manner in which mercantile interests penetrated postcolonial electoral politics and thus sustained their position of dominance within the Goan economy.  I will simultaneously trace the emergence of the peasantry and the establishment of the tourism trade which re-energized economic relations between a
postcolonial Goan economy and the global economy.

Chapter 6 traces the development of the tourism trade in Goa and the increasing participation of peasant households in petty tourism services.  I firstly analyze how mercantile dominance coupled with limited opportunities for wage labor and the decline in agriculture, conditioned the involvement of peasant households in the tourism trade.  Today, a significant portion of the tourist population visiting Goa depends upon the tourism services offered by peasant households.

Secondly, I examine the manner in which the government spearheads attempts to create the spaces necessary for the flow of capital into Goa's tourism trade.  I will explore how the involvement of peasant household as petty tourism service providers becomes an obstacle in the path of capitalist accumulation in Goa’s hotel industry accumulation in Goa’s hotel industry.

Liberation from Portuguese

Portuguese colonialism rule and integration of Goa into the postcolonial Indian nation-state has been celebrated as a triumph of the secular and pluralistic principles on which the Indian nation-state is founded.

Robert S. Newman (1988) has argued that Goa's integration into the Indian nation-state is based on the recognition of the primordial unity (read Indian-ness) of Goan society and its culture.  It is my contention that Newman's assessment obfuscates the real conflicts that have strained production relations within Goan society, and that of the different segments of Goan society with the Indian State.

In this final chapter I argue that the integration of Goa into India was achieved not by the recognition of Goa's Indian-ness or unity as suggested by Newman but instead by the process of articulating Goa's 'otherness' or cultural distancing, as evidenced by the social practices and performances that constitute the tourism destination in Goa.
Thus the tourism destination in Goa is more than just an agent of economic growth: it is also an arena, a discursive frame where the Indian State intersects with Goan society.  In the words of Henri Lefebvre, the tourism destination in Goa is "a stake, the locus of projects and actions deployed as specific strategies, and hence the object of wagers on the future" (1991: 142-3).

[1] It is quite interesting that there is a lot of enthusiasm to celebrate eminent historian D.D.  Kosambi as a famous son of the soil.  Aspiring researchers are encouraged to follow his footsteps and emulate his methodological approach to study society and its history.  It is discouraging to note
that there are very few takers.

[2] The gaunkari were referred to as the comunidades by the Portuguese colonial administration.  These agrarian institutions have often been romanticized as the mainstay of Goa's egalitarian pre-colonial era.  For the purpose of this project, I have retained the use of the original terminology.
RAGHURAMAN S. TRICHUR is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento.  His teaching and research focus includes comparative political economy, state and class formation, critical analysis of cultural change, tourism, development and violence in South Asia.  This book is published by ISBN 978-93-80739-50-2. COVER:



About fredericknoronha

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One comment

  1. shrinivasdharma

    Dear Frederick Noronha

    Wish to purchase the above book. Tried to purchase on line but the transaction could not be completed. Can you please advise how do I procure it at the earliest ?

    Await response

    Warm Regards ,


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