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Title: Kala Pani : Indian convicts in Mauritius, 1815-1853
Author: Anderson, Clare
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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Between 1815 and 1837 almost fifteen hundred Indian convicts were transported from the Presidencies of Bengal and Bombay and the colony of Ceylon to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Transportation was then abandoned. After the convicts' arrival in Mauritius, they were put to work on various private and public works projects on the island. They were a crucial labour supply in important sectors of the rapidly expanding Mauritian economy. Above all they built and maintained the island's necessary infrastructure. This thesis begins with an analysis of the context in which a system of transportation was set up in the Indian Presidencies. It is shown that transportation was a 'humanist' penal strategy, given particular resonance in the South Asian region due to colonial perceptions of the significance of race and caste there. At the same time, transportation was implemented as an economic strategy. It removed relatively costly prisoners from the Indian jails and satisfied the demand for certain categories of labour in Mauritius, which could not easily be procured from among the island's existing workforce. Extensive analysis is then made of a highly original source: convict ship indents. It is clear that the convicts came from the margins of Indian society, comprising groups which had been placed under the most pressure by East India Company penetration into north India. The focus of the thesis then shifts to Mauritius and the operation of the convict system there. The main thrust of the remaining chapters is that although transportation was founded on 'disciplinary' principles, these were often far removed from the actual practices of convict management. The convicts' labour capacity was exploited, but this was sometimes challenged through convict resistance. Otherwise, there was a general lack of surveillance and control over the convicts which led to their widespread integration in Mauritian society - through cohabitation, religious activities, leisure and acquisition of private property - despite colonial directives to effect their social segregation. These conclusion lead to serious reservations about Foucauldian understandings of the matters addressed, which tend to totalise the effects of disciplinary and surveillance technologies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available