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Title: "To shake hands across the ocean" : the political worlds of South Asian seamen, c.1918-1946
Author: Manjrekar, Naina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 0602
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation explores the ways in which the mobility of South Asian seafarers informed their political ideas and, more specifically, their ideas of the anti-colonial movement in the first half of the twentieth century. In so doing, it integrates the approaches of subaltern, maritime and global history. It begins with looking at the remarkable geographical scale of mobility of twentieth-century lascar seamen and considers the transformative impact of this mobility on their worldviews. It explores their experiences of diverse port worlds, their contact with working- class men and women on ships and ashore, and their eyewitness experiences of war, revolution, fascism and anti-colonial movements. It also studies the intertwining of lascars' routes with networks of political activists and organisations that were distant from South Asian shores. It explores how these encounters and contacts informed their imagination of the anti-colonial movement and of a decolonised future. To understand this imagination, it examines the mutiny of twenty thousand Royal Indian Navy seamen at the end of the Second World War and the cusp of South Asian decolonisation, which was opposed by the nationalist leadership. The dissertation argues that in order to understand their politics, we must piece together a longer history of resistance, looking at everyday resistance on ships and in ports as well as moments of largescale rebellion. The thesis challenges the preponderant assumption that mobility produced cosmopolitan elites and segregated subalterns. It alters this picture by showing that lascars' geographical, phenomenological and political worlds extended beyond South Asia, arguing that their mobility shaped their anti-colonialism, making it distinct from the territorially bounded nationalism of the Congress and Muslim League. It proposes that 'flattening' out their political views to the catch-all label of nationalism misses many of the wider inflections of their political worldviews.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral