Renisa Mawani, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia
The S.S. Komagata Maru rose to prominence in 1914 when Gurdit Singh, a railway contractor and rubber planter from Malaya, transported 376 Punjabi migrants along the Pacific from Hong Kong to Vancouver. The voyage has typically been narrated through the coordinates of landfall, territoriality, and national sovereignty and is frequently evoked as a key moment in the history of immigration exclusions and racism in Canada. Engaging “oceans as method,” a mode of thinking and writing that repositions land and sea, I ask what is at stake, historically and conceptually, when histories of Indian mobility and migration are situated within maritime worlds. By placing the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans into conversation, I analyze the circulating and shared legalities that connected the Dominions, colonies, and territories; the shifting intensities of racial, colonial, and legal violence that joined indigenous dispossession, transatlantic slavery, and Indian indenture to so-called “free” migration.
Renisa Mawani is a Professor of Sociology and inaugural Chair of the Law and Society Program at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Mawani works in the fields of critical theory and colonial legal history and has published widely on law, colonialism, and legal geography. Her first book, Colonial Proximities (2009) details the legal encounters between indigenous peoples, Chinese migrants, “mixed-race” populations, and Europeans in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century British Columbia. Her second book, Across Oceans of Law (forthcoming, Duke University Press), is a global and maritime legal history of the S.S. Komagata Maru. In 2015-2016, she received the Killam Prize for Graduate Instruction, a Dean of Arts Faculty Research Award, and was named a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.