Indian Migration and Empire

A Colonial Genealogy of the Modern State

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: August 2018

Author: Radhika Mongia

Asian Studies > South Asia, History > World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

How did states come to monopolize control over migration? What do the processes that produced this monopoly tell us about the modern state? In Indian Migration and Empire Radhika Mongia provocatively argues that the formation of colonial migration regulations was dependent upon, accompanied by, and generative of profound changes in normative conceptions of the modern state. Focused on state regulation of colonial Indian migration between 1834 and 1917, Mongia illuminates the genesis of central techniques of migration control. She shows how important elements of current migration regimes, including the notion of state sovereignty as embodying the authority to control migration, the distinction between free and forced migration, the emergence of passports, the formation of migration bureaucracies, and the incorporation of kinship relations into migration logics, are the product of complex debates that attended colonial migrations. By charting how state control of migration was critical to the transformation of a world dominated by empire-states into a world dominated by nation-states, Mongia challenges positions that posit a stark distinction between the colonial state and the modern state to trace aspects of their entanglements.


"Indian Migration and Empire presents a detailed analysis of the history of colonial Indian migration of indentured labor to Mauritius, the Caribbean, Canada, and South Africa. . . . This illuminating research makes an important contribution to the fields of colonialism, migration, and political studies. . . . Recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above." — D. A. Chekki, Choice

"Methodologically innovative and theoretically rigorous . . . Mongia has written a pathbreaking book. In the wake of this work it will no longer be possible to tell the story of border-making without a scrutiny of how human labor was dehumanized on an imperial and global scale." — Debjani Bhattacharyya, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

"Mongia’s book is a methodological tour de force in migration studies and theories of the state. But the commendable feat of this book is that these accomplishments do not stand apart – her contribution to migration studies is enriched by the careful theorising of states, at once colonial, transcolonial and metropolitan." — Tarangini Sriraman, The Wire

"Indian Migration and Empire cautions us in the epilogue that the project of modern nation state and who belongs in such a nation state is a project still incomplete and can inflict terrible oppressions and restrictions as in the example of Iroquois/Haudenosaunee of North America. For this caution alone, this book is a must-read for all who are interested in historiography of migration and political theory." — Mithilesh Kumar, Economic and Political Weekly

"Mongia’s account is a fresh, fascinating explanation of the intricacies of migration and its impact on host-countries, nation-state and bureaucratic development, and at the heart of it all, the emigrant. There has been a steady change in academia to consider a more global and cultural perspective, and this book is relevant to many scholars, including those in political science, history, sociology, women’s studies, migration, Asian studies, colonial and post-colonial studies, and global issues." — Kathleen M. Davis, International Social Science Review

"Radhika Mongia’s fascinating analysis of Indian migration to South Africa and its history-making aftermath is fascinatingly readable. Indian Migration and Empire certainly places Mongia among the established scholars in the field." — Tarique Niazi, Journal of International and Global Studies

"Indian Migration and Empire is a fresh and important contribution to our understanding of the modern world." — Thomas R. Metcalf, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Radhika Mongia’s text serves as an important meditation of the history of the modern nation-state, how we imagine contemporary migration, and how we may envision the future of mobility. Her astute connections between the racialized logic guiding the emergence of the passport, the concept of nationality and the nation-state, and the colonial legacy of contemporary migration provides a necessary pause in thinking about post-national migration and forms of belonging. . . . Because of the foundational and fundamental importance of this book’s discussion, scholars from a variety of social science backgrounds would find it valuable." — Adrienne Lee Atterberry, International Sociology Reviews

"This book will be of interest to a range of scholars and students, and those focusing on South Asian history and British colonial rule will find it an invaluable source for the details on discourses, regulations, and their impacts on the colonial regime in Britain, India, and other colonies." — Daniel Naujoks, South Asian History and Culture

“Scholars have long claimed that modernity's signature—the nation-state—is the consequence of imperial power. In this sweeping history of the territoriality of the western state system, Radhika Mongia offers new analytical paradigms for understanding the relationship between national sovereignty and colonial labor. A corrective to facile transnational arguments and a rigorous case for the management of migration as the genealogical heart of modern western state formation, Indian Migration and Empire roots modern European state practices in mobile bodies and the regulatory regimes they provoked.” — Antoinette Burton, Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Indian Migration and Empire is a highly original, compelling, and superbly crafted work that thoroughly reveals the racialized foundations of the modern state. Given the contemporary debates about the relationship between migration, the state, and race—whether in relation to Europe’s refugee crisis or the exclusionary immigration politics of Donald Trump's America—this book could not be more relevant or timely.” — Srirupa Roy, Professor of State and Democracy, University of Göttingen


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Radhika Mongia is Associate Professor of Sociology at York University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction  1
1. The Migration of "Free" Labor: Contracting Freedom  22
2. Disciplinary Power and the Colonial State: The Bureaucracy of Migration Control  56
3. Gendered Nationalism, the Racialized State, and the Making of Migration Law: The Indian "Marriage Question" in South Africa  85
4. Race, Nationality, Mobility: A History of the Passport  112
Epilogue. In History: A Colonial Genealogy of the Modern State  141
Notes  151
Bibliography  199
Index  221
Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc South Asia

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7102-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7039-0
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