Entangled Citizens, Undesirable Migrants: The Imprint of Empire and Afterlives of Indenture in Indian Diplomacy (1947-1962)

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning


  • Kalathmika Natarajan
This thesis is concerned with recovering the figure of the migrant in Indian diplomatic history in the decades after independence. I do so by examining British-Indiandiplomatic relations as a negotiation of the limits of citizenship and mobility encountered by ‘overseas Indians’ and postcolonial Indian migrants – two figures shaped by the histories and afterlives of the indentured labour system, and subject to the provisions of the 1948 British Nationality Act (BNA). The BNA‘s recognition of Indians as British subjects after independence had significant consequences for both long-settled and prospective migrants, producing Indians resident in British colonies and Commonwealth nations as ‘entangled citizens’ with multiple, contested claims to citizenship, while also providing prospective migrants with the right freely to enter Britain. Contrary to much of the literature that regards the Indian state’s relationship with its diaspora as a binary of exclusion/inclusion where 1947 marked a clean break, I show that the Indian diplomatic engagement with overseas Indians was complex, often paradoxical, yet continual. The status of overseas Indians shaped both India’s articulation of ‘reciprocity of citizenship’as the basis of its Commonwealth membership, and the making of the 1955 Indian Citizenship Act. Moreover, the Indian state projected its diplomatic stature in terms of its ability to know, mediate and represent overseas Indian communities in British colonial territories. I argue that the Indian state regarded the ‘international’ as a sanctified space imbued with the afterlives of indenture qua caste, wherein lower caste and class migrants were considered unworthy of holding Indian passports and representing India in the international realm. These ‘unskilled’ migrants were deemed legatees of the dreaded ‘coolie’, a dual threat to British public health and India’s international reputation. Moving away from the dominant focus on the ‘high politics’ of conflicts and conferences, this thesis puts the people back into Indian diplomatic history. In so doing, it recognises the history of indenture as a constitutive element in the making of Indian diplomacy and locates the intersection of caste, class and race in Indian diplomatic discourse.
ForlagDet Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet
Antal sider239
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2019

Note vedr. afhandling

Ph.d. afhandling forsvaret 26. juni 2019

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