Forcing the archive: Involuntary migrants ‘of Ceylon’ in the Indian Ocean World of the 18–19th centuries

M. Carter, N. Wickramasinghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines some marginal stories of subaltern individuals shipped and trans-shipped between the Dutch and British colonial territories of Ceylon, Mauritius and the Cape in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After addressing the difficulties in retrieving traces of their lives and the ambiguities of categories of classification, the article offers insights into everyday cultural ties forged among diverse groups and looks into acts of resistance of individuals ‘of Ceylon’. The experience of Ceylonese or individuals described as ‘of Ceylon’ not only gives insights into the various forms of mobility that shaped the making of societies in the Indian Ocean world, it also helps us capture the remarkable capacity of some of these involuntary migrants to forge fragile communities, preserve practices of meaning and resist the predations of slave owners. The snapshots we offer of people ‘of Ceylon’ can refine our understanding of the way imperial designs affected the lives of dominated people across territories in the Indian Ocean. They also make more explicit the link between the global and the local and how larger processes such as slavery are broken down and lived at the local level. © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-206
Number of pages13
JournalSouth Asian History and Culture
Issue number2
Early online date9 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Mar 2018


  • archive
  • Ceylon
  • Indian Ocean
  • labour migrants
  • migration
  • slavery


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