Remigration of Indian subalterns in the colonial Indian Ocean

Crispin Bates, Marina Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Even after the official suspension of indentured overseas migration in 1917, “free” migrants still travelled overseas and could be cheated by the kanganis, sardars, or maistries (labour intermediaries) who recruited them. The question remains: Why did such a large number of Indian labour migrants who had completed one term of service overseas return to India, and then remigrate, or move from one colonial territory to another? The reasons were diverse and included the difficulties of re-integration in India, returnee recruiting, family regroupment activities, better employment opportunities, and economic recession or discrimination in the colony where they first arrived. At the same time, the frequency of remigration, and of onward migration to other colonies, suggests considerable enterprise and strategic thinking on the part of labour migrants seeking out opportunities within the interstices and constraints of the colonial labour economy. This paper discusses the debates surrounding remigration and presents a thematic reinterpretation drawing upon case studies from Indian Ocean archives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021


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