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This article draws on ethnographic research with the Chagos islanders from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, a case study which offers an exceptional opportunity to interrogate forced displacement, onward migration, and prospective return in the context of the long historical legacy and wide geographical arc of British colonialism. The case study generates interconnected arguments relating firstly to the contribution of ethnography to the interdisciplinary study of displacement and migration, and secondly to the geographical, thematic, and temporal scope of the anthropology of Britain. Firstly, long-term ethnographic engagement with a displaced community unsettles typologies of compulsion and choice by revealing the complexities of displaced people’s changing reflections on their own experiences over the course of lifetimes marked by displacement and migration. Secondly, this history of British colonial and postcolonial displacement, migration, and citizenship is a reminder that the anthropology of life in contemporary Britain is not confined geographically to the British Isles or temporally to the twenty-first century.
- anthropology of displacement
- migration studies
- Chagos islanders
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Overseas Territories
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