Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Almy on the Komegata Maru

We missed this one in 2018: Ruth L. Almy (Indiana University Bloomington) published " 'More Hateful because of its Hypocrisy': Indians, Britain and Canadian Law in the Komegata Maru Incident of 1914" in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 46:2 (2018), 304-22. Here's the abstract: 
Recent remembrance and memorialisation of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 has neglected the global and imperial implications of the incident, as well as the role that direct actions by the Indian passengers and Indians in Vancouver took against Canada’s discriminatory law. While the legal loss the passengers suffered could be regarded as simply tragic, the implications for the British Empire behind the Komagata Maru incident are more complex. More than just a legal battle between would-be Indian migrants and the Vancouver immigration authorities, the incident is a highly visible clash of two different understandings of the British imperial legal system. In contrast to any view that imperial harmony and the rights of all its subjects should supersede local concerns within the empire, Canadian immigration and legal officials instead viewed their rights as a self-governing dominion to make and pass their own laws (particularly around areas of racial desirability) as more important than issues of imperial membership, loyalty or harmony. The British government’s decision, in turn, not to contradict Canada’s eventual ruling against the Komagata Maru passengers and the decision to deport them, exposed the legal hierarchies of supposed imperial belonging, citizenship and ‘British liberty’ in the empire at a critical moment in the early twentieth century. What the incident highlighted, then, was an increasing legal distinction between settler colonies and colonies of exploitation within the empire.
Further information is available here

--Mitra Sharafi