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The University of Southampton
The India Centre for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development

The Vocal City: Indian Indenture and Post Slavery Debates in Colonial Calcutta Event

15:00 - 16:30
23 October 2019
Avenue B65, room 2123, Centre for Imperial and Postcolonial Studies and Centre for Transnational Studies, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this event, please email Priti Mishra at .

Event details

The colonial city was a site for several voices: the colonising officials, the vocal citizens living under colonial rule, and the non-vocal sections of the public that were twice-removed from decision-making powers. This paper explores the voices of citizens in Calcutta—the colonial capital of British India—with reference to the trans-imperial debates on the use of Indian indentured (contractual) labour in British sugar plantations. It analyses debates around the legitimacy of the Indian indentured trade, to explore ‘post-slavery’ changes in the definition of labour, and to locate Calcutta within global and imperial networks of exchange. Abolition had created a situation where all subsequent labour movements were by definition ‘free’, and this was reflected in the discourse around indentured migration. This post-slavery moment is characterised by a dichotomy of servitude (or ‘unfreedom’) and ‘freedom’, where the indentured debates constantly drew from Abolitionist and metropolitan labour discourse, but also from a global body of opinions. This paper uses voices from Calcutta to explore this ‘post-slavery’ moment, and to reflect on the perceived dichotomy between servitude and free labour.

Speaker information

Purba Hossain, University of Leeds, has research interests which include colonial cities and societies and their position within imperial networks, as well as print culture and public interaction in urban spaces. She is especially interested in the relation between colonial and metropolitan spheres of influence, and the networks of circulation and discussion that are developed in the process. The research projects mentioned here gave her further the opportunity to explore her interest in overseas networks and cultural encounter.

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