Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790-1920 (Critical Perspectives on Empire)
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Subaltern Lives uses biographical fragments of the lives of convicts, captives, sailors, slaves, indentured labourers and indigenous peoples to build a fascinating new picture of colonial life in the nineteenth-century Indian Ocean. Moving between India, Africa, Mauritius, Burma, Singapore, Ceylon, the Andaman Islands and the Australian colonies, Clare Anderson offers fresh readings of the nature and significance of 'networked' Empire. She reveals the importance of penal transportation for colonial expansion and sheds new light on convict experiences of penal settlements and colonies, as well as the relationship between convictism, punishment and colonial labour regimes. The book also explores the nature of colonial society during this period and embeds subaltern biographies into key events like the abolition of slavery, the Anglo-Sikh Wars and the Indian Revolt of 1857. This is an important new perspective on British colonialism which also opens up new possibilities for the writing of history itself.
Subaltern Lives Subaltern Lives uses biographical fragments of the lives of convicts, captives, sailors, slaves, indentured labourers and indigenous peoples to build a fascinating new picture of colonial life in the nineteenth-century Indian Ocean. Moving between India, Africa, Mauritius, Burma, Singapore, Ceylon, the Andaman Islands and the Australian colonies, Clare Anderson offers fresh readings of the nature and significance of ‘networked’ Empire. She reveals the importance of penal
possibility of collaboration with genealogists. In particular, in its rereading of gendered aspects of the 1857 Indian revolt, Subaltern Lives has drawn on biographical details that are simply unavailable to historians who are strait-jacketed in or by ‘official’, institutionalised archives.48 46 48 47 Stoler, Along the Archival Grain, pp. 33–4. Trouillot, Silencing the Past, p. 105. For an important recent intervention on academic/genealogical collaboration in the Australian convict context,
sentence to life transportation to the Andamans. The case opens up a series of fascinating questions. It reveals that defendant and witness had social connections in their natal city of Allahabad. It gives insights into evidence of sexual violence against Eurasian women during 1857, as well as Wahabism in India and the life of Muslim elites in the early colonial Andamans. Finally, through an analysis of Bennett’s changing accounts of her experience, we are able to see the drawing of clear lines
but they are relevant to the records of various colonial departments: in letters, notes and messages sent between officials; accounts of public works; police books; hospital registers and post-mortem reports; petitions; and criminal trial proceedings. Many of these sources anchor individuals to their date of transportation or ship, for both were important means of establishing convict identity. Thus, glimpses of particular moments in a convict’s penal time come into view. Unlike the other Indian
punctuated with the noise of slaps, kicks and beatings.62 But, the apparently minimal social lines of distinction maintained by convicts, slaves, apprentices and others extended to some extent to their European overseers too. In 1830, for example, a group of convicts and overseers were caught together in the act of selling illegally distilled liquor.63 Extraordinarily, in 1833 the government set up an enquiry to investigate allegations that the chief overseer, William Clover, owed one convict 80