Convicts, Commodities, and Connections in British Asia and the Indian Ocean, 1789-1866
journal contributionposted on 22.03.2019, 13:14 by Clare Anderson
This article explores the transportation of Indian convicts to the port cities of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean during the period 1789 to 1866. It considers the relationship between East India Company transportation and earlier and concurrent British Crown transportation to the Americas and Australia. It is concerned in particular with the interconnection between convictism and enslavement in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. Examining the roots of transportation in South Asia in the repressive policies of the East India Company, especially in relation to its occupation of land and expropriation of resources, it moves on to discuss aspects of convicts’ lives in Moulmein, Singapore, Mauritius, and Aden. This includes their labour regime and their relationship to other workers. It argues that Indian convict transportation was part of a carceral circuit of repression and coerced labour extraction that was intertwined with the expansion of East India Company governance and trade. The Company used transportation as a means of removing resistant subjects from their homes, and of supplying an unfree labour force to develop commodity exports and to build the infrastructure necessary for the establishment, population, and connection of littoral nodes. However, the close confinement and association of convicts during transportation rendered the punishment a vector for the development of transregional political solidarities, centred in and around the Company's port cities.