Unmooring the Komagata Maru

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Charting Colonial Trajectories

Edited by Rita Dhamoon, Davina Bhandar, Renisa Mawani, and Satwinder Kaur Bains.

In 1914, the SS Komagata Maru crossed oceans and jurisdictions – Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Japan, and West Bengal – to arrive on the west coast of Canada. Citing regulations designed to limit the immigration of Indians, Canadian officials refused the ship and its passengers entry and detained them for two months in Vancouver Harbour. Most of the 376 passengers were then forcibly returned to India.

Unmooring the Komagata Maru challenges conventional Canadian historical accounts of the incident by drawing from multiple disciplines and fields to consider the international and colonial dimensions within the context of political resistance, migration, cultural memory, and nation-building. Drawing from various disciplines, the collection situates the history of South Asians in Canada within a larger global-imperial history, emphasizing the ways in which the Komagata Maru incident is related to issues of colonialism.

The contributors offer not only nuanced interpretations of the ship’s journey but also a critical reading of Canadian multiculturalism through past events and their commemoration. Ultimately, they caution against narratives that present the ship’s journey as a dark moment in the history of an otherwise redeemed nation. Unmooring the Komagata Maru demonstrates that, more than a hundred years later, the voyage of the Komagata Maru has yet to reach its conclusion.

Scholars and students of postcolonial studies, transnational studies, Canadian studies, South Asian studies, Canadian history, politics, sociology, and critical ethnic studies will find much to interest them in this book. It will also find an audience within the South Asian diaspora.

Publisher: UBC Press