10 July 2018

BOOK: Renisa MAWANI, Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018). ISBN 978-0-8223-7035-2, $27.95

Next month, Duke University Press will publish a book which looks at an early 20th century case (the journey of the steamship Komagata Maru) in order to explore tensions between the common law and admiralty law.


In 1914 the British-built and Japanese-owned steamship Komagata Maru left Hong Kong for Vancouver carrying 376 Punjabi migrants. Chartered by railway contractor and purported rubber planter Gurdit Singh, the ship and its passengers were denied entry into Canada and two months later were deported to Calcutta. In Across Oceans of Law Renisa Mawani retells this well-known story of the Komagata Maru. Drawing on "oceans as method"—a mode of thinking and writing that repositions land and sea—Mawani examines the historical and conceptual stakes of situating histories of Indian migration within maritime worlds. Through close readings of the ship, the manifest, the trial, and the anticolonial writings of Singh and others, Mawani argues that the Komagata Maru's landing raised urgent questions regarding the jurisdictional tensions between the common law and admiralty law, and, ultimately, the legal status of the sea. By following the movements of a single ship and bringing oceans into sharper view, Mawani traces British imperial power through racial, temporal, and legal contests and offers a novel method of writing colonial legal history.


Renisa Mawani is Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia and author of Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871–1921.


List of Illustrations
Introduction. Currents and Countercurrents of Law and Radicalism
1. The Free Sea: A Juridical Space
2. The Ship as Legal Person
3. Land, Sea, and Subjecthood
4. Anticolonial Vernaculars of Indigeneity
5. The Fugitive Sojourns of Gurdit Singh
Epilogue. Race, Jurisdiction, and the Free Sea Reconsidered

More information with the publisher. The book can be pre-ordered here

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