A discourse of care undergirded colonial political rationality during the era of Indian indenture-ship in the Caribbean. In this essay the voyage of the Salsette from Calcutta to Trinidad in 1858 serves as an entry point into a broader conversation on the repeated archival invocation of care toward coolies during their passage to the plantation colonies. Care, which is synonymous with neither affect nor benevolence, refers to a series of techniques aimed at managing bodies traded for profit. Analyzing the apparatuses through which care for indentured servants was administered, the essay illuminates the racialized and caste-based knowledge systems that were mobilized to “make live” the reserve of potential labor force aboard. Concomitantly, it reads the colonial archive for moments in which indentured servants register their presence through their responses to being or refusal to be cared for and considers the stakes of such refusal for the colonial capitalist project.
Life Unadministered: Colonial Care and the Indian Coolie
Najnin Islam is assistant professor of English at Colorado College. Her research focuses on postemancipation labor economies in the English-speaking Caribbean and the Indian Ocean world. She is currently working on her first book manuscript that engages the historical archive and cultural productions on Indian indentureship to offer a connected history of race and caste and its significance for colonial capitalism after emancipation in the Caribbean.
Najnin Islam; Life Unadministered: Colonial Care and the Indian Coolie. Small Axe 1 March 2023; 27 (1 (70)): 1–18. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-10461770
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