Not Fit to Stay: Public Health Panics and South Asian Exclusion examines how and why South Asians were prevented from immigrating to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California between 1900 and 1920. In the first decades of the twentieth century, all Asian immigrants to Canada and the United States faced opposition to their arrival and settlement. While racism and fear of labour competition were at the heart of this resistance, panic soon swept up and down the West Coast of North America over unsubstantiated public health concerns. Public leaders--including physicians, union leaders, civil servants, journalists, and politicians--latched on to these health concerns as the basis for the exclusion of the South Asians, who were said to suffer from medical conditions and diseases attributed to their race. Even though many officials knew the public health argument had no grounds, they promoted it to support their racist views and concerns about labour. Legislation to restrict the immigration of South Asians took effect in Canada in 1908 and in the United States in 1917. This book is an important study of how white North Americans saw first-wave South Asian immigrants as separate from, and inferior to, other groups in the evolving racial hierarchy on the West Coast of North America."-
In 1914, the SS Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver Harbour and was detained for two months. Most of its 376 passengers were then forcibly returned to India. Unmooring the Komagata Maru challenges conventional Canadian historical accounts by considering the international colonial dimensions of the incident. By situating South Asian Canadian history within a global-imperial context, the contributors offer a critical reading of Canada's multicultural credentials. Ultimately, they caution against narratives that present the incident as a dark moment in the history of an otherwise redeemed nation. A hundred years later, the voyage of the Komagata Maru has yet to reach its conclusion.
Released to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru, this expanded and fully revised edition will stand as the most thoroughly researched account of the notorious Komagata Maru incident. The event centres on the ship's nearly four hundred Punjabi passengers, who sought entry into Canada at Vancouver in the summer of 1914, only to be chased away by a Canadian warship. This story became a symbol of prejudicial immigration policies, which Canadians today reject, and served to fuel the emerging anti-British movement in India. It deserves the careful re-examination it gets in this thoroughly updated edition that provides a contemporary perspective on a defining moment in Canadian, British Empire, and Indian history.
In this richly detailed study, Kamala Nayar documents the social and cultural transformation of the Punjabi community in British Columbia. From their initial settlement in the rural Skeena region to the communities that later developed in larger urban centres, The Punjabis in British Columbia illustrates the complex and diverse experiences of an immigrant community that merits greater attention. Exploring themes of gender, employment, rural and urban migrant life, and the relationships between the Punjabis and surrounding First Nations and other immigrant groups, Nayar creates a portrait of a community in transition. Shedding light on the ways in which economic circumstances affect immigrant communities, Nayar presents findings from interviews conducted with over one hundred participants. She details the relocation of Punjabi populations from the Skeena region to British Columbia's lower mainland during the decline of the forestry and fishery industries, how their second migration changed their professional and personal lives, and how their history continues to shape the identities and experiences of Punjabis in Canada today. A nuanced look at the complexities of social and cultural adaptation, The Punjabis in British Columbia adds an essential perspective to what it means to be Canadian.
Early twentieth-century Calcutta was not just a point of passage within the British Empire, but a key center of colonial power; a crucial laboratory of imperial repressive practices cultivated and applied elsewhere. Histories of the Komagata Maru or the Ghadar Movement offer rewarding perspectives on Punjabi Sikh migrants, but fail to adequately investigate why the ship was brought to Bengal; why overwhelming locally organized imperial vigilance was imposed on ships that arrived soon afterward; and the extent to which the operation of the repressive colonial state apparatus influenced the intersections of anticolonial strands in Calcutta and its surroundings during 1914-15. This monograph traces this early wartime clash of positions and the organized postwar transmission of the memory of the Komagata Maru as a symbol of resistance among the Sikh workers in the industrial centers of southwest Bengal. It acts as a link in a chain of scholarship that has hitherto traced the spread of radical anticolonial currents among the Punjabi Sikh diaspora that connected Punjab with Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Americas.