Labouring under the law : gender and the legal administration of Indian immigrants under indenture in colonial Natal, 1860-1907.
Sheik, Nafisa Essop.
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This study is a gendered historical analysis of the legal administration of Indian Immigrants in British Colonial Natal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By focusing primarily on the attempts of the Natal Government to intervene in the personal law of especially indentured and ex-indentured Indians, this thesis presents an analysis of the role that gender played in the conceptualization and promulgation of the indentured labour scheme in Natal, and in the subsequent regulation of the lives of Indian immigrants in the Colony. It traces the developments in the administration of Indian women, especially, from the beginning of the indenture system in colonial Natal until the passage of the Indian Marriages Bill of 1907 and attempts to contextualize arguments around these themes within broader colonial discourses and debates, as well as to examine the particularity of such administrative attempts in the Natal context. This study observes the changing nature of 'custom' amongst Indian immigrants and the often simultaneous and contradictory attempts of the Natal colonial administration to at first support, and later, to intervene in what constituted the realm of the customary. Through an analysis of legal administration at different levels of government, this analysis considers the interactions of gender and utilitarian legal discourse under colonialism and, in particular, the complex role of Indian personal law and the ordinary civil laws of the Colony of Natal in both restricting and facilitating the mobility of Indian women brought to Natal under the auspices of the indentured labour system.
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