Talk to look at migration, legal history through ship’s journey

Renisa Mawani

A University of British Columbia professor will visit the UO to discuss early 20th century migration and legal history through the movements of a single ship across three oceans.

Renisa Mawani will speak Thursday, Nov. 7, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Swindells Room. Her talk, “Across Oceans of Law,” examines the S.S. Komagata Maru, which in 1914 left Hong Kong for Vancouver carrying 376 Punjabi migrants. Chartered by railway contractor Gurdit Singh, the ship and its passengers were denied entry into Canada and eventually deported to Calcutta.

The lecture is drawn from Mawani’s latest book, “Across Oceans of Law,” in which she retells the well-known story of the Komagata Maru. Drawing on what she terms “oceans as method,” a mode of thinking and writing that repositions land and sea, Mawani places the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans into conversation to track the circulating legalities that connected the dominions, colonies and territories; the shifting intensities of racial, colonial and legal violence that joined indigenous dispossession, transatlantic slavery and Indian indenture to so-called “free” migration; and the transoceanic repertoires of anticolonial critique that challenged the empire’s underlying racial, spatial and temporal divides.

By following the movements of a single ship and bringing these three oceans into sharper view, “Across Oceans of Law” offers a novel method of writing colonial legal history.

Mawani is a professor of sociology and chair of the Law and Society Program at the University of British Columbia. She works in the fields of critical theory and colonial legal history and has published widely on law, colonialism and legal geography.

The lecture is part of the “Race, Ethnicities, and Inequalities” colloquium, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Society, Office of the Provost and School of Law. Event details can be found on the center’s website.