D – Transregional connections and entangled regions

Colonial borderlands, nationalism and foreign others: Mobility controls, practices of citizenship and the definition of marginal subjects in the 20th century

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    D – Transregional connections and entangled regions
Convenor
  • Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada (University of Cambridge)
  • Helena F. S. Lopes (University of Bristol)
  • Frances O’Morchoe (Parami Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Sundeep Lidher (University of Cambridge)
Chair
  • Gilad Ben-Nun (Leipzig University)
Commentator
  • Gilad Ben-Nun (Leipzig University)
Panelists
  • Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada (University of Cambridge)
  • Helena F. S. Lopes (University of Bristol)
  • Frances O’Morchoe (Parami Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
  • Sundeep Lidher (University of Cambridge)

Papers

  • Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada
    Forgotten heirs of Japan: Nikkei minorities at the margins of the Mexican Nation, 1888-1952

    Forgotten heirs of Japan: Nikkei minorities at the margins of the Mexican Nation, 1888-1952

    The idea of Latin America is interwoven with European expansion and colonialism that began in the 16thcentury when the Florentine navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, landed in these territories. The prefix Latin appears in the 1850s, when the racial formation of this geographical space emerged to establish belonging to the ‘latin race’, forge international routes and solve conflicting racial practices. This legacy has shaped the communities around which modern nation-states in this region have been imagined. In Mexico, the discourse of mestizaje (mixing of races) alludes to the historical encounter between European settlers and Indigenous populations which inspired conceptions of nationalism in the 20thcentury. This discourse (re)produces racial categories and hierarchies grounded in its colonial roots. As such, it draws a line of belonging that for the most part excludes both Others within and foreign Others who do not fit his narrative. This paper addresses the latter and interrogates the ways in which Asians negotiate their incorporation in post-colonial spaces dominated by European self-conceptions of the nation state and national identity. It focuses on Japanese immigrants to Mexico from 1888 to 1952, who make up a stream of the long-distance large-scale transpacific migrations that have often been overlooked in history. Global capitalist expansion, modernization, and demographic changes compelled many to migrate and others to seek competitive labour, while ideas about modernization, eugenics and desirability of races segmented human movements. Drawing on oral histories of descendants of Japanese immigrants (Nikkei), this paper sheds light on the factors that impinged on the opportunities and constraints that they encountered, and reveals the limits of the allegedly all-inclusive post-racial national politics of mestizaje in Mexico.
  • Helena F. S. Lopes
    Imperial In-Betweens: The Hong Kong Portuguese during the Second World War

    Imperial In-Betweens: The Hong Kong Portuguese during the Second World War

    This paper explores transimperial encounters and global entanglements during the Second World War in South China through the case of the Hong Kong Portuguese community in Hong Kong. Having been some of the earliest and most numerous non-Chinese residents of Hong Kong, the Portuguese Eurasians – who hailed predominantly from Macau but had wider networks of contacts – occupied a fluid space at the crossroads of the British and the Portuguese imperial spheres in China. Their position was further blurred during the war, when Portugal remained neutral while Britain fought against Japan in an alliance with China. The conflict created work and livelihood constraints but also opportunities for members of this community. More than two hundred were taken as prisoners of war, many staffed Allied resistance and intelligence networks, some sought to assist refugees through relief initiatives, and others privileged business activities and economic survival. Thousands left and moved to Macau with other refugees in a process of colonial transplantation that had an important role in easing the British re-takeover of Hong Kong in 1945. British colonial authorities had different perspectives on the Portuguese Eurasians despite their largely pro-British attitudes during the war: excluding them from wartime evacuation plans in an early stage of the war, embracing their contribution to the Allied war effort but questioning their Britishness during the conflict, and seeking to control their return migration to Hong Kong in the immediate post-war. This presentation explores how the Hong Kong Portuguese were perceived by agents of different states and highlights their important – albeit largely unacknowledged – contribution to Allied resistance in South China. Drawing on multi-sited archival research, this paper sheds light on the ambiguities of neutrality in East Asia, on the role of overlooked colonial subjects in wartime resistance, as well as on the little-known history of the Portuguese diaspora in China in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Frances O’Morchoe
    Majorities, minorities, and the self-Other identification of the nation in Burma

    Majorities, minorities, and the self-Other identification of the nation in Burma

    In the summer of 1956, Chinese Communist troops’ long-standing occupation of Burma’s Wa States came to public attention, throwing Burma-China relations into crisis. Troops were discovered to have entered Burmese territory in the Wa hills in pursuit of the Kuomintang, and to have remained there for several years. The Cold War context is central to understanding the different responses to the border affair from the Rangoon press and the government. In Burma after independence there was a mismatch between popular Burman nationalism and the nationalist ideologies propagated by the government. Popular nationalism focused on Othering foreign enemies, whereas the government sought to instil a nationalist ideology by highlighting the threat to the nation from Others within. Among the Burman majority in this period there was a greater democratisation of the debate over borders, which centred around how independent Burma should respond to the polarising of international relations after the war. Yet at the same time these debates relating to borders in the Wa country went on at an even greater remove from borderland minorities such as the Wa. Just when the borderland inhabitants were theoretically rendered full and equal citizens of the states which were disputing the border, that was when they became least important in determining the border. This analysis of border-and state-making at the margins reveals the twentieth century roots of ethnic politics in Myanmar today. A study of majorities’ and minorities’ conceptions of the colonial-imposed borders during a Cold War-era border crisis gives insight into the self-Other definitions of the nation at the margins. Burman politicians after independence blamed the British for creating ethnic divisions, while ironically themselves setting out to marginalise those who did not fit into the notional category of the Burmese nation.
  • Sundeep Lidher
    Bordering Britain: the evolution of citizenship and immigration policy, 1945 – 1962

    Bordering Britain: the evolution of citizenship and immigration policy, 1945 – 1962

    This paper will consider the evolution of citizenship and immigration policy in late-imperial Britain. During the years 1945 and 1962 non-white British subjects and Commonwealth citizens from South Asia, the West Indies and West Africa exercised their legal right to enter and settle in Britain in increasing numbers. Existing histories of British citizenship and immigration policy in this period largely take legislative mobility controls, namely the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, as the starting point in the story of British immigration policy. These histories also tend to centre domestic factors and actors as the primary drivers and executors of Britain’s restrictive gate-keeping practices. This paper seeks to reframe the historical emergence of British citizenship and immigration policy in the years between 1945 and 1962 by analysing developments through an extra-national lens, primarily in the context of Britain’s relationship with the wider Empire and Commonwealth. This wider geographical framework of analysis reveals that the existing preoccupation with British immigration legislation bypasses an elaborate web of globally located mobility controls, which were employed by British officials in the pre-1962 period to informally curtail the legal movement of non-white subjects and citizens to Britain. The extra-domestic framework of analysis also allows us to situate Britain’s citizenship and immigration policy in this period within a much longer history of discriminatory membership and mobility controls on non-white subjects and citizens in the Empire and Commonwealth at large.

Abstract

This panel aims to discuss overlooked histories shaping identities, nation-states and post-colonial contexts across world regions in the 20th century. These histories relate to past processes whose margins shed light on legacies of imperialism, colonialism and nationalism as present and enduring. Although they have been elided from history, these histories connect people and places who interact blurring or reinforcing demarcations of belonging and exclusion in critical ways. As such, these histories allow for the re-conceptualization of power actors, structures and dynamics embodied in the fluctuating, (in)visible, and tangible borders constituting both dominant and minority groups. Centring on Japanese immigrants to Mexico from 1888 to 1952, Jessica Harada interrogates the ways in which Asians negotiate their incorporation in post-colonial spaces dominated by European self-conceptions of the nation. Helena Lopes explores the impact of the Second World War on the Hong Kong Portuguese Eurasians, a community of intermediaries at the crossroads of different imperial spheres. Frances O’Morchoe examines how processes of nation-making were destabilised in the Wa states, on the border with China, in the first decade of Burma’s independence. Finally, Sundeep Lidher analyses the evolution of British citizenship and immigration policy in the years between 1945 and 1962 through an extra-national lens, focusing on non-white British subjects and Commonwealth citizens. The overlooked histories of the marginal minorities discussed in these four papers challenge hegemonic epistemological perspectives that symbolically and materially confine either indigenous or foreign settlers into different categorical, temporal and spatial demarcations that nevertheless remain shifting. This panel thus addresses the indeterminacy of cultural, political and racial difference, which is deemed relevant to tackle historical injuries of imperialism, colonialism and trade expansion. At the same time, examining these histories generates potential for transformative models that explain relatedness, create a sense of connectedness, and acknowledge the power differentials caused by asymmetrical encounters.