Gender, Power, and Coerced Migration: Indian Female Convicts in the Straits Settlements in the 19th Century

Friday, January 3, 2020: 2:10 PM
Gramercy (Sheraton New York)
Anand Yang, University of Washington
Over 25,000 criminals and political prisoners were exiled from colonial India to penal settlements across the Indian Ocean over the course of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Only about 2 to 3 percent of that total consisted of women, mostly those sentenced to transportation in perpetuity or an extended period of time for murder, often of their partners, or other violent crimes such as infanticide or armed robbery. My paper examines these largely invisible female convicts both in terms of the sexual and reproductive roles they were expected to fulfill in the overwhelmingly male-dominated convict world of Penang and Singapore and the lives of servitude they were required to lead as part of their punishment. It focuses particularly on the ways in which they negotiated family and work in their highly hierarchical and gendered world of convicts and colonialism to fashion lives partly of their own making.