Organized Panel Session
The nineteenth century was a pivotal period of imperial conquest and global migration that influenced how and where people moved around the world. However, the twentieth century brought wars, migration regimes, and modes of transportation of an unprecedented scale. Nowhere was this more apparent than in South and Southeast Asia. While it is well-known that imperial recruiters relied on Chinese and Indian labor, the relationship between regions under colonialism remains understudied. Many empires introduced legal codes, passport systems, or mass internment that intentionally targeted and limited the mobility of migrants. At the same time, various state actors relied on the swift movement of soldiers and civilians to pursue imperial agendas.
The papers in this panel represent collaboration between scholars at different career stages and from different institutions examining the relationship between mobility and immobility in South and Southeast Asia. Sandy Chang tracks how gender shaped the experiences of Chinese migrants entering Malaya during the era of Chinese exclusion. Kate Imy considers how migration and confinement temporarily undermined racial hierarchies during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in the Second World War. During the same conflict, Sana Aiyar shows, soldiers from East and West Africa moved into Burma, fighting at the borders of imperial influence. Meanwhile, for Antara Datta, the wartime evacuation of Indians from Burma cast a long shadow over political negotiations regarding citizenship in the 1960s. Together, these papers shed light on how twentieth century mobility--and immobility--shaped colonial and post-colonial systems of migration and racial hierarchy around the world.