GraduateStudent
Riyad Koya

Indian Diaspora and Personal Law: From Imperial to National Citizenship

 The transportation of Indian indentured laborers to various British sugar colonies in the nineteenth century generated a peculiar legal problem: under what law would the marriages of Indian migrants be governed? My project investigates demands made by Indian indenturedlaborers and their descendants for the legal recognition of their marriages according to system of religious personal laws that prevailed in British India. Laborers invoked their status as imperial citizens to petition colonial governments in Fiji, British Guiana, Trinidad, and Mauritius for noninterference in the religious sphere of marriage. Unlike republican conceptions of citizenship, imperial citizenship relied upon languages of loyalty, allegiance, community, and subjecthood to amplify the legitimacy of such petitions. By consulting colonial archival records, case law, andEnglish and vernacular public sphere debates, I analyze the significance of imperial citizenship for claims to political equality and religious freedom within the multiethnic British Empire. My project explores the complex legal regime that emerged for the “transnational” governance ofmarriage within the British Empire, offering a prehistory to postcolonial debates on multicultural citizenship, gender equality, and legal pluralism.

GraduateStudent