South Africa to India

Narratives of a Century of Repatriation (1871–1975)

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  • 1 University of the Western CapeDepartment of History, South Africa, Cape Town
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This article focuses on the repatriation of Indians from South Africa, first under indentured labour contracts, and then under modified schemes between 1914 and 1975 applicable to all Indians. While the historiography of Indian South Africans prioritises movement of Indians to South Africa, this article is about reverse movement to India. It analyses narratives of repatriation that emerge from official sources in India and South Africa such as statistics, reports of officials in India, petitions and letters from repatriates and observations of public figures. It then shifts focus to a Cape-based immigration archive that focuses on Cape Town repatriates, thus drawing Cape Town more closely into the scholarly field of Indian Ocean mobilities but also firmly into the historiography of Indian South Africans, hitherto predominantly focussed on the former provinces, Natal and the Transvaal. By bringing Cape Town repatriates into the fuller story, an alternative narrative to the dominant one of coercion and suffering is offered.

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