Abacus and Mah Jong

Sino-Mauritian Settlement and Economic Consolidation


This work aims to engage with the complexities surrounding evaluations of ethnic and national identity - a focus of recent interest by scholars from a range of disciplines including political science, anthropology and economics - through a case study of Chinese migration to and settlement in Mauritius. The book investigates the complex mechanisms and processes involved in the transplantation of groups of people within the colonial context, and in particular seeks to create a tableau within which the construction of a mythology of migration is set against the realities of negotiation and communication with the wider society.
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Biographical Note

Marina Carter obtained her doctorate at Oxford University and has published extensively on the social history of the Mascarene islands, including a number of monographs, co-authored volumes and a host of articles.

James Ng Foong Kwong studied at the University of Reunion [France] where he produced two theses on the subject of Chinese migration to Mauritius. He co-authored Forging the Rainbow: Labour Immigrants in British Mauritius [Alfran, 1997].

Table of contents

General Editor’s Introduction

The Chinese Diaspora and the Colonial Indian Ocean
The Chinese Presence on Mauritius
Historiography and the Chinese Diaspora

1. Slaves, Convicts, Field Workers and Artisans:
The Chinese in the Colonial Labour Diasporas
A Note on Nomenclature
Dutch Settlements in the Indian Ocean
Chinese immigrants in the 18th Century Isle of France
The Importation of Chinese Labourers and Convicts into British Mauritius
Chinese Artisans in 19th Century Mauritius

2. The ‘Celestial Shopkeeper’:
The Growth of a Chinese Commercial Class in Mauritius
Chinese Traders in the Isle of France and Early British Mauritius
Early Commercial Activities of Chinese Settlers
A Temporary Setback: the Bank Robbery
A New Wave of Immigrants and Geographical Dispersal of the Community
Chinese Entrepreneurs and the Rum Industry
The Chinese Commercial Class: Contemporary Appraisals

3. Expansion and Diversification:
Sino-Mauritians and Economic Development
Diversification of the Chinese Business Sector in 19th Century Mauritius
Developments in the 20th Century Retail Sector
Diversification in Employment and Business in 20th Century Colonial Mauritius
Sino-Mauritians and the Post Independence Mauritian Economic Sector

4. Managing Identity:
The Politics of Community Formation and Networking
Preserving the Brand – Policing and Governance within the Chinese community
Credit and Clan Networks
Inter Community Links
Chinese Networks Across the Indian Ocean and Remigration Strategies
Struggle for Representation: Political Institutions and the Chinese Community
Managing Minority Status– Sino-Mauritians in the Post-Independence Period
Sino-Mauritians and Regional Networking

5. The Construction of Community:
Family, Kin, Social Networks
Family life of Chinese Settlers in Mauritius
Religion in the Life of the Overseas Chinese
Cultural Organizations and Leisure Activities
Issues of ‘Loss’ and Strategies of Adaptation: Language and Education Debates

6. Sino-Mauritians in the Making of a Multi-Ethnic Society
Inter-Community Networks and Economic Integration
Social Integration: Immigrants and Creoles
The Fight against Stereotyping and the Search for Recognition


Appendix 1. Occupations of the Population of Chinese Origin, 1901
Appendix 2. The Distribution of the Chinese Population in the Districts of Mauritus, 1921
Appendix 3. The Urbanisation of the Population of Chinese Origin in Mauritius, 1952
Appendix 4. Two of Many: Case Studies of Sino-Mauritians


Academics engaged in scholarly debates about ethnicity, nationalism, postcolonial theory and notions of hybridity, and all those with an interest in Mauritius, and Chinese and diaspora studies more generally


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