Making_Medical_Ideologies_Indentured_Lab - 1 Making Medical...

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1 Making Medical Ideologies: Indentured Labor in Mauritius * Yoshina Hurgobin Introduction This chapter investigates how and why sugar estate owners in one Indian Ocean 1 context—Mauritius—contributed to the making of a medical ideology 2 that regimented the “body” of labor. While exist- ing historiography of the relationship between colonial India and the British Empire in the tropics emphasizes the role of India as a cen- ter of sub-imperialism, 3 this chapter argues that plantation colonies with their regulative security state apparatus, in collaboration with the Indian colonial state, acted as the source of particular medical ideologies and practices concerning indentured workers. By drawing on the experiences of health administration of indentured immigrant workers in Mauritius, a sugar colony in the Indian Ocean, this chap- ter highlights how medical ideologies concerning workers’ health and the control of pandemics among workers were contingent on various factors (such as cost-cutting measures, perceptions, and physicality of climates) and were formed diversely either in Mauritius or in medical circles in Calcutta. Labor Historiography of India Labor history is often viewed through the lens of class formation. Subaltern Studies scholars sought to replace the issue of class formation with the notion of a given static idea of community in order to explain the continuity of a peasant consciousness among working classes. In
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2 Yoshina Hurgobin this context, it has been argued that community acted as a conceptual category, which could not be subsumed within the capital’s hegemony. According to Subaltern Studies historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, in predominantly precapitalist societies, workers’ mentalities could not be distilled out of the ties they were born into, namely, caste, region, religion, and language. 4 Such ties thus entrapped workers in a hierar- chical culture, which, in the case of Bengal, allowed bhadralok (liter- ally meaning “gentlemen”) trade union leaders to pave the political way for workers. 5 Thus the nebulous process of the emergence of class consciousness was stymied by the very existence of precapitalist peas- ant community consciousness. In contrast to this “subaltern” perspec- tive, Rajnarayan Chandavarkar’s history of labor politics in Bombay argues that working classes did not constitute a homogeneous entity and that class was not a given category but a social formation that was constantly in the process of making and unmaking itself through interaction and conflict between different political forces. Such politi- cal conflicts informed social relations among diverse socioeconomic groups and, in turn, shaped the responses and perceptions of domi- nant institutions toward historically subordinated socioeconomic groups. 6 Chandavarkar further refused the primacy of cultural norms and structure as unchanging notions. While these historical debates between votaries of class and community provide insights into labor
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  • Fall '11
  • Arthur
  • The American, Indentured servant, Indian Ocean, Mauritius, indentured workers

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