Deconstructing the Colonialist Conception of Indentured Labour: Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies as a Counter Historical Narrative


  • Namitha Ann Thomas Assistant Professor Ethiraj College for Women Chennai, India.


Migration, Power, History, Postcolonial, Diaspora


The wide spread assumption among social scientists and historians was that indentured labour was essentially a new form of slavery.  But, according to critic R.B. Allen, such assumptions only “retrace the colonialist and nationalist discourses in a contemporary form†(Bates). He suggests the need for a careful examination of different migrant experiences from a subaltern perspective. Through his historical novel, Amitav Ghosh explores the journey of the first batch of Indian diaspora, the indentured labourers of the 19th century who supplied cheap labour to the British after slavery was abolished. This paper aims to explore indentured labour in Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and examines how this subject aids in making the novel a counter-historical narrative. It attempts to examine how Ghosh’s novel serves to break the historical meta-narrative of migration by tracing the heterogeneity and the complex power structure embedded within the idea of a migrant community.


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