Speaker:  Sudarshana Chanda, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

This seminar explores how, in post-WWII British Malaya, banishment became conflated with another category of movement, repatriation. It further examines the new ways postwar "repatriation" schemes inflected categorizations of belonging for people with plural ethnic identities. In the aftermath of WWII, hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war, surrendered personnel, and "foreign" civilian occupants were voluntarily repatriated from Malaya to their home countries. At the same time, the forced movement of many people — which derived from multidecadal colonial banishment policies — was also rebranded as "repatriation." Both types of movement out of Malaya involved encounters with the colonial state and an implicit redefinition of citizenship or belonging based on ethnic categories.

Archival snapshots reveal instances of racial profiling by British authorities, in which they categorized someone's race in ways directly contrary to the banishee's own sense of identity in order to justify their removal. This seminar shows how trailing spouses, children, and parents of those banished or deported were forced to navigate a complex and bureaucratic system of asserting ethnic identity and national belonging to deal with the colonial state's blunt use of population moving tools. In following inter-ethnic relationships on the move, scholars see the complexity of ethnic identity in late colonial Malaya laid bare. These scenarios compel scholars and policymakers to consider an entirely new meaning of the word "repatriation." The speaker suggests that repatriation was not a return to one's own country but a re-patriation in the sense of being assigned a new national identity.

Open to Harvard ID Holders Only: Admittance will be on a first come–first served basis. Coffee &Tea Provided.

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.