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Article

The Chinese in Colonial Myanmar  

Yi Li

Exchanges of people and goods between Myanmar (formerly Burma) and China have a long history spanning over a millennium. However, it was during the British colonial era in Burma (1824–1948) that substantial and consistent migration of ethnic Chinese occurred, laying the foundations of Sino-Burmese communities in present-day Myanmar. Two distinct migration routes were initially taken by Chinese immigrants: the overland route between northern Burma and Yunnan, predominantly used by southwestern Chinese since precolonial days; and the overseas route connecting the southern coast of China with port cities in Southeast Asia, including Rangoon. The latter forms part of the Nanyang Chinese network and was primarily used by immigrants from Fujian and Guangdong provinces. Over time, regional differences between different Chinese immigrant groups blurred, and Chinatowns or Chinese quarters in Rangoon, Mandalay, and other major towns across the colony emerged with distinctive Chinese characters. In colonial Burma, migrants from China constituted a smaller population, were less influential commercially and socially, and were generally less visible than their Indian counterparts. Nonetheless, they were recognized as a distinct ethnic group in the colonial state. Given colonial Burma’s geographic and administrative position, Chinese immigrants, while maintaining strong connections with other Southeast Asian Chinese communities, experienced a unique trajectory under colonial rule, navigating through internal tensions and World War II, and, alongside their multiethnic fellow residents, in British Burma, declared the independence at the beginning of 1948.

Article

Partition and the Reorganization of Commercial Networks  

Rinchan Ali Mirza

The Partition of British India represents one of the largest episodes of involuntary mass migration in recorded history—an estimated 17 million people were displaced because of the event. Among the many changes that resulted from the Partition was the substantive untangling of the business architecture that had developed under the colonial regime. A central feature of the untangling was the separation of the extensive commodity trade network that had developed in areas that went to Pakistan from its agro-processing base that was inherited by areas that became part of post-independence India. The implications of such a restructuring of the business architecture were particularly relevant for Pakistan, which started off with a severe imbalance between its commodity trade and industrial sectors, the former of which was at a much more advanced stage than the latter. The rudimentary industrial base from which Pakistan started off in turn fostered a greater reliance of the state on the private capital of a small business elite when it came to promoting industrial growth. It is the changing dynamics of just such a relationship between the state and a small close knit business elite that has characterized the post-Partition business history of the country.

Article

Tibetan Exiles in India  

Sonika Gupta

Since 1959, after the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet, thousands of Tibetans have lived in protracted exile in India. India hosts the largest number of Tibetan exiles in the world and is also the seat of the Central Tibetan Administration (formerly known as the Tibetan Government in Exile) and the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. The Indian government has made a long-term commitment to Tibetan rehabilitation by setting up tens of designated Tibetan settlements in different parts of the country. These settlements are grouped into agricultural, handcraft-based, and cluster communities. While there has been definite economic and educational progress for the exile community in India, Tibetans continue to be stateless. Since 2000, there has been increased migration from Tibetan settlements in India to North America, Europe, and Australia as people search for a more stable legal status and better life opportunities. The Tibetan settlements in India, with their network of monasteries, schools, and other cultural institutions, remain the primary site of the Tibetan struggle for the homeland that is focused on the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet under conditions of genuine autonomy. Therefore, sustaining these settlements is becoming a critical issue for the Central Tibetan Administration. As the Tibetan struggle for its homeland reaches its seventh decade in exile, it is undergoing parallel processes of institutionalized democratization and political fragmentation along regional and other lines.

Article

Bangladeshis in Italy  

Andrea Priori

The Bangladeshi population in Italy boomed in 1990, spreading from Rome and forming local enclaves shaped by migration chains; it is the second-largest Bangladeshi group in Europe and sees a preponderance of Sunni Muslims, a large majority of working-age men, and poor access of women to employment. Although both Italian institutions and migrant associations promoted a monolithic image of the “Bangladeshi community” as a category of political visibility, Italian Bangladeshis present considerable variety in terms of geographic origin and ideological affiliations and important differences in terms of social origins between endangered middle classes and urban middle classes with steady economic situations. Interaction with the Italian institutions results in further differentiation between “legal” and undocumented migrants, which overlaps, in part, with that between those in northern Italy, where Bangladeshi workers are generally entitled to full rights, and those in Rome and the south, where the informal economy is widespread. The large presence of undocumented working-age men fuels marginality and exploitation, both by natives and co-nationals. Patronage relations between co-nationals are crucial in providing access to emigration, housing, and employment and add to the dynamics of self-organization, especially in the case of secular associations. A peculiar characteristic of Italian Bangladeshis is the tendency to form mononational organizations (both secular and Islamic) that proliferate by virtue of scissions, along with transnationalism and entrepreneurship. In contrast, the new generation tends to move beyond communal introversion and transnationalism, but this is limited to only those with promising careers. Even among young people, extensive areas of marginality exist; this results in the persistence of attitudes typical of the migrant generation and reproduces among those who grew up in Italy the distinction, characteristic of the situation of the migrants, between those who have been successfully incorporated into Italian society and those suffering social exclusion.

Article

Bukharan Trade Networks in Eurasia  

Erika Monahan

Bukharan trade networks functioned as significant conduits to the movement of goods and people throughout Eurasia. Evidence of trade activities of Bukharans in the early modern period extends from the northern shores of Russia, east to China, and south to the Caspian, Iran, and the Indian subcontinent. In the Russian Empire Bukharan merchants became a privileged diaspora community that played a significant role in commercial life of Siberia. In Siberia theyoften maintained commercial and religious ties with their Central Asian communities; they seemed in some cases to established close ties with the Siberian Tatar community as well. Bukharan merchants were not necessarily from the city of Bukhara per se, but rather, probably due to the prestige of Bukhara, the Russian imperial state applied the moniker Bukharan (Bukharetin–singular; Bukhartsy–plural) to merchants that hailed from a variety of Central Asian cities and towns. In Siberia, some Bukharans served the Russian imperial state not only as merchants but also in the service of Russian imperial commercial and diplomatic administration. They served the Russian imperial state in various roles, includingin the customs administration and diplomacy. Commercial and spiritual reasons brought this diaspora community to Siberia. While the Russian state courted Bukharan immigration to Siberia for the economic benefits they could bring, Bukharan immigration to Siberia predated the Russian conquest. Bukharans came as proselytizers to Islam at the behest of Siberian Khan Kuchum, if not earlier. State policy toward them reflected a larger state economic strategy of building and maintaining an expanding empire and the army necessary to the project through activist commercial policies. Bukharans played integral roles in Siberian life yet maintained a distinct Bukharan identity. While their integrated economic life resembled that of Russians enough to elicit strong pressures to rescind their tax advantages, Bukharans defended their rights before the state and before their neighbors with savvy and enjoyed various tax privileges into the early 19th century. Although Bukharans lost market share to the Armenians in Astrakhan and the establishment of direct Russian involvement in theRusso–China trade undermined their role in that trade, Bukharan trade networks continued to be an important part of Eurasian commerce. Bukharans may have increased the share of European wares in their trade portfolios, for example. . Meanwhile, Siberian and transit Bukharans continued to cooperate generations after Siberian Bukharans had been settled in the Russian Empire. In short, Bukharans provided simultaneously adaptive to their new homeland and changing market conditions while, at the same time, maintaining the mercurial distinctness of a mercantile diasporic community. Despite their long-standing roots and presence in the Russian Empire, the imperial state counted them as a distinct population as late as the empire-wide census of 1897. That Bukharans were only subsumed into the category of Tatars by the Soviet state testifies to their enduring presence as a distinct group in the Russian Empire.

Article

Mobilities across European Banglascapes  

Francesco Della Puppa

Bangladeshi migration to Europe began as early as the 1600s, when young Bengali men worked as deckhands on British ships bound for London. The British capital became home to what would become, in the following centuries, the largest Bangladeshi community in Europe. However, in the 1970s, the United Kingdom and other continental European countries that had traditionally been destinations for international migration (e.g., the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Switzerland), tightened their control over new arrivals. At the same time, Mediterranean European countries, which had recently undergone profound social and economic transformations, established themselves as new destinations for migration from the “Global South.” This meant that by the 1990s, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal were among the main destinations for Bangladeshi migration to Europe. The next twenty years saw the 2008 global economic crisis (which hit southern European countries particularly hard) as well as changes in the expectations and the legal and family status of Bangladeshi migrants in Mediterranean Europe (the second generation was born, and the first generation had acquired European passports). Hence, a new migration began to take shape, with Bangladeshi communities again moving to London, but this time from Mediterranean Europe. However, the migratory mobility of these Bangladeshi Europeans has not ended: while some have settled in the United Kingdom, even acquiring British citizenship, many others, because of the disillusionments concerning the United Kingdom as well as the implementation of Brexit, have decided to retrace their steps partially, returning to Mediterranean Europe or settling in other European countries. Meanwhile, many unskilled Bangladeshi workers who previously migrated to Libya also find themselves undertaking a further migration, crossing the Mediterranean to claim asylum in Italy. This demonstrates the ever-increasing complexity of interwoven mobilities across European Banglascapes.

Article

The Wakhan Quadrangle  

Hermann Kreutzmann

The Wakhan Quadrangle emerged as a geopolitical constellation and situation in which a less important area—in terms of demographic size, political power, and economic wealth—can be perceived as a central arena for the ambitions of imperial powers. Since the second half of the 19th century, four major players participated in the competition as actors with competing stakes. Afghanistan, China, Great Britain, and Tsarist Russia turned to each other with spatial interests of expansion. The immediate protagonists were involved with or influencing one of the regional actors: Badakhshan, Xinjiang, Kashmir, and the Emirate of Bokhara are four representatives closing in on Wakhan, which still had maintained its autonomy as a quasi-independent principality in an economically marginal and remote high-mountain location with non-demarcated and shifting limits of authority. Overall political tensions grew during the hot phase of the Great Game. Upon the precautionary move into exile by its last ruler, Mir Ali Mardan Shah, Wakhan became an object of bargaining in the imperial endgame before international boundaries were delineated by the supreme powers. Wakhan ended up as a divided territory between Afghanistan and tsarist Russia, functioned as a spatial buffer between British India and its successors against Central Asian neighbors since, and its limits became a hermetic boundary between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Since delineating the boundaries, only the Afghan section is easily visible on maps and commonly perceived as the Wakhan strip.

Article

Deciphering the History of Modern Afghanistan  

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi

The historiography of modern Afghanistan is undergoing a transformation that involves tension between varieties of data, on one hand, and interpretative frameworks for that information, on the other hand. Textual sources in multiple languages are increasingly in dialogue, as are local and global voices addressing the history of Afghanistan. Growing awareness of inter-regional and international forces impacting the geographical space of Afghanistan has generated conversations among scholars working within and across historical eras and geographic frames of reference. Transnational and trans-temporal orientations have contributed to an interdisciplinary historical discourse where textual information shares analytical space with cultural, material, and visual data from modern Afghanistan. Greater volumes and more types of textual data have led to a historiographical shift away from isolationist views of the country to analyses that treat the territory and people of Afghanistan in relation to a wide assortment of external contexts, actors, and resources. For example, the increasing use of Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and colonial sources is revealing an ever-widening and highly influential range of relationships between Afghans and non-Afghans inside and outside the territory of Afghanistan that are being examined through prisms such as technology transfer and intellectual exchange, architectural and infrastructure development, literary and sartorial practices, and patterns of social and spatial mobility. These and other exciting historiographical developments are impeded from realizing their full potential by enduring explanatory recourse to undertheorized, decontextualized invocations of ethnicity; a perpetual emphasis on warfare; and an exclusionary analytical focus on Kabul as a metaphor for the country as a whole that combine to convolute understandings of global forces and their impact on state–society relations in Afghanistan. Together, these issues point toward a conspicuous gap in the historiography of Afghanistan, namely, a fundamental absence of attention to how power works there. Questions about power are political, and ironically, while the historiography of Afghanistan revolves around state politics, however limited to a handful of pinnacle elites, there is little political critique at work in this discourse as a whole. Whether based proportionally more on coercion or consensus, power involves classification and representation, and in the historiography of Afghanistan, there are few questions asked about the categories of analysis, that is, when they arose, how they congeal, what purpose they serve, for whom, and why. Power has a spatiality to it, and it is rare to find a sustained discussion of how power operates differently across distinct geographies in Afghanistan, or in short, how power in Kabul looks elsewhere. Power also involves culture, in particular the manipulation of language, and here again despite constant invocations of Pashtun-ness, there is a scarcity of attention to how Pashto the language and the culture it carries are situated in the state structure and historiography of Afghanistan, that is, the relationship between Pashto and the national elites in Kabul. Power also has a history of its own, often expressed in episodes of extreme violence in service of empire, and once more, the historiography of Afghanistan tends to elide the enduring impacts of imperialism, let alone offer paths of resistance to it as an aspirationally unrestrained coercive agency in principle. The people of Afghanistan have suffered grievously and inhumanely from national and international forms of power wielded against them, and the vast majority of Afghan people have been written out of the history of Afghanistan through uncritically reductive culture-based misrepresentations of state leaders in Kabul. Intellectual pathways are needed for building an awareness of and remediation of the serial imperial epistemological and physical-material violations perpetrated on ordinary Afghan people and reproduced in the historiography of this hyper-conditional national space.

Article

Malagasy Diaspora in the Indian Ocean  

Jane Hooper

Since at least the 15th century, people from Madagascar have been leaving the Big Island and living in communities located around the Indian Ocean. Most of these migrants were unfree, having been forcibly transported to labor in East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the ocean, an unknown number of enslaved Malagasy had left the island on African and Arab vessels. Between 1500 and 1930, an estimated half a million people were carried from the shores of Madagascar, many of these Malagasy purchased by Europeans. The island’s west coast was frequented by Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, and English merchants, while the east coast was dominated by French slavers. Enslaved Malagasy comprised a sizeable proportion of slave populations on Mauritius, Réunion, and at the Cape during the 17th and 18th centuries. After the abolition of the slave trade, Europeans transported about 18,000 contract laborers from Madagascar to labor in plantations on Réunion, Mauritius, Mayotte, and Nosy Be. Throughout these centuries of intense migration, Malagasy contributed to the linguistic, religious, and cultural practices of their new homes. Memories of Malagasy ancestry remained potent into the 21st century and are made visible in performances such as sega that remind descendants of their continuing links with Madagascar.

Article

Chinese Merchants in Japan and Korea  

Jin-A Kang

In the mid-19th century, Chinese merchants moved to the treaty ports of Japan and Korea to expand the domestic commercial network abroad. They made significant profits by importing and distributing British cotton clothes via Shanghai to Japan and Korea. While Chinese merchants in Japan remained purely economic immigrant groups, those in Korea took an active political role since their advance to Korea on business was part of an effort by the Qing dynasty to strengthen its influence in Korea. Before the Mukden Incident in 1931, Chinese merchants in Kobe, Japan, engaged in trade with China and Southeast Asia and continued to be a powerful commercial group in Asian trade. However, Chinese merchants in Korea suffered from business crisis earlier on. They were hit hard by the sharp decline in import trade from China, which was their primary business, due to Japan’s protective tariff policy introduced in 1924. Until 1930s, both Chinese merchants in Japan and Korea were forced to gradually revise their business strategies to sell Japanese products in Greater China and Korea. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 turned out to be a decisive blow to the already struggling businesses of the Chinese merchants in Japan and Korea.