Anatomy of a Protest: The Abolition of Indian Indentured Labor in the British Empire

Upcoming Events Login

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Friday, December 6, 20194:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
+ Register for this Event Print this Event Bookmark this Event


The B.N. Pandey Memorial Lecture in the History of India


Kunti, a dalit (“untouchable” caste) woman, became the poster child for the nation-wide movement in India against the abolition of the system of indentured labor in 1917. The system, managed by the colonial government in India, had supplied approximately 1.3 million workers from India to plantations overseas in the aftermath of the abolition of Atlantic slavery in the 1830s. This paper explores how a woman at the very bottom of the caste hierarchy in India became the face for an empire-wide change. It will argue that Kunti’s role in the movement illustrates an important dimension of the abolitionist movement: the construction of the “people” (or the demos) as the subject of a new kind of politics in late colonial India.

Mrinalini Sinha is Alice Freeman Palmer Professor in the Department of History and Professor (by courtesy) in the Departments of English Language and Literature and of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has written on various aspects of the political history of colonial India, with a focus on anti-colonialism, gender, and transregional approaches. She is the author of Colonial Masculinity: The ‘manly Englishman’ and the ‘effeminate Bengali’ in the late nineteenth century (1995) and of Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (2006), winner of the Joan Kelley Memorial Prize from the American Historical Association and the Albion Book Prize from the North American Conference of British Studies. She is currently working on a book project with the working title, “Complete Political Independence: The Curious History of a Nationalist Indian Demand,” for which she received the 2012 John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Sinha is also a past President of the Association of Asian Studies (2015).


Mrinalini Sinha
Alice Freeman Palmer Professor, Department of History; Professor (by courtesy), Departments of English Language and Literature and of Women’s Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Bhavani Raman
Associate Professor, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies


Department of History, University of Toronto

If you are attending a Munk School event and require accommodation(s), please email the event contact listed above to make appropriate arrangements.

Disclaimer: Please note that events posted on this website are considered to be public events – unless otherwise stated – and you are choosing to enter a space where your image and/or voice may be captured as part of event proceedings that may be made public as part of a broadcast, webcast, or publication (online and in print). We make every effort to ensure your personal information is kept and used in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). If you have any questions please get in touch with our office at or 416-946-8900.

Newsletter Signup Sign up for the Munk School Newsletter

× Strict NO SPAM policy. We value your privacy, and will never share your contact info.