Peripheral Subjects: Afghan Migration, Labor, and the Making of British Imperial Subjecthood


ACLS Fellowship Program


Politics & History


“Peripheral Subjects” traces the stories of migrants from Afghanistan and the Indo-Afghan frontier who worked and established communities in cities across British India, Ceylon, Malaya and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia between the 1840s and 1960s. These migrant workers were often categorized as peripheral, quasi-imperial subjects. Their mobility was conditional and contested in ways that reveal the limitations and the human implications of the empire’s efforts to control its own borders and categorize its subjects. “Peripheral Subjects" centers the histories of laboring Afghan diaspora communities, highlighting not only state efforts to control, categorize, and deport migrants, but also the ways that migrants built social worlds and regional identities despite these pressures.