Archaeology at Nineteenth-Century Bras d’Eau, Mauritius: Intimate Spaces and Industrial Landscapes of Indentured Laborers


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation investigates the archaeology of Asian indentured laborers in Bras d’Eau National Park, a sugar estate on Mauritius, from 1786 to 1868. The social landscape of this small island in the southwestern Indian Ocean was transformed during the first quarter of the nineteenth century as colonists capitalized on the sugar boom and, post abolition, indentured people migrated from India to replace enslaved people as workers on expanding sugarcane fields. This project investigates the plantation ruins, material culture excavated from the laborers’ village on the plantation, and colonial archival records to show that the organization of the village and objects used in everyday life reflect indentured men, women, and children’s choices in housemates, communality, and practices as expressions of immigrant identities. This work draws comparisons to other archaeologies of plantations and coerced labor to contextualize the uniqueness of the period of indenture and colonial diaspora in the Indian Ocean world.