In the political and economic context of imperialism, the enormous nineteenth-century expansion of shipping within and beyond the Indian Ocean facilitated the development of a new and increasingly transcontinental regime of labour circulation. The Indian subcontinent, it is well known, emerged as a seemingly inexhaustible source for plantation, railway, and port labour in British colonies across the globe. Moreover, the new and predominantly seaborne “circulatory regime” itself relied to a considerable extent on the labour power of South Asian workers, on the lascar, as the maritime counterpart of the “coolie” labourer was called.
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