Contemporary discussions of multiculturalism and pluralism remain politically charged in former settler societies. Colonial Proximities historicizes these contestations by illustrating how crossracial encounters in one colonial contact zone – late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British Columbia – inspired juridical racial truths and forms of governance that continue to inform contemporary politics, albeit in different ways.
Drawing from a wide range of legal cases, archival materials, and commissions of inquiry, this book charts the racial encounters among Aboriginal peoples, European colonists, Chinese migrants, and mixed-race populations. By exploring the real and imagined anxieties that informed contact in salmon canneries, the illicit liquor trade, and the (white) slavery scare, this book reveals the legal and spatial strategies of rule deployed by Indian agents, missionaries, and legal authorities who, in the interests of racial purity and European resettlement, aspired to restrict, and ultimately prevent, crossracial interactions. Linking histories of Aboriginal-European contact and Chinese migration, this book demonstrates that the dispossession of aboriginal peoples and Chinese exclusion were never distinct projects, but part of the same colonial processes of racialization that underwrote the formation of the settler regime.
Colonial Proximities shows us that British Columbia’s contact zone was marked by a racial heterogeneity that not only produced anxieties about crossracial contacts but also distinct modes of exclusion including the territorial dispossession of aboriginal peoples and legal restrictions on Chinese immigration. It is essential reading for students and scholars of history, anthropology, sociology, colonial/ postcolonial studies, and critical race and legal studies.
Renisa Mawani is a rigorous researcher, a sharp analyst, and a wide-ranging thinker. This is a powerful piece of work, and scholars of colonialism and race making in British Columbia and settler colonies more generally will benefit from it.
This book offers fascinating new perspectives on the roots of Canadian racism. Moving beyond traditional narratives of Aboriginal-European contact and Chinese-European relations, Renisa Mawani probes the unsettled landscape of crossracial encounters between ‘Indians’ and ‘Chinese’ in British Columbia history. She deftly captures the frenzied anxieties that whites harboured over ungovernable mixed-race activities, and brilliantly dissects the renewed state racisms that were born of such encounters.
1 Introduction: Heterogeneity and Interraciality in British Columbia’s Colonial “Contact Zone”
2 The Racial Impurities of Global Capitalism: The Politics of Labour, Interraciality, and Lawlessness in the Salmon Canneries
3 (White) Slavery, Colonial Knowledges, and the Rise of State Racisms
4 National Formations and Racial Selves: Chinese Traffickers and Aboriginal Victims in British Columbia's Illicit Liquor Trade
5 “The Most Disreputable Characters”: Mixed-Bloods, Internal Enemies, and Imperial Futures
Conclusion: Colonial Pasts, Entangled Presents, and Promising Futures
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