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Citizen or Subject? Blurring Boundaries, Claiming Space: Indians in Colonial South Africa

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Abstract

Citizenship and subjecthood are often seen as discrete, bounded categories, temporally disparate and conceptually distinct in law and in the social sciences. This paper challenges this predominant formulation by attesting that these legal categories are in fact, often, breached and blurred in identity struggles over claims to rights. Using the case of colonial Indians in South Africa, this paper argues that under conditions of colonialism, the colonized use the dual category of citizen/subject to claim rights while pledging allegiance to the power-holders. Using historical sources such as petitions and referenda written by Indians to the colonial rulers and Gandhi's writings during his stay in South Africa, I explore the implications of this slippage between subject and citizen, thus contributing to the existing literature on colonial law and colonial resistance, the politics of citizenship, race relations and the politics of difference and identity.

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