How did states come to monopolize control over migration? What do the processes that produced this monopoly tell us about the modern state? In Indian Migration and Empire: A Colonial Genealogy of the Modern State (Duke UP, 2018), Radhika Mongia provocatively argues that the formation of colonial migration regulations was dependent upon, accompanied by, and generative of profound changes in normative conceptions of the modern state. Focused on state regulation of colonial Indian migration between 1834 and 1917, Mongia illuminates the genesis of central techniques of migration control. She shows how important elements of current migration regimes, including the notion of state sovereignty as embodying the authority to control migration, the distinction between free and forced migration, the emergence of passports, the formation of migration bureaucracies, and the incorporation of kinship relations into migration logics, are the product of complex debates that attended colonial migrations. By charting how state control of migration was critical to the transformation of a world dominated by empire-states into a world dominated by nation-states, Mongia challenges positions that posit a stark distinction between the colonial state and the modern state to trace aspects of their entanglements.
Shraddha Chatterjee is a doctoral candidate at York University, Toronto, and author of Queer Politics in India: Towards Sexual Subaltern Subjects (Routledge, 2018).