To Have and To Hold: The Role of Marriage in Nonfiction Indenture Narratives

  • Alison Klein
Part of the New Caribbean Studies book series (NCARS)


Chapter 2 focuses on nonfiction narratives from the laborers and their descendants: autobiographies, testimonials, and interviews. This chapter demonstrates the ways that laborers suffered under, perpetuated, and resisted categorizations along gender, ethnic, and class lines. In particular, it examines colonial legislation around marriage and the impact of that legislation. Marriage, the publicly recognized institution of a private relationship, was a flashpoint for religious, ethnic, and class tensions in the Caribbean colonies. To explore the broader implications of these tensions, this chapter analyzes autobiographies by Munshi Rahman Khan, a formerly indentured laborer, and Alice Singh, the daughter of an indentured laborer, as well as interviews with and testimonials by indentured laborers. These texts demonstrate that the British legislation of marriage, meant to impose Victorian ideals and justify imperialism, tended instead to support the view of women as contested property, and to solidify existing class and racial hierarchies in both the colonizers and the colonized. Further, these texts demonstrate a colonial anxiety around single female laborers, who challenged the justification that colonialism brought comfort and safety to the helpless and victimized colonized women.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Klein
    • 1
  1. 1.Thompson Writing ProgramDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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