Indian Ocean belongers, 1668-2008



The Indian Ocean and South Asia Research Network invites you to its first seminar in 2009:

Dr. Stephanie Jones, University of Southampton, UK
DATE: Friday, April 3 TIME: 5.30 pm
VENUE: TfC Bagel, UTS, Building 3 (Bon Marche), Level 4, Room 4.02

Indian Ocean belongers, 1668-2008

The paper begins with an exploration of how Henry Neville’s fictional Isle of Pines (1668) plays through ideas of Arcadia, utopia, British colonial ambition, and ideas of belonging towards a critical commentary on government accountability under a constitutional rule of law. The paper then traces how, nearly three and a half centuries later, the real islands closest to Neville’s fictional isle—the Chagos Archipelago—are being defined by a similar interaction of narratives within a line of UK court judgements (Bancoult 2000, 2006, 2007, and the House of Lords decision of October 2008).  The inhabitants of the Chagos islands were expelled by the British government in the 1960s in order to satisfy a lease agreement with the United States government, which required the ‘uninhabited’ islands for the establishment of a military base. In their battle to have their expulsion declared illegal, exiled Chagossians challenged the scope of the government’s prerogative powers when dealing with colonial lands and subjects. This paper argues that the judgments on the Chagos crucially rely on a subdued but at times lyrical, legally-open and provocative evocation of what it means to be a ‘belonger’ of a place. Through a consideration of the legislative histories of this word; through scrutiny of its indeterminate relationship to notions of citizenship, indigeneity, nationality and the language of rights; and through an engagement with broader cultural narratives of belonging, the paper moves towards an understanding of the potential of public law to lend both ethically nuanced and practical meaning to terms of belonging.

Biographic Note

Dr Stephanie Jones (BA/LLB, Australian National University; PhD, Cambridge) is lecturer in 20th Century Literature in English at the University of Southampton, UK. Stephanie is the director of an AHRC funded project on "The Indian Ocean: narratives in literature and law". 

She also researches and teaches more broadly in the field of maritime literatures, and the inter-discipline of law and literature. She has worked on East African literatures, literatures of the South Asian diaspora, and postcolonial theory.


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