Labor migration to the British colonies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from India have been the subject of numerous global studies. Capitalist demands for cheap and sustainable labor facilitated the migration of indentured labor to Africa, the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji. Women were an integral part of the indentured labor migration. This article provides a critical discussion on the role of primary sources and life histories in the construction of historical narratives of indentured women in Natal, South Africa. It examines primary sources, both printed and unpublished, which include official reports of the Protector of Indian Immigrants, passenger lists and Ship Captain and Medical Officers’ Reports as well as oral biographies of women under indenture. By problematizing historical sources and methodology, this article seeks to highlight the complexities of writing the narratives of women under indenture in Natal. It also proposes the need to seek new approaches, interpretations and frameworks so that the hidden and subjective voices of women can shift from the margins to the center in the histories of indenture.


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pp. 74-90
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