Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK

Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK: Forced displacement and onward migration

Laura Jeffery
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK
    Book Description:

    The Chagos islanders were forcibly uprooted from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean between 1965 and 1973. This is the first book to compare the experiences of displaced Chagos islanders in Mauritius with the experiences of those Chagossians who have moved to the UK since 2002. It provides a unique ethnographic comparative study of forced displacement and onward migration within the living memory of one community. Based on in-depth ethnographic fieldwork in Mauritius and Crawley (West Sussex), the six chapters explore Chagossians’ challenging lives in Mauritius, the mobilisation of the community, reformulations of the homeland, the politics of culture in exile, onward migration to Crawley, and attempts to make a home in successive locations. Through an exploration of changing representations of the Chagos Archipelago in song lyrics, Jeffery illuminates how displaced people romanticise their homeland. Offering further ethnographic insights into the politics of culture, she shows how Chagossians in exile engage with contrasting conceptions of culture ranging from expectations of continuity and authenticity to enactments of change, loss, and revival. The book will appeal particularly to social scientists specialising in the fields of migration studies, the anthropology of displacement, political and legal anthropology, African studies, Indian Ocean studies, and the anthropology of Britain, as well as to readers interested in the Chagossian case study.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-413-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Timeline
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xii-xviii)
  8. Series editor’s foreword
    (pp. xix-xix)
    Alexander Thomas T. Smith

    At its best, ethnography has provided a valuable tool for apprehending a world in flux. A couple of years after the Second World War, Max Gluckman founded the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. In the years that followed, he and his colleagues built a programme of ethnographic research that drew eclectically on the work of leading anthropologists, economists and sociologists to explore issues of conflict, reconciliation and social justice ‘at home’ and abroad. Often placing emphasis on detailed analysis of case studies drawn from small-scale societies and organisations, the famous ‘Manchester School’ in social anthropology built...

  9. Note to readers
    (pp. xx-xx)
  10. Introduction Forced displacement and onward migration
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Chagos Archipelago, a remote group of coralline islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean (see Map 1), is British territory. Chagos is routinely described as the archetypal idyllic island paradise, although since 1971, the largest island in the archipelago, Diego Garcia, has been occupied by a major US overseas military base. At the US Government’s request, the UK Government removed all the inhabitants from all the islands in the archipelago, sending them to Mauritius and Seychelles. What happened to these people? How have they made sense of their disrupted lives? What has life been like for them in...

  11. Part I Marginalisation and mobilisation
    • 1 Marginalisation in Mauritius
      (pp. 17-36)

      This chapter outlines the history of colonisation, settlement, and decolonisation in Mauritius and the Chagos Archipelago. It shows that the inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago were already marginal within colonial Mauritius, and that their marginality was compounded by their relocation to Mauritius during the decade around independence, which was a period of social, economic, and political unrest.

      Malay and Arab or Swahili traders explored the south-west Indian Ocean (see Map 1) over a thousand years ago. However, many of the smaller islands of the Indian Ocean – including Mauritius and Rodrigues, the Chagos Archipelago, Réunion, and the Seychelles islands – were unpopulated...

    • 2 Mobilisation in exile
      (pp. 37-54)

      In the previous chapter, I described how the Chagos islands and the Chagos islanders were already marginal within colonial Mauritius, and showed that the socio-economic, political, and ethnic tensions in mainland Mauritius in the 1960s and 1970s negatively affected the Chagos islanders’ experiences of relocation. In this chapter I show how Chagossians have responded to their chronic marginalisation and impoverishment in exile through mobilisation in the form of struggles led first by Chagossian women in Mauritius and later by Chagossian organisations in Mauritius, as well as (to a lesser extent) Seychelles and (more recently) the UK. Historically, most Chagossian organisations...

  12. Part II Narrating homeland, displacement, suffering, and loss
    • 3 Singing the homeland
      (pp. 57-74)

      Displaced Chagos islanders are not only embroiled in political mobilisation and protest: they also participate in cultural expression in exile. This chapter illustrates how representations of a homeland in song lyrics and oral narratives have been transformed through experiences of displacement and relocation, and asks to what extent such transformed representations help or hinder political and legal struggles in exile. Focusing on the relationship between displacement and musical production, this chapter reveals the changing structure and thematic content of Chagossian song lyrics by comparing the lyrics of songs composed by Chagos islanders while living on the colonial Chagos Archipelago with...

    • 4 The politics of culture in exile
      (pp. 75-92)

      This chapter explores the politics of cultural expression among the Chagossian community in exile. Culture [kiltir] has been an issue for displaced Chagos islanders in Mauritius for two reasons connected to the Chagossian struggle. First, in order to make a case for special treatment – compensation, the right of return, UK citizenship – they must show cultural uniqueness and demonstrate their distinctiveness from other Mauritian citizens and lack of integration into Mauritian society. Second, in order to be recognised as victims – and therefore deserving of recompense of various kinds – they must demonstrate suffering and loss as a result of the displacement. These...

  13. Part III Onward migration
    • 5 Echoes of marginalisation in Crawley
      (pp. 95-110)

      Displaced Chagos islanders’ experiences of marginalisation and mobilisation in Mauritius were examined in Part I. This chapter revisits the themes explored there by examining the experiences of those Chagossians who have migrated to the UK since 2002, when Chagos islanders and their second-generation descendants were awarded UK citizenship under the British Overseas Territories Act. Chagossians have faced considerable hardships in exile, and most feel at best ambivalent towards their host states Mauritius and Seychelles, where they feel marginalised and excluded from full national membership and participation. In any case, many other Mauritians and Seychellois would likewise jump at an opportunity...

    • 6 Making home in exile
      (pp. 111-128)

      This concluding chapter continues Chapter 5’s ethnographic focus on the Chagossian community in Crawley, while revisiting the themes of home and homeland explored in Part II. This chapter starts by revisiting debates amongst scholars of migration and displacement about the distinction between ‘forced displacement’ and ‘voluntary migration’. It asks to what extent Chagossians contrast their forced displacement from Chagos to Mauritius with their onward migration from Mauritius to the UK. My data reveal that experiences of onward migration to the UK and settlement in Crawley have challenged Chagossians’ preconceptions of Britons and of life in the UK and subtly altered...

  14. Postscript Legal and environmental barriers to resettlement
    (pp. 129-136)

    Throughout their decades in exile, Chagossian groups have focused on their campaigns for compensation and the right to return to Chagos, while other interest groups have worked against the resettlement of the Chagos Archipelago. According to the terms of the 1966 Exchange of Notes, the UK Government made Diego Garcia available for US defence purposes for an initial period of fifty years, renewable for a further twenty years. Given the military significance of the US base on Diego Garcia, it seems likely that both governments will seek to renew the lease in 2016. Meanwhile, the UK Government has allocated considerable...

  15. References
    (pp. 137-146)
  16. Index
    (pp. 147-156)