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Fashioning Identities : Convict dress in colonial south and Southeast Asia

By Clare Anderson


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in History Workshop Journal following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version History Workshop Journal, 2001, 52, pp. 152-174 is available online at: article explores the issue of clothing in India's penal settlements. From the late eighteenth to the mid twentieth centuries, the British transported tens of thousands of Indian convicts overseas to penal settlements in Southeast Asia, Mauritius and the Andaman Islands. Removed from their supposedly criminal networks and put to work, convict offenders were apparently rehabilitated whilst conveniently satisfying colonial labour demands. The organization of the penal settlements relied on a division of convicts. According to skills, behaviour and proportion of sentence served, convicts could rise through the ranks of the penal hierarchy and be transferred from hard labour to preferred work tasks or positions of authority over their fellow countrymen and women. The most immediately visible marker of convict status was dress. By the mid nineteenth century, a complex system of uniform clothing had evolved, delineating how long convicts had been in the penal settlements and how they were employed there; later, clothing was further adapted to indicate categories of crime. Initially, the evolution of convict dress was informed by developments in the Australian penal settlements. Later, and more significantly, initiatives on prison dress in India became important. However, as we shall see, the development of penal clothing in the Indian convict settlements overseas also had an agenda of its own. [Taken from introduction]Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Publisher: Oxford University Press on behalf of History Workshop Journal
Year: 2001
DOI identifier: 10.1093/hwj
OAI identifier:

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